For more than half a century, Karl Lagerfeld ordained the way the world dressed, via lengthy tenures at Chanel, Fendi and Chloé, as well as his own eponymous label. But his aesthetic opinion did not stop at fashion – he was equally didactic when it came to interiors, and even took on a couple of decorating jobs in the final years of his life, designing sleek lobbies for residential estates in Miami and Toronto.
When it came to his own homes, he was a collector on a Renaissance scale, of everything; Pierre Mothes, Vice-President of Sotheby’s France, found a drawer of 509 iPods in one of Lagerfeld’s homes, and then a further 70 in his office. But what his interiors had in common with fashion was their tendency to sudden change. “I love collecting, but I hate owning,” Lagerfeld famously said, and proved it by auctioning off his Art Deco objects and furniture in 1975, his Memphis creations in 1990, his 18th-century furniture in 2000, and lastly his Design collection in 2003. Nonetheless, enough remained in his Paris apartments on rue des Saint-Pères and Quai Voltaire, the Louveciennes estate outside Paris, and the Monaco apartment in the Millefiori tower for Sotheby’s to announce, in addition to two online sales, three sets of physical sales. Each one is spread over two days, taking place in Monaco (which has happened), in Paris (next week, on 14 and 15 December) and Cologne (in March 2022). “If anybody had a Versailles complex, it was Karl,” says Amanda Harlech, Lagerfeld’s long-term muse and collaborator, in a video that she made for Vogue while walking through the rooms of Lagerfeld’s Louveciennes villa. “Like his last couture collection, he put everything into this last house that he loved. He called this house the real version of himself.” Inspired by the Weimar style of his Hamburg upbringing, the decoration referred to the early years of the 20th century: there were numerous pieces by Bruno Paul, one of the founding members of the Deutscher Werkbund (his pupils included Mies van der Rohe and Adolf Meyer), Art Deco furniture by Louis Süe and André Mare, early 20th-century reproduction antique sculptures and German advertising posters. There’s a music room, a recreation of Lagerfeld’s childhood bedroom, and a study containing over 120,000 art history books. In contrast, the apartment at Quai Voltaire, situated in a 200-year-old building, was “like floating in your own spaceship over a very civilised past,” described Lagerfeld. He was determined that there should be nothing in the apartment that had any reference to other eras, that there should be no shadows – to which end he designed his own daylight-simulating lighting with Carpenters Workshop – and the palette was strictly black, white and grey. Floors were concrete and silicone, the hall was lined in frosted glass, while other rooms had walls of mirrored or smoked glass. Furniture was predominantly by Lagerfeld’s favourite contemporary designers Marc Newson, Martin Szekely and Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec. Anything textural was banned, except in the bedroom, upping the stark ambience which was only partly alleviated by Lagerfeld’s ubiquitous stacks of books.
The apartment on rue des Saint-Pères, opposite Lagerfeld’s office, was different once again, while stylistically acting as a bridge. Towering proportions and high ceilings enabled Lagerfeld to express Weimar neo-classicism, “but in a high-tech spirit,” explains Jean-Louis Gaillemin, the art historian and writer. Minimal design was combined with decorative arts, tubular light fittings with 18th-century sculptures. Mothes describes Lagerfeld as “a designer who knew how to perfectly balance the old and the new, the traditional with the radical, the serious with the surprising, and often with a twist of fun.”
For those of us who suffer the misfortune not to have been part of Lagerfeld’s inner circle, and thus have never experienced being in one of his interiors “that made you feel like the best version of yourself,” as Amanda Harlech puts it, this series of sales is a tantalising glimpse into what it might have been like. Among the lots going under the hammer next week are a c. 1830 shell-moulded polychromed painted porcelain tea service, a gilt-bronze, glass and cut-crystal chandelier in the Louis XV style, a 1998 aluminium Marc Newson Fauteuil Zénith, a suite of four 1923 Swedish cast-iron and wooden benches, a colourful Marianne Richter wool carpet, a 1770 Louis XVI white-painted decorative wooden bed covered with a silver thread and yellow silk lampas (which previously belonged to the legendary French decorator Georges Geffroy, who designed Christian Dior’s homes), a 1929 Josef Hoffmann coffee service (ideal for fans of the Vienna Secession) – and embroidered cotton and lace bedsheets, several Goyard trunks, bottles of Château Lafite Rothschild of different vintages, clothes from Chanel, Dior Homme, Saint Laurent, and more.
It might have been even bigger; Clémence Krzentowski of Galerie Kreo, which deals in exceptional contemporary design, recounts having to say no to Lagerfeld on occasion, remembering a Konstantin Grcic show in 2014 where he wanted to buy four of everything.
Lagerfeld's own apartment was at 8 rue des Saint-Pères. The late 18th/early 19th-century sculpture goes on sale with an estimate of €40-60,000.
Lagerfeld's office at 15 rue des Saint-Pères in Paris.
8 rue des Saint-Pères
8 rue des Saint-Pères
Lagerfeld's house at Louveciennes just outside Paris.
The dining room at Louveciennes
Louveciennes Posting from house and garden