Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Brad Pitt, Chanel, and Life in Black and White

For many years I lived my life in black and white. My apartment was black and white. My wardrobe was black and white. (A look inspired by Sheila Scotter, and Coco Chanel before her.) Even my first Cavalier King Charles was black and white. (With a smear of brown.) I wasn't as bad as a friend who went as far as buying black and white Belted Galloway cows for her farm, but I clearly needed help. {The beautiful image above is by the lovely Christie Smythe, via Coveteur 8}

I even wrote a book about black and white interiors. Which, to my shock (and my mother's) did quite well. (On a side note, have you seen Celerie Kemble's black and white book yet? It's beautiful. Far more functional than mine, too.)

And then when I found out that HRH Prince Charles had planted a black and white parterre at his renowned garden at Highgrove, well... you can't imagine the flurry of re-design that snippet of gardenalia caused in our miniscule yard.

Unfortunately, the black and white garden was the last straw for my normally tolerant partner. He wanted colour, he said. He was too young to live in house that looked like a silent film. So one year, when I went to NY on business, he swapped all the black and white bedlinen and bathtowels for coloured ones. (Is your husband as cheeky as this?) I tell you, nothing matched. Not surprisingly, I had a small apoplexy in the front hall. "It's okay honey," he said. "You're just suffering colour paralysis." {Above image of Kyle de Woody's beautiful apartment via Vogue}

To appease him (because it's important to appease people, I think), I started introducing blue, green, pink and red into our lives. And I have to confess, I love them. Who knew colour was so wonderful?

Every now and then, though, I still get a little misty over the sight of some black and white. So here, in a sentimental tribute to my old favs, midnight and ivory, are some images of this classic duet.

Starting with the dashing Mr Pitt and his mysterious new ad...

{Image above is a page from a future Chanel book, if I ever finish it.}


In an inspired move, Chanel has chosen Brad Pitt to be the first male face of Chanel No. 5. The 48-year-old actor and father will feature in both print and television ads for the iconic brand, with the first commercial debuting October 15th. Look at that cummerbund... So debonair.

Chanel's brand new baroque fragrance, Chanel Coco Noir, which was just launched this month. The scene is composed of top notes of grapefruit, bergamot and orange, middle notes of jasmine, rose, red geranium, Indonesian patchouli, and base notes of Brazilian tonka bean, Bourbon vanilla, sandalwood, frankincense and white musk. It was inspired by Venice at night. How seductive does it sound? I love the marketing spiel: "For the woman who favours elegance over faddism, presence over showmanship and the effortless magnificence of black in all its forms." Seriously sexy.

A vintage Chanel label. This was Chanel's original label, at the very start of her career. I think it's beautiful. I suspect a suit with this sewn on the inside would be worth a small fortune.

Chanel's Spring 2013 collection.

Chanel's hat boxes from 1913. 
Look at how the brand has changed from the original serif font? It changed again several years later.

The Chanel set from Fall/Winter 2011/12. 

Mr Robert Redford in The Great Gatsby. (The original.) 
Still one of my favourite actors. Still one of my favourite films. 
{Image below it by Asian Pride designer via The LA Times. Credit embedded in image.}

Let's hope Baz's version is just as beautiful.

Gucci's Spring/Summer 2012 collection {Via Grazia}

A balcony in Paris. 
Forgive me – I'm forever stopping to take photos of the architecture in Paris. But how can you resist? On a little aside, have you read the new book,  The House I Loved by the author of the hugely successful book (and film) Sarah's Key? It's all about how Haussmann razed Paris to redesign the city's streets. Fascinating.

A beautiful French staircase.
Okay, that's enough of Parisian balustrades and staircases now.

So here's a boulangerie-turned hotel instead. 
The Hotel du Petit Moulin in the Marais. A great little place to stay.

And the breakfast room of the Hotel Vendome. 
Love that Dedon fabric.

Miss Chanel, in her favourite combination. Did you know that when she died there were only three suits hanging in her wardrobe, all of them black and white? She didn't sleep in her apartment above the salon at Rue Cambon either. That was just for show; for entertaining. She preferred a tiny, almost garret-like room at the top of the Ritz Hotel next door. She said its spartan look and tight proportions reminded her of the orphanage. And that made her strangely happy.

Ella Richard in Paris for Jalouse. By Gemma Booth. {Via V O}

The always gracious and elegant Slim Paley in Paris recently. {}
(These two almost match the Hotel Vendome, above.)

And Ms Nicole Kidman in a similar outfit in Baz's ad for Chanel. 
NB Did you know that Chanel was one of the first to create the white collar-on-black-tunic look? She was inspired by the nuns at the convent where she grew up, but she also noticed that white better reflected, and better framed, the face better than black, while black was slimming for the body. Her solution was to design a black frock with a white collar. Still as stylish today.

A black kitchen cabinet full of stunning white dinnerware. {Via House Beautiful, November 2006}

A black and ivory porch, by Mary McDonald. This was an ambitious design, but Mary hasn't put a foot wrong. She never does.

A kitchen by the South African designer John Jacobs. {Via Design in Black and White}

An interior by NH Design. {Via House & Home}

JK Place hotel. {Via Lonny. Great pix Lonny, as always!}

Ralph Lauren's Bel Air collection. {From the RL Home archives}

David Hicks-designed fabric. Still modern after all these years.

A map of Paris, showing all the important places. {Via me}

Carla Zampatti's latest collection for spring 2012. {Via Carla Zampatti}

Candice Bergen at a black and white masquerade ball.

Rene and Pierce in The Thomas Crown Affair, the remake.

Faye and Steve in The Thomas Crown Affair, the original.

A frock by Oscar de la Renta. Very Black Swan. {Via Oscar}

One of the most exquisite weekenders I've ever seen. This tiny black and white cottage belongs to Ingrid Oomen (Qummunicate) and Asad Wali. So sweet. {Via House and Home}


  1. The iron in France?

    When a client needs a window box I say, "French style. Iron so fabulous they never need plants."

    XO T

    1. I could photograph a whole book on French balconies Tara!

      I love the way Haussmann designed (redesigned) the buildings featuring the second (piano nobile) floor with a balcony; the third and fourth floors in the same style but with less elaborate stonework around the windows (sometimes lacking balconies); and the fifth floor with a single, continuous, undecorated balcony. The configuration is surprisingly beautiful. xx

  2. How nice another column from you. Makes my morning.

    Isn't that long Chanel with white collar and cuffs the best, as is the De La Renta, Zampattis, Candice Bergen's hair, Faye Dunaways nails in Thomas Crown Affair ..they were beige,long and square ended V. impressed I was ..

    I too, for one year only wore black and white do forget what colour is, what suits you and the final descent (into idiocy)become frightened of it

    Dont want to be a pedant but there was a Great Gatsby before the 70s version, with Alan Ladd as Gatsby. I remember the 70s version well. saw it at the movies. if I remember it wasnt well received

    Dont you just love FSF's short stories?

    1. I THOUGHT there was another Great Gatsby! Should have checked my sources. (Which, incidentally, is you, Miss SMR.) I thought there was another Thomas Crown film too? But perhaps my remakes are getting away from me...? I loved Rene's wardrobe in TTCA II. Fabulous.

      We have pages from FSF's Great Gatsby framed on our bathroom wall. That's how much I love it. xx

    2. thats a great idea! A library in the bathroom.

      Really interesting how Haussmann designed the buildings! Good name for a designer

    3. Dear Janelle and smr
      Hard to imagine Alan Ladd as Gatsby. Somehow the gorgeous Robert Redford put his stamp on the role. A very hard act to follow. Waiting for Baz's version with bated breath. Thought I was a fan of the novel as well, but stunned to hear it papers your bathroom wall Janelle. Look forward to seeing some pics when you've completed it all.
      The black and white interiors above look fabulous but could never be so disciplined or do without colour (loved your orange post!).
      Interesting too that Coco's room at the Ritz was so spartan and tight. Can't be the same one that the Ritz now calls Chanel's room?
      Doesn't Slim look fabulous - and very happy - in your pic! Best wishes, Pamela

    4. Yes, I loved Mr Redford in TGG. It's long been a wish of mine to meet him. An architect friend in Savannah did: she told him he was her screensaver, then blushed from sheer embarrassment. But he just burst out laughing and said he hoped she didn't get bored. Clearly a great sense of humour.

      The Coco Suite at The Ritz is a fake Pamela, I'm very sad to say. It's dressed up to look as if she slept there. She actually used a tiny room, almost like a maid's room, on the top floors. There was only a side table and a wardrobe in it, I think? Even the bed was tiny. But of course The Ritz couldn't promote that...

      We have the page about Gatsby's library on our bathroom wall. Also the pages about the 'blue garden', the parties, and one other memorable scene. I love reading it when I clean my teeth. Makes me strive to be a better writer.

      Love to you all. xx

  3. The smell of Venice by night you say.....must schedule a trip to a perfume counter and have a sniff! Robert Redford was gorgeous as Gatsby....not quite sure about old Leonardo yet of course I'll have to check it out just to make sure! Rx

    1. Yes, my jury's still out on Leonardo, but he can pull out the goods when he wants to. xx

    2. Dear Janelle and Romy
      Will have to try this new perfume too, sounds wonderful. Started out years ago with 19 and have since been seduced by 5 as well. I always buy a small spray bottle just before a serious trip overseas (either on plane or at airport). Last time found a lovely black dispenser with three refill inserts. Handbag size. Ideal and heavenly. Not so sure about the scent of Venice at night though. In reality, the night smell on the Grand Canal tends to be the slightly malodorous canal water and exhausts from vaporetti and water taxis. Disappointing but true. But still doesn't stop me loving Venice and going back. Last time there we had a large old room with two huge windows opening directly onto the Grand Canal near the Ponte Accademia. We used to sit at the windows with our breakfast coffee and wave back to all the excited people arriving on the vaporetti. Many happy memories. Yes I wonder about Leonardo too. Best wishes, pamela

  4. Have you been to Savannah? like many others "Midnight in the garden of good and evil" seduced me.

    The simplicity of Coco's room didnt surprise me. Some of her fashion was influenced by things she saw at the convent and she strove to free women from "overdressing" Perhaps alot of decoration and objects would have distracted her.

    Brad Pitt interesting choice...come to think of it ..who would you choose?

    1. Love love LOVE Savannah. Quite possibly one of the most beautiful cities I've ever seen! (But then I haven't seen New Orleans yet, or Buenos Aires, which are meant to be just as magical) Have you been there? It's incredible - the architecture, the mood, the whole, decaying elegance of it all. I haven't seen the Midnight movie - been meaning to for years - but read the book and loved it. You've reminded me that I must buy the film. I wonder what a 'Summer in Savannah' scent would smell like? (If Chanel was inspired by 'winter in Venice'...)

      I have unusual and eclectic taste in men. I would have chosen a) Sidney Poitier, b) Robert Redford, or c) Winston Churchill. But I don't think any of them would ever consider doing a Chanel commercial! Can you imagine Churchill doing a voice-over...? xx

      PS Forgot to wish you well for your job interviews too. You will impress them no end, I suspect.

    2. Churchill there's an idea !Cameron doesnt have the same cachet does he? havent seen Midnight either but again I remember not well received.

      No havent been to BA or NO or Savannah but hoping to go to BA the year after next. My friend and travelling buddy were talking about it in Melbourne. It just popped into my head when we were talking about our next trip.

      Thanks for your good wishes..hopefully interview next week. You dont want a paid assistant do you ? that would be really fun

  5. Hi Janelle

    I am a bit the same with French grey and beige aka "greige". I have been trying to embrace colour a lot more lately but I do feel your pain. Grey and beige to me bring tranquility and in today's busy and complex world I love the simplicity. So I say celebrate you love affair with Black and White every day. Shell - A Darlings Nest

    1. Oh Shell, it's a tough detox, I know. Just look in your wardrobes and see which colours you love. Then introduce those into your home. Thanks for popping by. Shall take a look at your lovely-sounding blog now. xx

  6. Thank you, another wonderful post.

    1. Thank you Linda. So lovely of you to leave a comment. xx

  7. You do the best posts! They are thoughtful and full of great images.
    Black and white is pretty much my work wardrobe, no I don't work for my Myer nor DJ's!. I'm just lazy. On the weekend, it's colour. Interior is beige, with splashes of colour - my gorgeous Anna Spiro cushions.
    The Great Gatsby with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow is one my favourites, but I think Baz Lurhmann is a man to meet that challenge.
    Sorry, did not make Garden of Ninfa - too difficult with first time visitor to Rome.Will email you, I have only just got home. xx

    1. Oh, I MISSED you! What a wonderful Italian holiday you two must have had!

      I'm sorry to hear you couldn't get to Ninfa though.
      Don't worry. We'll do it next year.


      PS Don't worry about emailing if you're jetlagged and busy. You just catch your breath.

  8. I love black and white. These are the most glamorous photos!


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