To celebrate the 130th birthday of fashion dignitary and francophiles' obsession Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, here's a detailed look into the tiny, exquisitely furnished apartment she kept above her flagship on rue Cambon in Paris. NPR once described the place, which has been preserved since her death in 1971, as a "nest of an exotic bird," and it's true, the place is a compact, dissonant collage of her glamours, inspirations, and idiosyncrasies. So what exactly is inside the place where she entertained the likes of Salvador Dali, Elizabeth Taylor, and Pablo Picasso? Read on.
10. Coco designed the main sofa (above) herself. According to Hooked On Houses, it was pretty novel at the time to have a beige sofa, and in a sea of velvet and silk upholstery, the suede she used was also innovative. So special, in fact, she was apparently very selective about who could sit on it.
9. As a Leo, the fashion designer surrounded herself with lion icons, including a crystal orb footed by them.
8. Coco was also rather superstitious. Not only did she believe in the healing power of crystal (hence the tabletop orbs), a fortuneteller once told her that five was her lucky number—why she named her astoundingly successful Chanel No. 5 fragrance what she did. Spotted in her apartment: a crystal chandelier custom made with "5" shapes twisted into the frame (above).
7. According to The Coveteur, the clear table here was the first piece of merchandising furniture for Chanel. Coco commissioned a disappearing table that showed off the jewels and fragrances she was selling. "At the time, it was very clever as she was one of the first to do this."
6. The famous mirrored stairway, an ode to Art Deco that threads together the building's four stories, was of her own design. During her shows, Coco used to sit on the fifth step down from her apartment (which was on the second story) and watch the reactions of the press and audience to her newest designs while staying hidden from view.
5. Influenced by motifs of the Far East, the designer kept antique lacquered Chinese screens flattened against the wall like wallpaper. "Mademoiselle Chanel hated doors," Odile Babin, a Chanel archivist, told NPR in 2009. "She hoped that by placing them in front of the door, her guests might not remember to leave."
4. The camellia flower (spotted on said burgundy screens) was another symbol of Coco's. She was told they symbolized purity and longevity, and used them a lot in her designs.
3. Here's a hint at the type of crowd the designer ran with: Coco amassed treasures like a "shaft of wheat painted by her friend Salvador Dali," an ancient Russian icon from another friend, Igor Stravinsky, a golden hand (on top of a box, below) created by buddy Alberto Giacometti, and gold boxes from the Duke of Westminster Hugh Grosvenor, an ex-beau of Chanel's and at one point one of the wealthiest men in the world.
2. Coco didn't actually live in the apartment above her store. Instead, she slept across the street at Place Vendôme at the Paris Ritz. Another interesting detail: the Place Vendôme is an oblong octagonal shape, and also the inspiration for the cap of her Chanel No. 5 bottle.
1. Every morning, she'd phone the salon at 31 rue Cambon to let them know she was heading over and give them ample time to spray the stairway with Chanel No. 5. "Then, in a mist of expensive perfume, Coco Chanel got back to work," NPR writes.
· Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel's Apartment [The Coveteur]
· Coco Chanel's Apartment at 31 Rue Cambon [Hooked on Houses]
· Chanel Finale [Notcot]
· 31 Rue Cambon: Coco Chanel's Fabulous Paris Flat [NPR]