Known for uncluttered style and shortened skirts in colors of beige, black and white, Coco Chanel’s lines became elegant through superior tailoring techniques. Her design was simple, practical and often inspired by men’s wear, especially the uniforms prevalent when World War I broke out in 1914.
Chanel’s relentless drive for perfection and subdued palette spilled over into her personal living space, 31, rue Cambon, near the Place de la Concorde and on the third floor above the Chanel store. Chanel entered the apartment from a side door at the Ritz where she slept and ate. The apartment served as her office and a space to entertain in. Chanel had simple tastes in food and the smells that accompanied cooking impeded the scent of her fragrance, so, the apartment was devoid of a kitchen.
Chanel once said, “An interior is a natural projection of the soul.” What did this place hold and reveal about her?
Chanel was a Leo and the apartment is splendid with lions, deer and frogs set against a backdrop of lacquered 17th-century Chinese wooden screens. East meets West with the screens standing alongside Italian-style mirrors and classic French furniture. Gold and silver boxes and leather-bound books stand out against the apartment’s celadon walls. A suede sofa, designed by Chanel, is quilted in the same way her signature bags are, and the black-lacquered surfaces and camellia fleur are an extension of her enduring, classic sportswear.
American Vogue likened Chanel’s “little black dress” to the Ford in 1926. Like the Ford, her design has a universal appeal. A black dress goes from day to evening and becomes a staple through all four seasons — a classic piece of 20th Century women’s wear.
Like the little black dress and the Ford, Chanel’s classic approach to interiors has survived the test of time.
Karl Lagerfeld, head designer and creative director for the fashion house Chanel, visits the perfectly preserved and luxurious apartment for inspiration. A shade of Chanel Rouge Allure lip color, Coromandel 72, echoes the red of the Coromandel screens Chanel favored. Lagerfeld’s work references the crystal camellias that adorn a chandelier and a statue of a lion found on a coffee table. He looks to the past and embraces her esthetic and bitingly reminds us, “Trendy is the last stage before tacky.”