The Mysteries Of Coco Chanel’s Apartment, Decoded

Your guide to reading the signs and symbols that fill this famous Paris abode

The iconic Art Deco staircase
27 Oct 2015

The iconic Art Deco staircase

This staircase leads you from the Salon du Haute Couture on the second floor to the apartment on the third. It was here where Chanel used to sit and watch the ladies come in for her catwalk presentations. Hidden from view on the steps, she could secretly listen to the comments made about the collections. The staircase also doubled as a dramatic entryway, should the need call for it, for models to walk down into the Salon during the presentations. 

The entrance
27 Oct 2015

The entrance

The carefully curated apartment is filled with Chanel’s favourite symbols and designs. The first thing you notice as you enter is the beautiful Oriental coromandel screens that line the walls, something you see in every room. 

Coromandel screens veil the doorways
27 Oct 2015

Coromandel screens veil the doorways

Chanel loved her coromandel screens and used them as wall decorations or to conceal entrances and exits. It was said that the designer, a free spirit, didn’t like to feel closed in. It’s also suggested that she might have hoped that her guests would forget about leaving the apartment if they didn’t see the doors as well. 

Statuette of Chanel’s favourite animal
27 Oct 2015

Statuette of Chanel’s favourite animal

The mighty lion represents Chanel herself and was her favourite animal. Besides being her astrological sign (Chanel was born on 19 August, making her a Leo), the animal is also often used in the brand’s communications. Thought to be the designer’s lucky charm, lion statues and figurines can be found everywhere in the apartment. FYI the lion is also the 5th sign in the zodiac, and everyone knows that the number 5 was Chanel’s lucky number. After all, she chose the now-iconic scent, Chanel No. 5, based on the fifth proposal that perfumer Ernest Beaux presented to her from an array of scents he had created. 

A customised table with legs depicting a sheaf of wheat
27 Oct 2015

A customised table with legs depicting a sheaf of wheat

Another symbol you’ll find in the apartment is wheat, be it worked into the design of a table or actual sheaves used as a décor feature near the fireplace. Why? Wheat is a symbol of prosperity and in French, also represents a slang term for money. In addition, its frequent appearance in the apartment is thought to be a nod to Chanel’s modest beginnings — she grew up in the countryside and of course wheat was often used as a commodity for trade.

Crystal chandelier representing Chanel
27 Oct 2015

Crystal chandelier representing Chanel

Chanel made no apology for her love of signs and symbols. This crystal chandelier represents the designer and is adorned with symbols of her, like the number 5, camellias (her favourite flower), the letter G for Gabrielle and stars (also thought to be one of her favourite symbols).

Quilted cushions
27 Oct 2015

Quilted cushions

The Chanel brand is synonymous with quilting, and evidence of this can even be seen on the cushions of the plush sofa that dominates the sitting room. We’re told that this quilting pattern pays homage to Chanel’s birthplace, which was in the Loire Valley where the French cavalry was based. Plus, her first lover was a keen horse rider, and when she visited him, she noticed that the blankets that dressed the horses were covered in this design as well. 

A pair of deer graces the living room
27 Oct 2015

A pair of deer graces the living room

Chanel loved having things in pairs, and the pairing of figurines — this pair of deer that graces the corner of the fireplace, pairs of lions everywhere and two crystal balls that sit atop a coffee table — is a theme that carries throughout the apartment. Apparently this speaks of her longing for a partner in her life. While she did have her share of lovers, she never really got over the death of Arthur “Boy” Capel in 1919. 

The study
27 Oct 2015

The study

Chanel loved neutral colours like beige and black. She believed that women should dress in these shades, especially black, because she felt that bright colours were too distracting. With black, a woman’s true personality could be revealed, she felt. 

Sitting above the Chanel flagship in Rue Cambon, Paris, is Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel’s stately apartment. Though she never stayed here — she lived at The Ritz, just a few steps away - her apartment was her sanctuary where she came to work, rest and entertain her famous friends like Hubert de Givenchy, Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso.

While it’s in the heart of the French capital, there are more than a few things in the surreal space that many of us in Asia would find familiar. After all, the superstitious Chanel was fascinated with signs and symbols, and her pad is peppered with plenty of these - just call it feng shui.

The building it’s in occupies four floors — the first is the boutique; the second is the Salon du Haute Couture where the brand’s Haute Couture customers still come for their fittings; and the third is where Chanel’s apartment resides. The topmost floor was Chanel’s workspace, which is now occupied by the brand’s creative director, Karl Lagerfeld, when he is in town.

For a closer look at the famous abode with its cryptic messages and what they mean, click through the gallery above. 

Photos: Chanel/Photo O.S. 

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