A one of the world’s preeminent retailers, Saks Fifth Avenue is renowned for its superlative American and international designer collections, its expertly edited assortment of handbags, shoes, jewelry, cosmetics, gifts, and first-rate fashion expertise. The luxury retailer recently opened its third Florida store in more than 30 years. In fact, the three-story Miami store is the company’s largest and newest in the East.

Optimizing the international retail appeal of the Dade County area, Saks became the lead tenant in a recently opened $1.05-billion, mixed-use development in the Brickell financial district. Brickell City Centre spans 9.1 acres along South Miami Avenue (between Sixth and Eighth Streets) in downtown Miami. It is comprised of two residential towers, two mid-rise office buildings, plus the EAST, Miami Hotel. City Centre brings upscale urban living to the neighborhood and a whole new level of sophistication to the area.

All of the lighting is subtle in order to direct the customers’ attention to the merchandise. Handrail coves on the centerpiece staircase are continuously lit by LED tape light.


The New York City-based architecture firm Jeffrey Hutchison & Associates – renowned for its exclusive focus on fashion retail architecture – was hired to lead the design team for the formidable project.

“Given the multiple points of entry to the 107,000-sq.-ft. store, particular care was given to the customer journey and establishing key focal points in each location to orient the customer and provide an exciting introduction to the store and each department,” notes Jeffrey Hutchison, the project’s architect.

Among those visual stand-outs, the decorative custom tile walls in the Beauty department are inspired by an abstract painting.

“The World of Women’s department infuses Deco-inspired geometric crème- and walnut-colored stone flooring,” Hutchinson states, adding that “the World of Men’s section is highlighted with a gray-on-gray palette of Cubist-inspired forms.”

The creative collaboration between the architectural firm and the California-based lighting design team of Oculus Light Studio brought the vision to life by crafting a balance between the interior design and lighting quality while remaining cognizant of both schedules and budgets. Led by Archit Jain, Principal of Oculus, and lighting designer Joel Weston, the project was a work in progress for nearly two years.

After reviewing the design concepts presented by Jeffrey Hutchinson & Associates, the Oculus team selected a versatile range of products that matched the aesthetics of the interior design and also met the needs of properly illuminating the merchandise.


“From the start, the interior design called out for curving, glowing lines in the ceiling,” Jain remarks.

In order to create these particular curves of various lengths and radii, custom fixtures would be required. Fortunately, the design team was familiar with Maryland-based lighting manufacturer VoksLytetm, which specializes in creating customizable lighting contours that are factory-made to almost any curvature or length.

The color temperature was kept consistent throughout the store for a cohesive look.

This new Saks Fifth Avenue design required a variety of custom radii from 14.75 feet up to 30 feet in arc lengths. The discreet, 2″-wide Tangent™ Series luminaires are designed to sturdily and seamlessly link together to form continuous shapes that provide phenomenal lighting performance. Each custom arc was recessed into the ceiling with a trimless mud flange to provide a seamless look that resonated well with the overall design.

The Tangent™ Down custom luminaire was both sculptural and performance-driven to provide the curving, glowing lighting element required throughout the three floors of the store. The lighting design process for the Saks project was highly involved, according to the Oculus team. Additional custom fixtures came from Amerlux™, which provided a track head that could be recessed into a ceiling slot. This customization required a specially made arm to be installed in the track head slot to allow for a center beam of optics to be aimed and projected. To manage costs, the slot was architecturally created, with the track assembly installed inside.

Throughout the retail space, a variety of field-adjustable accent lights by Juno, Reggiani, and Amerlux were installed to provide the proper amount of merchandise and general lighting. With the budget becoming a critical issue, the design team paired those field-adjustable accents with retrofit LED lamps that are consistently used in other current Saks locations. For uniformity of illumination, all of the lighting fixtures on this project are 3000K, although the design team indicated that on a national brand basis, some Saks’ departments – such as the jewelry and beauty sections – have a cooler 4000K color temperature. Based on sight lines in this particular location, it was determined that the same color temperature should be used across the board.

In addition to the accent fixtures and customized ceiling curves, specialty selections were made for other areas. The lighting design called for “random” accent lighting in the ceiling including recessed linear fixtures, which were provided by Axis Lighting.

No matter where they are in the store, Saks’ shoppers are enveloped by unique lighting. Besides the coves, a variety of additional areas are outfitted with large LED backlit panels or LED strip accents. The backlit panels are illuminated by Luminii LED tape in 4000K and serve as focal points above and below the stairwells plus in certain areas that utilize the ceiling of white light to illuminate displays with track heads and field-adjustable downlights.


As with most projects with strict budgets and timeframes, the construction and implementation can be tricky.

“The ‘random’ accent lighting ceiling was a little difficult to design, as we wanted to make sure that there was a way to get it installed in the ceiling and to convey the locations to the contractors in the field,” Jain explains. “We achieved this by creating a grid with typical locations, and then randomized that grid within the larger ceiling. The net effect was we got zero RFIs [Radio Frequency Interference] on the field location of these fixtures.” The novel design work did not go unnoticed in the architectural and retail communities. The project was awarded a prestigious Shop! Retail Environments 2017 Design Award – which recognizes the best new designs in retail environments and experiences – as well as the Association of Retail Executives  2017 Silver Award.