Fashion designers have a keen eye for architecture and interiors. Just look at Dries Van Noten’s exquisite Neoclassical mansion outside Antwerp or Alessandro Michele’s impossibly picturesque abode – part of a former monastery in the hilltop village of Civita di Bagnoregio. But while most are closed to the public, a number of iconic fashion designers’ homes can now be visited, either preserved as they once were, or repurposed by new owners. Here are a few of the best, including the Yves Saint Laurent’s vividly coloured sanctuary in Marrakech and the suite in the Ritz, Paris, where Coco Chanel lived for 30 years.
Yves Saint Laurent’s Villa Oasis in Jardin Majorelle, Marrakesh
Saint Laurent discovered the Jardin Majorelle on his first visit to Marrakech, in 1966. Created in the 1920s by the French artist Jacques Majorelle, the 12-acre botanical garden was a tangle of cacti and exotic plants full of unique colours, including a intense, luxuriant blue patented by the artist. By the time of Saint Laurent’s visit, the garden and villa had fallen into disrepair, but the designer was so seduced by the place that in 1980 he bought it, revived the garden with the help of botanist Abderrazak Benchaâbane and lived there with his partner Pierre Bergé until his death in 2010. The property is one of Marrakech’s most popular landmarks, open to the public every day of the year.
Coco Chanel’s suite at the Ritz, Paris
Despite having an apartment above her boutique at 31 Rue Cambon, Coco Chanel spent most of her time in a second floor suite at the Ritz from the mid-1930s. It became the fashion designer’s home full time during WWII, where she controversially hobnobbed with the occupying German army including her Nazi lover, Hans Günther von Dincklage. Decried as a Nazi sympathiser after the war, Chanel fled to Switzerland, but she returned to Paris, her label, and the Ritz, in the 1950s, and it was at the Ritz where she died in 1971. Her suite was refurbished in 2011, remaining true to the designer’s preference for monochrome, plus crystal chandeliers, gilded mirrors and Asian lacquer screens. It can be visited, but only as a hotel guest willing to fork out the not inconsiderable sum of €18,000 a night.
Il Borro, the Ferragamo estate in Tuscany
A spectacular Tuscan estate with a history dating back to the 13th century, Il Borro has been home to a long line of European royalty, including the Medici of Florence, the Torriani of Milan, the princes of Hohenlohe-Waldenburg-Schillingsfürst, and the Savoy dynasty. But in 1993, it moved into the hands of fashion royalty, when the Duke of Savoy sold the property to Ferruccio Ferragamo. Together with his son Salvatore, Ferragamo restored the crumbling Il Borro to its former glory, and it is now open as a hotel, restaurant and spa.
Gianni Versace’s Casa Casuarina, Miami
The Versace name is synonymous with high octane glamour and drama, and the two come together in Casa Casuarina. A fabulous 19,000 sq ft Miami mansion filled with frescoes, statues and stained glass, it was the fashion designer’s home for the last five years of his life, and it was on this doorstep that he was shot in 1997. Ten years on, the house – equipped with a swimming pool tiled in 24 carat gold – is now a hotel. Gianni Versace’s spirit is still evident in the eclectic, vibrant interiors, the sheer amount of gold leaf and the huge image of Medusa (the Versace logo) that dominates the mosaic garden.
Pierre Cardin’s Bubble Palace, Côte d’Azur
Le Palais Bulles is an architectural homage to the curve, built by architect Antti Lovag for a French industrialist between 1975 and 1989. Today it’s aligned most famously with its second owner, designer Pierre Cardin, who rocketed to fame in the 1960s with his ‘mod-chic’ Space Age creations. Stretching over 1,200 sq m, without a right angle or a straight line in sight and with an unparalleled view over the Bay of Cannes, the Bubble Palace is one of France’s most extraordinary homes. In 2015, it returned to the public eye when Raf Simons presented his Dior resort collection there, and in March 2017, it was listed for sale with an asking price of $350m. A buyer has yet to be found, but in the interim the Palais can be rented by the day (for $24,000 a pop).
Pierre Balmain’s riad, Marrakech
A richly decorated 19th-century riad, once owned by a prominent politician, was the base for renowned couturier Pierre Balmain during his time in Marrakech. Like for Yves Saint Laurent, Morocco was a source of inspiration for the designer and he maintained the riad’s traditional decoration, restoring the mosaic-lined pool and lush garden. Today the fashion designer’s home is open to all in its latest reincarnation as Dar Moha, a world renowned Moroccan restaurant.
Anna Fendi’s Villa Laetitia, Rome
This Belle Époque mansion by the Tiber is an early design by Armando Brasini, a noted – and at times controversial – architect who rose to prominence during Italy’s Fascist era. A century on, Villa Laetitia was taken over by Anna Fendi Venturini, one of the five Fendi sisters, and returned to its early glory. The frescoes, marble details and stuccos have been lovingly restored and juxtaposed with contemporary artworks by Enrico Castellani and, of course, designs from the Fendi home collection. Today it is one of Rome’s more beautiful hotels, and guests can book to stay the night – perhaps in the Karl room, designed in honour of the current designer of the Fendi collections – or eat in the Michelin starred restaurant.
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