Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Chanel Interior

In fashion, the classic braid edged Chanel jacket is one of the most recognizable icons. It has been coveted by women for decades, and every major designer from Yves Saint-Laurent to Moschino, has interpreted it.

Equally well known is Coco Chanel’s famous apartment in the Rue Cambon, situated above the couture salons. Left untouched since her death in 1971, it has been immortalized in scores of books, magazines and journals. Remarkably, interior designers have not appropriated Chanel’s décor they way fashion designers have continually copied her tweed, gilt buttoned jackets, and her boldly Byzantine jewels. That is a pity, because it is one of the most elegant, classic, livable, and easy to achieve looks in a room. Chanel décor is wonderfully versatile. While unquestionably elegant, it has relaxed elements that make it eminently suitable for our casual times. It is unisex; any chic woman would feel comfortable in it, and yet it is bold and comfortable enough for a man.

Here a few aspects of the look so you can bring it home.

Firstly, it is neutral, with an overall absence of colour. There are a few touches of soft rose in the chintz of a chair, and there are hints of muted colour on the enamel of crackled lacquer Coromandel screens, but these accents are virtually invisible. The palate consists of beige, black, off white, camel, and tobacco. Interest is introduced through varying textures: reflective crystal, velvety suede and velour carpet, mirror, bronze, lacquer, and wood.

The photo included here is of the author’s “Chanel” corner on a glass and iron wheat sheaf table. This table was one of the most famous pieces in Chanel’s apartment. The wheat table is Florentine gilt ironwork, and this design was widely distributed in North America during the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, and they can be found regularly at auctions and antique shops. Yves Saint-Laurent also had one of these tables in his Paris apartment.

The formula for a Chanel room is a remarkably simple recipe. One caveat: deviation from the plan will result in a lack of coherence and loss of the Coco magic. This is one look, like a correctly accessorized Chanel suit, in which, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” This look was pretty much assembled by the mid 1950s. Six decades later, there is no aspect of it whatsoever that is dated, unattractive, unlivable, or inappropriate for our lifestyle today. It is as timeless as the classic Chanel jacket, or her strings of pearls. And for those of you who would question the idea of reconstituting what is basically a 20th century period room, Lagerfeld himself has been known to recreate rooms and clothes, calling the process,"…an exercice de style." Doing this, he has realised flawless neo-classical and Biedermeier residences in Europe, as well as literal interpretations of classic Chanel suits, especially for promotional and advertising purposes.

Has the look of the Chanel apartment in any way influenced your taste, aesthetics, or selections in interior design? Do you think this look would be appropriate for your lifestyle, and do you think you would be comfortable in such rooms? Would you like to visit Chanel’s apartment?

Square with Flair™


  1. What an utterly fabulous debut of your blog! Your post is beautifully written, informative and inspiring. Well done!
    I look forward to reading more of these types of posts because I know you have a wealth of knowledge to share and a flair for writing.
    Congratulations on your first post! Now wasn't that fun?

  2. I too love this appartment. As you say her style(especially in interiors) was quite unisex. I have always been inspired to cover walls in hessian (her office in New York, had walls covered in hessian) as I always thought it would be the perfect backdrop.