It’s one of the most famous addresses in the world: 31 Rue Cambon, Paris. The home of Coco ‘Gabrielle’ Chanel, once and still the epicentre of her eponymous brand and today an homage to the woman in all her stylish glory. Mademoiselle Chanel herself didn’t actually live in her apartment on the 3rd floor (hence the lack of a bedroom,) choosing to reside instead at the Ritz just across the Place Vendome. But she entertained in it, met her guests such as Elizabeth Taylor, Salvador Dali and Picasso in it, and conducted her own fittings either upstairs in her own private workshop or downstairs in what is still the brand’s Haute Couture salon today.
Chanel HQ has kept their founder’s apartment exactly as it was when she died in 1971 – save for a couple of key additions: a silk chaise she was famously photographed in by Horst, and a simple, leather covered chair that she conducted her fittings from. Every morning, she would depart from the Ritz for the short walk ‘home,’ leaving just enough time for the door porter at the hotel to call ahead to the store, giving them notice to spritz Rue Cambon’s famous mirror panelled spiral staircase with Chanel No 5 before the boss arrived. Her private rooms were a mixture of Oriental and French chic – full of modern artifacts and vintage chinese screens, ahead of their time touches and 18th century antiques. Stylish to a T, like the lady herself.
Incredibly valuable Chinese screens adorn the walls of the living and dining areas, hiding the doors she was said not to like. Many featured camellias, Coco’s favourite flower that she made a Chanel motif. In the main living room, a custom made sofa in suede was an extremely modern addition to a 1930′s apartment. On it, Mademoiselle Chanel scattered quilted suede cushions – a precursor of her iconic quilted bags to come in 1955. Dripping in crystals, the room is also reflective of her superstitious spirit. Coco was convinced of crystal’s healing powers – hence the crystal balls she collected and specially commissioned crystal Chandelier featuring arms made out of her signature Number 5s (legend has it, it was a fortune teller who told her it was to be her lucky number.) She also collected lions, in deference to her Leo starsign, littering the apartment with gold statuettes featuring the big cats.
Mademoiselle’s apartment was designed as part of the store – private, for sure, but positioned so she knew what was always going on. The signature sweeping spiral staircase stretching above and below allowed for her to stand out of sight and still view customers reactions to her collections down below, the mirrored walls gave an art deco elegance to the atelier that almost can’t be beaten. It was Chanel herself who said “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” As it turns out, it was a motto she literally lived by.