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Coco Chanel's Apartment

by Ami Kealoha in Design on 13 September 2007

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Chanel's interlocking double-"C" logo, iconic quilted handbags and boxy suits are only a few of the label's contributions to 20th century design. The only privately-held major luxury brand, Chanel's rich history has everything to do with its courtesan-turned-fashion-legend founder Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel.

Thanks to a Chanel-sponsored trip to Paris last weekend that included 13 other international sites, CH got a rare glimpse at her 31 rue Cambon apartment (though she only entertained there 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 a groundbreaking move that you can see echoed in any shelter mag today.

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A mirrored spiral staircase (image via Blographic) provided Coco a way to watch editor's reactions at fashion shows on the floor below and leads upstairs to the top-floor atelier where Karl Lagerfeld works and down to haute couture fitting rooms and to the ground-floor boutique. The dizzying mirrors played a role in the latest Coco Mademoiselle campaign film starring Keira Knightly that debuted yesterday and was the focus of the trip. (More to come on that later, including our video featuring an exclusive interview with the famed "nose" of Chanel perfumes, Jacques Polge.)

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Entering through a room paneled with Chinese lacquer screens and holding little more than a low-slung chair (preferred by Coco so as to be eye-level with hemlines in order to perfect them) sets the tone. A mirror at one end is the same shape as the Chanel No. 5 bottle and Place Vendôme (the location of the Ritz and Chanel's jewelry boutique). Thanks to Blographic again for the image (as well as the sitting room images below). Also, check out Notcot's clever photoshopping that matches the dimensions of the bottle to the plaza.

Lined with books and decorated with a well-curated (though not exactly small) collection of objects, the living room is where Coco would conduct interviews, only allowing a select few to sit on the tan suede couch (the color and material being favorites) with her.

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From the quilted pillows to the "5"s and interlocking "C"s hidden in the chandelier made from semi-precious stones (above right), it's clear that Mme. Chanel had an eye for detail. (See my detail shots of the chandelier here—I have a bit of a chandelier fetish.) Among her collection of lions (she was a Leo), we were all a bit taken with the mini bejeweled birdcage that served as inspiration for Jean-Paul Goude's wonderful 1992 ad for Chanel starring Vanessa Paradis as a bird in a cage.

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Finally, a dining room houses a sturdy table, more lacquered screens and an anonymous bust flanked by elaborately framed mirrors—more Chinoiserie contrasting gilt-edged Edwardian flourish in Chanel's typically, confidently chic way.

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