bonjour encore et bonne année! i hope your new year is off to a smashing start. i don’t have any particular resolutions other than to make every day one to remember in some small way. blogging’s always been a good indicator of what’s going on cause it’s kind of a journal. i’ll be trying to use it this year as a tool for working on new projects and books. that said, today i’m continuing to uncover the private lives of style icons who are influencing my new tome, boudoir moderne and of course it wouldn’t be complete (let alone get started), without a nod to coco chanel.
i went on overload researching her life apartment at 31 Rue Cambon in Paris and once i started finding images it was hard to quit so i enjoyed the indulgence. when you google ‘chanel bedroom’ all sorts of logos and fluff come up but nothing could be further from the way she lived.
not that her home wasn’t opulent. she lived in a modest apartment but every inch of it was carefully curated that tended to and nurtured her in every way. her home was her backdrop, her stage. and she loved posing as the star of the show.
“Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury”
this chair is one that greets you upon entry. it’s become famous for this series of shots of her lounging as a lady of leisure and grace. chanel was such a complex woman that to discuss who she was and her life and times is way out of my realm, but my observations from the shots collected did tell a story about what she was probably like behind closed doors. first of all she was not afraid to be photographed at any age. she accepted herself and saw beauty as an essence much more than face. and she was very philosophical!
‘Nature gives you the face you have at twenty; it is up to you to merit the face you have at fifty’
she was always dressed to the nines. maybe she did kick back in once in a while but even when she took her hat off she was still cool and sophisticated.
‘I don’t understand how a woman can leave the house without fixing herself up a little – if only out of politeness. And then, you never know, maybe that’s the day she has a date with destiny. And it’s best to be as pretty as possible for destiny’
chanel seems to have had a very generous spirit for sharing her home, her life and her work. thankfully from an early age she welcomed photographers in so we could get a glimpse of how she lived.
although some of it’s staged, i have a feeling it wasn’t far from reality. let’s go inside.
“Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance”
‘My life didn’t please me, so I created my life’
once we strip off some of the facade, a very soft woman appears at home.
this was actually her bed at la pausa but i didn’t come across any other boudoir of hers besides the one at the ritz. still it shows a playful side with a star tucked in the headboard as well as a feather (she entertained)! and of couse, dressed to the hilt in silk pajamas.
“As long as you know men are like children, you know everything!”
as any self respecting woman did, she kept a beautiful vanity filled with silver trinkets, powders and perfumes. and i think that’s a negilgee hanging to the right!
“Where should one use perfume?” a young woman asked. “Wherever one wants to be kissed!”
once back in the seriousness of daylight, she was all business. this is her pretty ladies’ desk for writing letters
and her home office where she refined her very definite ideas about life and style
“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.”
‘I wanted to give a woman comfortable clothes that would flow with her body. A woman is closest to being naked when she is well-dressed.’
later in life she lets us in again to see an apartment that has grown in some ways, matured in its decor with the addition of travel mementos, books and statues
she must have treasured her roaring fireplace
and surrounded herself with beautiful books
lounging was apparently a pastime she enjoyed to the fullest without apology and understood that downtime in life was as important as success.
‘How many cares one loses when one decides not to be something but to be someone.’
‘There are people who have money and people who are rich’
this series of shots was one of her most revealing
“Elegance is not the prerogative of those who have just escaped from adolescence, but of those who have already taken possession of their future.”
doing the things we all do
eating, reading, working
on the phone
and although most of the shots are of her alone, the now iconic suede sofa she designed often hosted friends
who came for intimate chats
or host an audience while working with girls who came for fittings
‘Adornment, what a science! Beauty, what a weapon! Modesty, what elegance!’
i think she was happy because she had a happy home
it seems she created a perfect little world just upstairs above her shop and it was her wonderland. a place she could go for refuge, that was a comfortable and reassuring as the arms of a lover.
it was probably most comforting as she put on her face for life outside as the kingpin of CHANEL, that she knew just up that staircase was a little piece of heaven waiting for her. thank god the french have kept it intact.
this may be my favorite shot, seeing her totally relaxed, unpressured, her true nature at peace. everything home should be for all of us.
‘I am not young but I feel young. The day I feel old, I will go to bed and stay there. J’aime la vie! I feel that to live is a wonderful thing.’
p.s. a new book is coming out i thought you may enjoy. i’ll try to get a copy or two for a giveaway. till then have a wonderful weekend!