Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel’s apartment on Rue Cambon is like walking through Alice’s looking glass… and I’m still pinching myself!
On first entering, the apartment it is nothing like I expected. The clean lines and black and white aesthetic that is so synonymous with Chanel doesn’t appear at all and instead, everywhere you look is filled with keepsakes and memories. Highly lacquered Chinese screens, adorned Italian mirrors, antique vases and sculptures. It’s a real scrapbook of her imagination, a dark-red, east-meets-west-inspired memory box. It has been left as if she could walk in at any moment in her iconic white bouclé jacket and sit on the sofa; I’ve since wondered what we’d talk about.
There is no bedroom, she used to sleep at the Ritz Hotel a few meters away on Place Vendôme, and only used the apartment to entertain guests, the likes of Dali, Picasso and Elizabeth Taylor. The space is deliciously decadent and opulent and would be a superb playground for my one year old who would probably be attracted to the dozens of animals that fill the space. Lions (she was a Leo), deer’s, frogs, monkeys and even Lamas and usually in pairs, which we were told was because she was very superstitious. She filled the apartment with symbols of love, longevity, luck, purity and prosperity.
I could have spent a few days there taking it all in, I would’ve loved to have paged through the numerous books lining the shelves or snooped through the bureau draws, which I’m sure is the reason the visit is kept short and sweet and reserved for press and Chanel VIP’s!
Monsieur Lagerfeld and the house of Chanel still use this apartment as inspiration and have used many of its symbols in past collections. Notice the bird cage? Remember Vanessa Paradis swinging in a gilded version in the 1992 ad campaign? The deep red and gold Chinese Coromandal screens illustrating Coco’s favourite Camellia flowers have been used in jewelry and as details on the house’s leather goods and even the stopper on the Chanel No. 5 perfume bottle was inspired by the octagonal shape mirror hanging in the dining room.
My favourite piece in the apartment is the chandelier hanging in the salon, made from topaz, amethyst and crystals, the beautifully carved camellias and interlocking 5’s and double C’s twinkle in the light, a constant reminder that Mademoiselle Chanel is ever present. www.chanel.com
Watch this video for a glimpse into the life of Chanel.