Coco Chanel’s effortless chic, not to mention her racy personal life, are endlessly fascinating. There have been several Chanel biopics, and now Chelsea’s Saatchi Gallery exhibition, Mademoiselle Privé — the title refers to the stern do-not-disturb sign on her atelier door — is toasting her life and work.
And with good reason — after opening her first Paris shop in 1910, Chanel helped free women from constricted, elaborate clothing with her comfortable yet elegant ensembles in fluid jersey.
Her style owed much to her ingenious twinning of black and white — silk camellia corsages pinned to bouclé tweed suits, simple little black dresses, pearls and corresponding shoes.
Black-and-white designs inspired by Coco Chanel
Inspired by Chanel, black-and-white chic for your home
Inspired by Chanel, black-and-white chic for your home
1/7 Join the lotus eaters
Create a dramatic frisson with a feature wall. Black and white on interior walls can be striking - but it doesn't have to be overpowering. Farrow & Ball’s Lotus wallpaper fits the bill perfectly and costs £110 for a 10-metre roll.
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2/7 Back to the Eighties
Monochrome enjoyed an Eighties revival that today inspires lines at designer homewares and accessories shop Darkroom in Bloomsbury. Its Eighties-style pieces include this Tiler table, coated in black-and-white Murano glass tiles, £750.
3/7 Mono stripes
Tori Murphy’s Harbour Stripe throw in graphite and ecru, £250, proves that monochrome is anything but severe or overwhelming when confined to small areas, soft furnishings and accessories - it's less imposing but still has an impact
4/7 Evergreen elegance
A timeless piece of furniture designed in the Fifties, fitting in perfectly with the current trend for all things mid-century, the Evergreen chair is fashioned from steam-bent beech wood and costs £1,400, from Ercol.
5/7 Channelling Coco
Get Art Deco styling with Christopher Guy Harrison’s lacquered geometric Menton screen. Part of his Chanel-inspired Mademoiselle furniture collection, it nods to the fact that the fashion icon adored screens. From £7,777.
6/7 Simply stylish
A case of less being most definitely more... the restrained, simple lines of the Coco chair by Mark Gabbertas for Oasiq, are a statement of elegance in themselves. From £370.
7/7 It's all black and light
Even today's lighting capitalises on contrasting black and white. Vico Magistretti’s Apollo table lamps in Murano glass, from Viaduct, are available to mix in white or black, with the larger size at £997 or the smaller size at £493.
The show pays tribute to this, starting with its large, deftly drawn black sketch of Chanel at the entrance. Inside, visitors can download an app for a virtual tour of her glamorous flat at Rue Cambon in the French capital. Well, she loved interiors as much as fashion.
It’s enough to tempt anyone to emulate her style at home. Yet black and white can be overpowering, so what’s the secret to doing it well?
One designer who’s always carried it off with aplomb is Sue Timney, who made her name in the Eighties as part of influential duo Timney Fowler, famous for black-and-white textiles and wallpapers. Inspired today by the black-and-white marble floor of Claridge’s lobby, she’s still a firm advocate of this crisp, two-tone combination.
“It’s powerful yet flexible,” she says. “These neutral tones go well with colours.” For the adventurous, she suggests “the drama of black lacquered walls — provided the plasterwork is in good condition — paired with white or ivory objects to create the ultimate look of luxury”.
Decorative artist Bridie Hall, co-founder of Bloomsbury design store Pentreath & Hall, takes a more restrained line. “Monochrome can look severe, but needn’t feel overwhelming if confined to small areas and to soft furnishings and accessories, which are less imposing but still have an impact,” she says.
Used sparingly, geometric pieces such as Beatrice Larkin’s Tumbler cushion and Luke Irwin’s Roanoke rug would look striking, but not overbearing — as would Pentreath & Hall’s neoclassical plaster friezes by Peter Hone, perhaps hung in an alcove painted black or charcoal.
Black and white can bring to mind neoclassical interiors, the Art Deco era of Chanel and even the monochrome-loving Eighties that, thanks in no small part to another Bloomsbury shop, Darkroom, are enjoying a revival. Typical of its Eighties-inspired wares is the Tiler table coated with black-and-white Murano glass tiles.
Monochrome can also conjure up the Fifties — think Italian designer Piero Fornasetti’s witty, graphic homeware, sold in abundance at Harrods. A more toned-down version of this fashionable mid-century style is Ercol’s Fifties black Evergreen chair with white upholstery.
More Art Deco is Christopher Guy Harrison’s lacquered Menton screen. Part of his Chanel-inspired Mademoiselle furniture collection, it nods to the fact that the fashion icon adored screens.
Even today’s lighting capitalises on contrasting black and white. Take Michael Anastassiades’s Copy Cat light, which has a small black orb containing an LED source that thrusts light into a larger white sphere.
The stylish black-and-white aspects of grand hotels can become features in the home, thanks to India Mahdavi’s jazzy floor tiles for Bisazza, or Emma Molony’s Beastly Chronicles wallpaper.
Whichever look appeals, the simplicity of combining these two tones creates a unified effect and, naturellement, allows you to channel Chanel’s chic style.