Tag Archives: historic

Coco Chanel’s Apartment

A tour of Gabrielle Coco Chanel’s Apartment  at 31 Rue Cambone Paris

It’s hard to imagine walking in the footsteps of a legend… but on this most recent trip to Paris that is exactly where I found myself.  31 Rue Cambon, tucked away on a narrow street is the building Gabrielle Chanel (Coco) purchased in the 1920′s to house her incredibly successful fashion business. The levels of the building are still maintained today as Coco had originally set them up- a shop on the ground floor, haute couture studio on the 1st and her apartment on the 2nd. Walking up the original mirrored staircase was a surreal experience, like being in a toy music box or on a merry-go-round, light reflecting and your angle of perception always on the move. I sat on the infamous 5th step, the number five ever present and repeating itself within her house as she believed it to be a lucky number, and looked at the view Coco herself did so many times. From that angle of mirrored walls you can see how the dress would look on a model at every turn and you could also see the client’s reactions to the collection on the floor below without them being able to see you. Being in the house the day before Chanel’s extravagant spring show allowed me to slip into the fantasy even more, standing on that staircase seeing the models in fittings, running up and down the stairs and all the while watching them in a million reflections, reflections that have not changed in decades.

I found myself throughly surprised when I pushed open the mirrored door to her apartment – the first impression was “ornate oriental”. All of the rooms of Coco’s apartment were lined in 18th century oriental screens in a wallpaper-like fashion. Having been known to hate doors, she had the wooden wall panels cut seamlessly so when closed you would not know a door was there, like a hidden passageway. In the salon she used freestanding screens to obscure the entrance and exists of the room, leaving your eye to seamlessly wonder around and around at her very personal collections.

I was taken by how personal everything was in the space. Either chosen by Coco herself or as a personal gift, there was nothing in place without a story. The side tables – Coco had the marble replaced with black lacquered surfaces (sound like Chanel? yes.). The lions everywhere? Coco was a leo and surrounded herself with her astrological sign. The amazing chandelier in the salon bears both the number 5 and the iconic double crossing C’s. A dinner table for six? Coco preferred later in life more intimate dinner parties with the focus on stimulating conversation, conversations that would be happening with the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, and Marlene Dietrich. She would pick up pieces from all over and mixing high and low without a bother to monetary value surrounding herself in things that meant something to her. On the side table of the salon sat one frog with his mouth open and inside was a piece of crystal. I asked our host why it was there and she said one of Chanel’s more famous guests accidentally broke a crystal off the chandler and hoping Coco would not see, hid the piece in the frog’s mouth… but, Coco did see to which she replied to the guest was a more fitting place for it after all.

My favorite piece in her apartment are the gifts from the Duke of Westminster- silver trinket boxes that sit on the salon’s coffee table and don’t reveal their true value until one opens it and it’s golden interior radiates so bright it feels like a piece of the sun. Coco said after receiving these lavish gifts that this was TRUE luxury: the most valuable aspect hidden from the public eye. This is what inspired her to make fur jackets “inside out”, with the softest part only for you.

She took inspiration from her home- the shape of the mirror in the entryway is the shape of the bottle of Chanel No. 5 as well as the face of many Chanel watches. On the oriental screens lining the walls motifs of camellias danced- another iconic symbol of CHANEL. Most notably, she created her famous quilted bag from the pillows on her 1920′s custom made suede couch. It is quite obvious Coco Chanel had a vision of personal taste, which she let influence her work in the most organic way possible and to that I find her immensely fascinating for she taught me style is everywhere, you just have to see it.

Now imagine this – the owner of this apartment, a woman who set the tone of style for decades, the creator of a fashion house that bears her name and is still so relevant and esteemed today was once just a little girl growing up in poverty simply as Gabrielle…

A tour of Gabrielle Coco Chanel’s Apartment  at 31 Rue Cambone Paris A tour of Gabrielle Coco Chanel’s Apartment  at 31 Rue Cambone Paris    A tour of Gabrielle Coco Chanel’s Apartment  at 31 Rue Cambone Paris    A tour of Gabrielle Coco Chanel’s Apartment  at 31 Rue Cambone Paris

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Cumberland Island

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I remember that photograph. It was instantly synonymous with American style, American royalty, and that fairytale wedding to Prince Charming. I never forgot that image, the beauty of the moment, the elegance and intimacy of the chosen venue. Such an interesting choice to make for such a famous last name. Fast forward nearly 18 years later, and I’m standing on the steps of the First African Baptist Church on Cumberland Island thinking about all the dreams that one photograph gave me as a child. I remember reading about how the guests stayed at the Greyfield Inn where the reception was held but as time passed these little details faded away, now those faded details are a part of my very personal memories. Cumberland became more than a dream, but a cherished experience.

The day is full of delight with the kind of youthful energy and discovery you find in a F. Scott Fitzgerald book. We went on hour long hikes, took bike rides to old cemeteries and rode around horses grazing beneath the ruins of the Dungeness mansion. We rode for hours down the seashore without ever seeing another person, finding seashells and chasing horses. One of the most charming rituals of the Inn is how they make their guests picnic baskets for lunch everyday you can take with you on your private adventures.  On our second morning we rode with the house naturalist on a tour of the island where we visited that famous church, saw the house where President Jimmy Carter ate at multiple times, and discovered Plum Plantation which took my breath away. The history and nature, preservation and privateness is so far beyond anything I have ever experienced that I can only describe this stretch of land, twice the size of Manhattan, as magical.

If you ever need to find that corner of the world where things just are… where you can sit in the natural silence of the world alone and breathe in the sunlight, taste the salt of the sea and feel that life is just simply beautiful… then come to Cumberland Island. My heart will be there waiting for you.

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Greyfield Inn

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While we were in California last year, spending the day photographing Lake Tahoe with our friends, Adam Katseff and his wife Amy, they told us about the Greyfield Inn…the magical place they stayed on their honeymoon, one that they knew I would LOVE (turned out to be a major understatement). I knew the name sounded familiar, and once they mentioned it was on Cumberland Island, it all came back to me…an enchanting wedding, an all-American couple…but more on that tomorrow…

After hearing about it, I knew I had to see Greyfield Inn for myself and with the trip down to visit SCAD, it was the perfect opportunity. I’m an extremely visual person and I’m sure it comes to no surprise to you that I quite often dream about the way life looked “back then”. I think walking through the doors of Greyfield will be as close as I will ever get to knowing the way it might have actually looked…

You leave your car on Amelia Island and Mitti, one of the four owners and inheritors of Greyfield and the Carnegie property, takes you by boat to Cumberland Island. Walking up from the dock the giant, old live oaks seem to wave at you with their long fingers of Spanish moss, diffusing the afternoon sun into a sparkling haze underneath their centuries-old canopy. Then, from behind the trees you catch the first glimpse of the four story white mansion they call Greyfield. Built in 1900 as a wedding gift to the Carnegie’s daughter, Margaret, this home is still furnished with many of the original pieces of that era but with exceptional modern day comforts (ummm…air-conditioning). As you walk up the grand staircase to the second floor porch lined with rocking chairs and swinging daybeds, you regret how short your stay is. Now, up in the canopy of live oaks, you overlook the property of white picketed fences and fields of grazing wild horses and as they offer you organic rosemary lemonade, if you’re like me, you think you’ve died and gone to heaven.

The house, grand as it is, still holds a very sweet intimacy. At night, sitting out by the waterway looking back on her, she stands a soft pearly white in the light of the moon, framed by Spanish moss draped trees with a golden light glowing out of every window, so warm and welcoming you would swear the evening was meant just for you. The charm extends to the inside with its historic clawfoot bathtubs, immaculate upkeep, full service bar, organic meals, classic high quality southern linens and L’Occitane toiletries. Every evening, men in dinner jackets and ladies in our sweet southern dresses snack on hors d’oeuvres and classic Southern cocktails (recipe for my favorite below!), awaiting a dinner bell around 7:30 where we all move into the formal dining room for that night’s seasonal meal which at times can harvest ingredients from Greyfield’s own impressive garden.

I know on busy New York days or times when I’m caught in a blizzard, I will think back on this memory and my soul will fill with the warmth of these sunny afternoons, lost on Cumberland Island in a dream called Greyfield

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Rhinebeck Retreat

An historic old farmhouse sitting quietly on a hill where outside the kitchen window chickens lay their eggs and time seems to move ever so slowly. In this magically decorated home I felt as if they found a respectful balance of old and new, formal yet comfortable. It is to no surprise an artist lives here and with her husband raised wonderfully creative kids, as you can see here

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