Live Like Karl

Karl Lagerfeld was a mega-collector. Of high-collared white shirts (1,000). Of books (300,000). Of period décor (Art Deco, Memphis Group, 18th-century European). And of homes — at least 20, in Europe and in New York.

“He loved buying, redesigning and decorating houses,” said Sébastien Jondeau, the longtime assistant and bodyguard of the fashion designer, who died in 2019 at the age of 85. “It was a true passion.”

One of those homes, the Bond-villain-like lair on the Quai Voltaire in Paris that was Mr. Lagerfeld’s last residence — sold at auction at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Paris on Tuesday for 10 million euros ($10.8 million). More than 50 attendees gathered for the sale of the 2,800-square-foot apartment, which Mr. Lagerfeld shared with Choupette, his beloved blue-eyed Birman cat. Bidding began shortly after 10 a.m. at 5.3 million euros, and quickly turned into a standoff between two parties: one who was off-site and communicating through an auction official in the room via a landline telephone, the other who was represented by a French lawyer seated in the second row and taking instruction on his cellphone.

The lawyer, who would not give his name for reasons of confidentiality, appeared to be taking direction in English from his client via a telephone earpiece. Offers bounced between the two bidders by increments of 50,000 to 150,000 euros for nearly 20 minutes, until the lawyer’s bid jumped from 9.3 million euros to 10 million euros. The auction official on the landline with the telephone bidder made a hand motion that her bidder stood down. When the auctioneer, Bertrand Savouré, announced that the apartment had been sold, attendees erupted in applause. Mr. Savouré would not reveal the buyer’s name or nationality.

Proceeds of the sale go to Mr. Lagerfeld’s estate, which will be distributed to Mr. Lagerfeld’s seven heirs: the former model Baptiste Giabiconi, who will receive 30 percent; Mr. Jondeau and the former model Brad Kroenig (the father of Mr. Lagerfeld’s godson, Hudson) will each receive 20 percent; and the Chanel artistic director Virginie Viard, Mr. Lagerfeld’s creative muse Amanda Harlech and the Karl Lagerfeld brand executives Caroline Lebar and Sophie de Langlade, who will split the remaining 30 percent, according to the French weekly magazine Le Point.

The auction comes at a time of renewed interest in Mr. Lagerfeld. “Paradise Now: The Extraordinary Life of Karl Lagerfeld,” a dishy biography by William Middleton, a former Paris bureau chief of Women’s Wear Daily, was published in the United States last year, and is being adapted by Paramount as a feature documentary, produced by Graydon Carter. In June, Disney+ will stream “Becoming Karl Lagerfeld,” a six-episode biographical series based on the book “Kaiser Karl” by the French journalist Raphaëlle Bacqué. And Thames & Hudson recently released “Karl Lagerfeld: A Life in Houses,” a large-format art book by Patrick Mauriès and Marie Kalt, the former editor of Architectural Digest France, that details 13 of Mr. Lagerfeld’s properties.

“Every place had its own spirit,” the authors write in the introduction. Mr. Lagerfeld’s real estate “reveals his character more fully than any biography.”

Especially the Quai Voltaire flat. Mr. Lagerfeld found the eight-room apartment, which is on the third floor of a 17th-century building and overlooks the Seine and the Tuileries, 20 years ago while reading Maison & Demeure magazine.

“When he bought the apartment, he said, ‘Maybe I’ll do a bit of work on it,’” Mr. Jondeau recalled. “Then he spent three or four years redoing everything.”

Mr. Lagerfeld had walls torn down, elaborate moldings ripped out and a mix of gray-tinted concrete and resin poured on the oak parquet. The sole remnant of the building’s historic décor was the frescoed ceiling of a chapel, which he had concealed by a drop ceiling. He reconfigured the layout into a grand living room facing the river, a bedroom-bathroom suite, a 550-square-foot wardrobe, a small laundry room and a butler’s pantry, where he stored his Diet Coke. No cooking was allowed in the apartment, as Mr. Lagerfeld abhorred the aroma of food in living spaces. He took his meals at another apartment he owned around the corner, on the Rue des Saints-Pères.

He framed the main room with bookcases encased by milky-white glass doors. The windows were similarly treated but with one-way white glass that allowed Mr. Lagerfeld to take in the view while keeping tour boat spotlights, and telephoto lenses, out.

Mr. Lagerfeld furnished the flat with early 21st-century design, much of it from the Galerie Kreo, a contemporary décor retailer in Paris. There was a bulbous chrome chair by Marc Newson, a pair of clear glass reclining chairs and a matching boxlike coffee table by Konstantin Grcic and a lacquered metal and Corian shelf unit by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec. All was in black, white, silver or gray. The lighting was a spooky blue that cast no shadows.

“There is no color here, because I am constantly surrounded by color,” he told Architectural Digest France in 2012. “I prefer to live in a neutral environment.” The furnishings were sold by Sotheby’s in Monaco in 2021.

Mr. Lagerfeld’s life in the apartment was meticulous and regimented. One table was for drawing, another for writing checks, a third small desk for correspondence. “There was a little sofa where he only sat to read magazines,” Mr. Jondeau said. There was no art on the walls, save a Takashi Murakami screen print portrait of Mr. Lagerfeld. He rarely received visitors.

“I never went there,” said Clémence Krzentowski, a co-founder of Galerie Kreo. “He would send me photos when the furniture we delivered was all in and say that Choupette ‘loved everything.’”

“The Quai Voltaire flat for Karl was the same as Coco Chanel when she lived at the Ritz: very intimate, his luxury hideaway,” Mr. Jondeau said. “I hope it lands in good hands.”

Leave a Comment