Chanel is a brand that exudes glamour, sophistication, French style and elegance. The iconic fashion house’s gorgeous designs are often the most wanted items for any women’s wardrobe. This journey of style began on 31 Rue Cambon in Paris, which was the Paris retreat of the one and only Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel.
Not only preoccupied with stylish fashion, her trademark pearls and the little black dress, this style icon lived the complete luxury lifestyle. The apartment is the most glamorous, opulent, luxurious place ever. The curtains, the towels, the glassware, everything is indulgent and perfect. The apartment is located above the Chanel boutique, and although Mademoiselle Coco lived permanently at the Ritz Paris, this apartment was a luxury getaway for her and her surely super stylish guests.
The classic and iconic Chanel logo is dotted subtly around the apartment. A spectacular chandelier created from semi-precious stones has the double-C Chanel logo hidden throughout it, which sits above the seating area where Coco conducted all her media interviews. As well as this incredible chandelier, the apartment is filled with jewel-encrusted furniture, fabulous gilt mirrors, sumptuous quilted pillows and luscious throws.
Although there is a distinctive French style about the apartment, the interiors also draw from oriental styling, Victorian opulence and Russian coloring. The colors are rich, royal and luxurious, with plenty of cream, black, maroon and splashes of gold. Also visible here is the legendary spiral staircase, where Coco was said to have watched all her runway shows, so that she could watch the audience’s reactions from above.
In CocoChanel blog
31 Rue Cambon: Coco Chanel's Fabulous Paris Flat
by SUSAN STAMBERG in NPR.com
December 23, 2009
Coco Chanel invented a fashion vocabulary — camellias, the black dress, the double-C logo, the elongated octagon shape of the Chanel No. 5 perfume stopper — and she surrounded herself with these inspirations in her posh Paris apartment.
Located at 31 Rue Cambon, the apartment sits atop the Chanel boutique and couture salon, where models showed collections to prospective buyers. Today, the apartment is used for press interviews and fashion shoots — and, of course, for haute couture clients, says Odile Babin, a Chanel archivist.
"In this apartment, you can understand the universe of Mademoiselle Chanel," says Babin — who is wearing a terrific little black, red and white plaid jacket (Chanel, of course).
To enter Chanel's universe, you climb a curved staircase, up steps carpeted in beige, with white trim. When new collections were presented, Chanel watched them being modeled from these stairs. During the show, she would sit perched on the fifth step down from her apartment, in front of a wall of mirrors. Looking down, she could see the models and the audience reaction to the clothes — without anyone seeing her.
Chanel hated doors, and often placed burgundy-colored screens in entryways. "She hoped that by placing [screens] in front of the door, her guests might not remember to leave," archivist Odile Babin explains.
Upstairs, Chanel's apartment is like the nest of an exotic bird. It's filled with antique lacquered Chinese screens — camellias are part of the pattern. Chanel flattened the burgundy-colored screens like wallpaper, or folded them at the entryway to her drawing room.
"Mademoiselle Chanel hated doors," Babin explains. "She hoped that by placing them in front of the door, her guests might not remember to leave."
A design genius, a self-promoter, a fabulist (she made things up), and afraid of being alone — Chanel was a complicated character. She was born poor, but a series of rich and powerful lovers paved her way to fame and fortune. Among her liaisons were a Nazi intelligence officer during World War II, and the Duke of Westminster — the richest man in England.
Some of the duke's lavish gifts, such as three cigarette boxes, sit on a table in Chanel's apartment. She smoked quite a lot — those strong, rich, Gitanes cigarettes. The elongated octagon-shaped cigarette boxes are engraved with the duke's coat of arms. The boxes are silver on the outside and gold, the more precious metal, on the inside — a luxury hidden from view.
The idea of "luxury for yourself" was an important Chanel principle, Babin explains. "We call this notion 'invisible perfection.' "
Chanel's apartment is filled with visible perfections — crystal chandeliers, gleaming mirrors, pairs of gilded Chinese horses, an ancient Russian icon from her friend Igor Stravinsky, a golden hand her friend Alberto Giacometti sculpted for her, and a shaft of wheat painted by her friend Salvador Dali.
It's all very opulent, sophisticated and elegant, and yet the apartment isn't a large or grand space. Though the objects are impressive and luxurious, the apartment feels embracing and intimate. Each room is small, and an important room is missing.
"Mademoiselle Chanel never slept here," Babin explains. There is no bedroom.
Rather, she had a private suite at the Ritz — with all those Ritzy amenities.
Every evening, Chanel left her apartment, walked five minutes across rue Cambon to the Place Vendome, and entered the Ritz through the rear door to retire for the night.
Each morning, she crossed back to No. 31. (She'd phone first, so they could spray the salon with Chanel No. 5.) Then, in a mist of expensive perfume, Coco Chanel got back to work.