High heels and country life with Christian Louboutin
When he is not dashing around the world, fitting celebrities with his glorious creations, Christian Louboutin likes to kick back and smell the roses at his enchanting 13th-century French château
A house is very much like a portrait,’ says Christian Louboutin. ‘I cannot disconnect houses from people. The thought of arrangement, the curves and straight lines. It gives an indication of the character at the heart of it.’
So what does the shoe designer’s romantic 13th-century château in the Vendée region of France reveal about him? Each room is unique: a dramatic wrought-iron spiral staircase greets guests in the entrance hallway, filled with natural light from floor-to-ceiling windows; the grand salon is crowded with Italian Baroque armchairs, Louis XV mirrors and delicate pencil sketches by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. ‘They were done early on in Ingres’ career but one of them is the exact profile of Meryl Streep! It’s quite fascinating,’ he says.
Shared with Bruno Chambelland, his business partner of more than 20 years — ‘one of my dearest, oldest friends’ — the property sits in seven hectares of enchanting landscaped gardens, with outhouses and a renovated oak barn that is used as an archive of more than 8,000 pairs of Louboutin’s most fabulous footwear.
The fanciful interiors are much more Chambelland than Louboutin. ‘It’s really Bruno who took care of decorating; he used to be an auctioneer. The château was owned by his family three centuries ago, but when the Revolution happened his great-great-grandfather, Benjamin Chambelland, was cut into 200 pieces and the property drifted from owner to owner.’ When Château de Champgillon came back on the market in the late 1980s, Bruno snapped it up and the pair set about restoring it, drawing heavily on 18th-century style. A number of pieces that had been kept in the Chambelland family, including an antique grandfather clock, were returned to their original home; other items, such as some 16th-century Spanish portraits and a woven tapestry by Alexander Calder, were purchased at Paris’ Drouot auction house, and more still were picked up by Louboutin on his travels (he spends more than half the year visiting his 70 stores, from Manhattan to Delhi).
Inside the barn conversion alone there are free-standing Indian rococo columns, Mexican totem poles and searchlights from the Suez Canal. ‘If there is something I like, I buy it and then find somewhere for it. I buy first then I think.’ The restoration of the château is an ongoing project — ‘restoration in France is never finished!’ — but of Louboutin’s five homes (an apartment in Paris’ ninth arrondissement and houses in Portugal, Egypt and LA), it is Champgillon that he holds most dear ‘because this is the one most painted with history’.
The fourth child of Roger Louboutin, a carpenter, and his wife Irène, Christian was born and raised in the 12th arrondissement of Paris with his three older sisters. Inspired by the dancers’ costumes at the nearby Folies Bergères, Louboutin’s childhood dream was always to design shoes and at 16 he dropped out of school to pursue his ambition. A chance encounter in 1982 with Countess Hélène de Mortemart, then fashion director at Christian Dior, led to a year-long internship at the atelier of Charles Jourdan, the brand that designed and manufactured shoes for Dior. After this, the fledgling designer went freelance, designing shoes for Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent. In 1987, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris announced a major exhibition of Roger Vivier’s work, and Louboutin became the assistant and secretary of this go-to shoe designer for chic Parisiennes.
With the end of the exhibition came an unexpected sideways move into landscape gardening. In his book, Christian Louboutin, he explains, ‘The garden allowed me to see blends of colours and materials, juxtapositions of gloss and matte surfaces… It was highly instructive.’ The change of direction coincided with the purchase of the château and, while the interior was left to Bruno, Louboutin immediately commandeered the gardens and began restoring. His enchanted idyll was inspired by the great gardens of history, from the Mughal astronomy garden in Jaipur to Hidcote Manor Garden in Gloucestershire. The grand project consumed all the pair’s energies and they ditched the Paris party scene, which revolved around the famous nightclub Le Palace where Helmut Newton and Grace Jones were regulars, for weekends at the château.
‘I never entertain people here — it’s not in my nature. A good host is someone who really takes care of everyone, from the food to their daily programme. I can’t. If I’m in the country, my big idea is to do nothing. It means talking, it means cooking with the leftovers in the fridge — l’art d’accommoder les restes — it means gardening.’
In the early 1990s a chance vacancy in Paris’ historic galerie Véro-Dodat compelled Louboutin to abandon topiary and return to high heels. He opened his first boutique in 1992 and his earliest clients included Princess Caroline of Monaco and Catherine Deneuve. Louboutin’s designs have since become a celebrity fashion staple, with fans including Victoria Beckham, Daphne Guinness and Inès de la Fressange. He still has the original boutique at Véro-Dodat.
These days Louboutin is happiest growing kumquats and mandarins in the 19th-century orangerie, and each season he assiduously selects seeds from catalogues (‘Thompson & Morgan, and Baumaux — between those two I hope to create miracles in the garden’) to cultivate by hand, no doubt under the watchful eye of his partner of 15 years, Louis Benech — one of France’s most fêted landscape architects.
Louboutin’s continually expanding business (there will soon be more menswear and a make-up line) requires constant attention from its creator, and Champgillon offers a much-needed respite. He has just flown from Mumbai to New York and will continue on after the international fashion weeks to Bhutan and Cuba, before taking a well-deserved rest at the end of March: ‘After that I don’t plan on travelling much more this year. It will be summer in Portugal and weekends here. But I have to be careful — I find that if I spend more than four days at the château, I could never leave.’
Hemingway gate to be auctioned on eBay
The gate hung at the side entrance of the property where the Nobel Prize-winning author lived in the 1930s and wrote many of his classic works.
It is believed to have been installed in 1935, when a brick privacy wall was built around the Whitehead Street home Hemingway occupied with his wife and sons.
In 1964, the property became a museum honoring the author. The gate was replaced in 2011 with one that better protected the nearly 50 cats that reside on the property. The original was donated to Helpline, a non-profit local crisis hotline, to be auctioned for fundraising.
The $65m dowry for any man who can woo Cecil Chao’s lesbian daughter
Hong Kong property tycoon Cecil Chao wants granchildren to inherit his business so he is offering ‘a moderately deluxe life’ to any man who can woo his daughter
By David Pilling
The wrought-iron gate at the top of the path leading to Cecil Chao’s waterfront mansion says “Happy Lodge”. And Chao, a Hong Kong property tycoon, certainly takes every opportunity to be happy. Colourful even by the flamboyant standards of the city’s billionaires, the 76-year-old claims to have slept with 10,000 women – and to be adding regularly to his tally. A lifelong bachelor, he made headlines last September by offering a $65m bounty to any man who could woo and marry his lesbian daughter, Gigi. It turned out that he was not so much offended by her sexuality as in want of grandchildren to whom he could pass on his business.
I had caught a glimpse of Chao soon after he made his novel proposal. I was visiting friends in Pok Fu Lam, a quiet residential neighbourhood on the western edge of Hong Kong island. They lived in Villa Cecil, a collection of apartments owned by Chao with stupendous views of the Lamma Channel. A Rolls-Royce pulled up to the gates of Happy Lodge at one end of the complex. It bore the licence plate “Cecil”. In the front sat Cecil himself, waving delightedly to someone. In the back were two glamorous young women.
Now I was sitting in Cecil’s living room. (Hong Kong is a friendly place where almost everyone refers to each other by their first name.) The gate to Happy Lodge had been set ajar, so I had wandered down the path past a fishpond full of koi carp. The little door to his house was also open. In the living room was a grand piano, a tall, simply decorated Christmas tree, two large modernist statues and lots of glass and chrome. The far wall was glass, behind it a beautiful sea view. It reminded me of the Isla Negra house owned by Pablo Neruda, the Chilean poet enamoured of the ocean.
There didn’t seem to be a bell. It was warm, even in early December, so I stood outside until, after some time, I was greeted by a Filipina maid who ushered me inside. The enormous room was round with an improbably high ceiling in black mirror. Overlooking it was a balcony with an entertainment area and a banqueting room. You reach the top floor by a winding staircase. As the entrance is on the third floor the staircase also winds down to the staff quarters and to Cecil’s bedroom, site – almost inevitably – of a round bed.
Cecil eventually appears from below and we sit on one of three sofas arranged in discrete areas of the room. He looks improbably young and easy of movement for a man of 76 – a youthful appearance he attributes to his regular basketball sessions and nocturnal activities.
He’s wearing a brown suede jacket, a sweater, cravat and casual trousers. He calls one of his staff – he has eight in total, including a driver – to bring him his “light” sunglasses. A maid appears with a pair of Ferragamo.
Cecil designed the house himself some four decades ago when he returned from studying architecture at the UK’s Durham University. “It started with very contemporary thinking: black mirrors, stainless steel, high ceiling, skylights,” he says. “But when you get older you like Chinese and European classical culture,” he adds, gesturing to the assortment of antique furniture, ink paintings, Chinese lacquerware and Buddhist statues around. “We also have a Japanese garden.”
The house, at around 16,000 square ft, was designed to let in lots of natural light and to incorporate the sea view. “We tried to keep both sides light, mingling in the green environment,” he says. “So you have an interior garden mixed with an exterior garden and a waterfall outside.” He notices the waterfall is not operating and picks up a white telephone from the glass coffee table. “Julia, can you turn on the waterfall,” he says, his instructions transmitted through loudspeakers as though he were a Bond villain. “Our guest would like to see the sharks,” I imagine him saying. “Julia, can you please release them.”
We walk over to his terrace for a better view of the ocean. Below is a kidney-shaped swimming pool with a small stone elephant poised as if about to dive in. There are rocks and coral on the pool floor. “So we can snorkel,” he explains.
to be continued
Beyoncé rumored to be interested in Houston property
by Dan X. McGraw
A 25,000-square foot Houston home is attracting numerous suitors, possibly including Beyoncé. The Piney Point Village home, which is owned by Douglas R. Johnson and his ex-wife Melanie Johnson, was original priced for $19 million. In an effort to sell the home, the couple has slashed more than $13 million off the price over the past three years.
The home is currently on the market for $5.9 million. The reduced price is helping to attract prospective buyers, mainly people in the oil and gas industry, Alberto Alaniz, the owner of Prime Texas Properties, said. He said a wealthy oilman was flying his private jet into Houston to check out the property next week.
Alaniz said his agency has sent the real estate listing to Beyoncé. He said she was rumored to be interested in the property for her mother, Tina Knowles.
While the price is steep, it isn’t hard to see why Beyoncé or anyone else might be interested in the property.
Inside the 25,000-square foot mansion, you’ll find 16 bathrooms, six bedrooms and two suites. The Houston mansion also packs two Jacuzzis and a pool with a private entrance.
On the third floor, the home has a game room and theater room. It also has a “hobby room with a large climate-controlled cedar closet” that could be used from everything from wine to cigars.
The home also has former Enron executive Ken Lay’s desk and wrought iron from the Art and Humanities building in Argentina.
Oddly enough, the home is a bit of bargain for a multi-million home. Its reduced price would make it $250 per square foot, much lower than similarly priced and sized homes.
Kim Kardashian and Kanye West : wrought iron staicases for the Mediterranean-style mansion in Bel Air
Lifestyles of the rich and famous! The first glimpse inside the $11 million Mediterranean villa that Kim Kardashian and Kanye West will call home (but they’re already gutting it)
By SARA NATHAN
The stunning Mediterranean-style mansion in Bel Air boasts wrought-iron staircases, chandeliers and ‘old world’ fittings – so perhaps it will come as no surprise that the high-profile parents-to-be have already made plans to gut the property.
The luxurious home – which was on the market for $10,750,000, according to Trulia – sits in a private gated community in the exclusive California suburb, and is a whopping 10,000 square feet.
As Kim, 32, and Kanye, 35, are enjoying a ‘babymoon’ in Paris, the first pictures of their new home show a light and airy property that features a two-storey living room, an infinity pool and a library – with plenty of space for their little one to run around.
According to the listing, the 3/4 acre estate is situated on a view-commanding ridgeline.
Designed by architect Ron Firestone, the listing says: ‘custom craftsmanship and old world details are combined with every modern amenity.’
It adds: ‘Hand forged wrought iron and glass front doors open up to the two story formal entry with black walnut parquet floors.
‘A two story living room flanked by Cantera stone columns overlooks the rear grounds and mountains beyond. The great room includes wide planked floors, beamed ceilings and a stone fireplace and features a bar and stone wine cellar.
‘The library serves as a warm respite, detailed in rich woods and a burgundy marble fireplace. The master suite has spectacular views from every window, a fireplace, sitting room, large walk-in closet and changing area.’
The master bathroom has large steam shower, spa tub and massage room, while the massive backyard is a dream with sweeping lawns, an infinity edged pool and a loggia that serves as an outdoor living room and kitchen.
TMZ reported on Tuesday that the couple have already gutted the interior and are planning to add an extra 4,000 feet to complete their dream home.
A source told TMZ the new home will be ‘an Italian-style villa, with a gym, movie theater, full hair and make-up salon, bowling alley, basketball court, indoor and outdoor pool.’
Not forgetting a nursery of course.
The stunning infinity pool is visible in new shots of the property, which also has a pool house and large grassy lawn.
The mansion also has a grand driveway and dramatic entrance, as well as plenty of windows to let in the light and a spacious garage.
The pair will join A-list neighbour Jennifer Aniston, Los Angeles Clippers basketball player Chris Paul, and founder of the Girls Gone Wild entertainment franchise Joe Francis as the famous names in the neighbourhood.
Kanye is well known for his love of interior design and will no doubt be keen to put his stamp on their first home together.
The couple have been dating since last spring and were seen in the City of Love on Tuesday after shopping at the Lanvin and Celine boutiques before dining at L’Avenue restaurant.
Kim was wrapped up in a black cape, with any sign of a bump firmly under wraps, while Kanye defeated the cold in a black blazer.
Before their departure, a Kardashian source told Us magazine the couple plan to holiday in Paris “for a week just to chill. It’s a little babymoon!”
The couple – who don’t plan to marry yet as Kim is still married to Kris Humphries – surprised many after reportedly turned down a $3 million offer for the first photos of their baby.
A source close to the Keeping Up With The Kardashians star told TMZ that she and the Otis rapper have been flooded with lucrative offers for their child’s first pictures and were offered the hefty fee from one publication outside the States.
It is unclear if Kim will sign up as it was recently revealed that she and Kanye are planning to share the pregnancy and their adjustment to parenthood with their fans through a show on E!
E! Entertainment network president Suzanne Kolb said: ‘Kim and Kanye are an incredibly dynamic couple, and their baby news is just so exciting.
‘Like so many Kardashian fans, we love it when this close-knit family gets even bigger. We look forward to sharing the joy as they prepare for more diapers, more bottles and without a doubt, more fabulous baby wear.’