Those of you who know me or follow my blog will know what a huge influence French style has over my taste in interior design. Whilst growing up I spent many a day in French antique and flea markets buying with my mother for her antique shop and I still love French style and antiques more than any others. It will be no great surprise then, that one of my interior style icons is Coco Chanel. Here is my little tribute to the most stylish woman who ever lived.
Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, known to the world as Coco Chanel, was born in France in 1883. Her unique talent created a global fashion empire encompassing clothing, jewellery and perfumes. Coco Chanel’s fashion legacy has freed and empowered women throughout the world with her individual style that broke free from the restrictions of corsets and uncomfortable clothing, creating an elegant timeless look with style and panache.
Her apartment at 31 Rue Cambon was also groundbreaking and innovative in its style and although she only used the apartment to entertain guests and actually lived at the nearby Ritz, the interior decor of the three-room space is a study of modern elegance and luxury. Coco’s mix of Oriental and Occidental references was groundbreaking and has been as influential in interior design as her clothes were to women’s fashion.
Lined with books and decorated with hundreds of beautiful objects, the sitting room is where Coco would conduct interviews, only allowing a select few to sit on the tan suede sofa with her.
Coco’s actual apartment was used to add authenticity to the recent film ‘Coco Before Chanel’. Here, Audrey Tautou lounges on Coco’s infamous sofa where only a select few were allowed so sit during her lifetime. Coco was groundbreaking in many of the materials she used to decorate her apartment, using a suede to upholster this sofa and breaking up Chinoiserie screens to create wall panelling for her glamourous living space.
Coco lived above the Chanel store on the second floor of the building and even designed a mirrored spiral staircase to wind upwards through the building so she could see what was happening on every level. The rooms on the ground floor had spacious mirrored and lacquered dressing rooms for her couture clients while her private apartment was, and still is, on the second floor and above that was the design workshop.
In 1971, at the age of 88, Coco Chanel died in her beloved Paris. She was still working and designing until the very end. Friends joked that it was no coincidence that she passed away on a Sunday, since that was the only day that the salon was closed, so it was the only day she had time to do it. Coco’s apartment has been frozen in time since her death in 1971 and preserves her decor as if she had just designed it.
You can watch Vogue’s house tour of Coco’s apartment here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpinr4Uts-8.
Luxury is not the opposite of poverty, it is the opposite of vulgarity.