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Image: Sarah Rufca

I don't mean to brag, but I've been in a lot of stores. Stores are kind of my thing, mostly because they sell shoes, which are also my thing. So when I stopped by the media preview of the new Saks Fifth Avenue at the Galleria—which opens to the public on Thursday—I was planning to take a look around but I wasn't really expecting to be all that impressed. A store is a store, right? Not exactly. There are stores, and then there are art-filled, beautifully designed temples of consumerism. This is the latter. Let me count the ways.

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Image: Sarah Rufca

1. The Lighting

You know how department stores always have dingy, yellow light? I don't know if it's some special type of LED bulbs or what, but the light in this space feels so clean, without being blindingly white. There are also—stop the presses—windows, which offer not only natural light but views of you know, traffic and such. There is something about a windowless space that makes me immediately feel tired and uncomfortable, so the fact that the space is not a giant windowless box is a huge plus. Finally, there are varied light fixtures on display throughout the store, which add a high-class (in the case of a waterfall crystal chandelier) or cool (mid-century-inspired brass fixtures) feeling.

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Image: Sarah Rufca

2. The Mannequins

If you're going to have mannequins (and I guess you have to, if you're a store) you should definitely have ones that are 10 feet tall and rendered with the gamine lines of a fashion sketch. They're just more fun that way.

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Image: Sarah Rufca

3. The Art

First of all, many of the wares on display are arranged as art—think Saint Laurent handbags floating on mirrored platforms, or arranged artfully on wall-length shelves. But then there's actual, not-for-purchase art, like a quartet of art prints lined up vertically on a random doorway, and an installation of raffia swirls in the corner above the hat section. It's pretty awesome.

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Image: Sarah Rufca

4. The Designer Boutiques

Much of the periphery of the new Saks space functions essentially like a mall inside a mall, with sparkling teacup-sized boutiques of many of the high-end brands, whether in the beauty, jewelry of women's fashion departments. Each boutique has its own design aesthetic—some are open and minimal, while others have built out more elaborate, dedicated spaces—but it does minimize the feeling of being in a giant, open room. 

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Image: Sarah Rufca

5. This Horse

I love it. It's in the jeans department, and if only it was wearing pants, it could have solved the internet's dumbest problem.

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Image: Sarah Rufca

6. The Layout

Both floors have layouts broken up by circular atria and columns, which offers something more visually interesting than more of the same boxy layout. 

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Image: Sarah Rufca

7. The Finishes

Every surface has been considered, and feels special, whether it's white marble with bold golden veining or the cork-like panels in the men's section. The carpets are watercolor masterpieces. There are many, many mobile-type sculptures hanging from the ceilings, my favorite of which are the strings of rosettes that give the premium beauty counters a beautifully feminine vibe.

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Image: Sarah Rufca

8. This Monkey

Seriously, why? I love that the Saks designers seem to have infused the space with a little levity.

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Image: Sarah Rufca

9. The Bar

There is a bar on the second floor, part of the 51Fifteen restaurant, that might be prettier, with three-dimensional fabric flowers hanging from the ceiling. But this brass stunner is like, all my bar goals. All of them.

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Image: Sarah Rufca

10. The Racks

This seems minor, but I love how each rack is topped with the name of the designer. It's the perfect mix of order and chaos, and it will help me avoid the really expensive racks where I could get into trouble.

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