Cartier reopens Fifth Avenue flagship store after extensive renovations

French-born architect Thierry Despont, whose portfolio includes designing Bill and Melinda Gates’ home and restoring the Statue of Liberty, was responsible for the renovation of the Cartier flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York. “I wanted to give people the feeling of being in the grand house that it once was,” Despont told Cartier earlier this year. “[The top floor] will open to a terrace that looks over Fifth Avenue. I don’t think there is another jewelry store like that in the world.”

The now five-story, 44,000-square-foot space (originally it was only 20,000 square feet spread across two floors) feels more residential than commercial from the moment you walk through the 52nd Street or Fifth Avenue entrance. A new lacquered panel depicting three gold-leaf panthers drinking from a river draws guests into the elaborate foyer, and the mansion’s original oak-paneled walls warm the liner, airy space.

A classical grand staircase, also in light oak, leads upstairs with each room displaying its own distinct style. The highlight of the second floor, and the entire Mansion, is the Princess Grace of Monaco room—a glamorous and feminine space that houses Cartier’s engagement rings with predominately white décor, pale-yellow taffeta silk curtains, and paintings of the American-born princess. The second floor also pays homage to Elizabeth Taylor, Gloria Swanson, and Morton and Mae Plant. The third floor is dedicated to timepieces, while the contemporary “Red Room” on the fourth floor is devoted to accessories, including perfume. “The walls are the same material as the Cartier boxes. It will be as though you are inside a box and looking at beautiful bags and accessories on display,” explains Despont. The fifth floor has a terrace that overlooks Fifth Avenue and is ideal for entertaining.

In addition to designing each of the four floors, Despont also restored many of the mansion’s original furnishings and worked with craftsmen in France to create bespoke pieces, including chandeliers that evoke Parisian styles from the 18th and 19th centuries. “The Cartier Mansion is an icon,” says Despont. “It’s a very modern store with state-of-the art facilities, but it still has the feeling that the Mansion was always there and it’s magnificent.”