©CHANEL Photograph: Laurent Meesemaecker
On September 30, 1928, Gabrielle Chanel acquires a piece of land on the heights of Roquebrune overlooking Cap-Martin and sets about constructing her Mediterranean villa, the only ever house she was to design and decorate from A-Z. She commissions Robert Streitz, a young architect she had met through the Duke of Westminster, to oversee the project.
Completed in no time, the villa is delivered in January 1930 and is baptized "La Pausa" referring to a chapel that once stood on the site where Mary Magdalene is said to have “paused” on her journey from Jerusalem.
Its architecture boasts several references to the Aubazine Abbey where Gabrielle spent her childhood. In the entrance hall she commissions a replica of the abbey’s grand stone staircase, which becomes the house’s central feature; the villa’s three buildings are grouped around a patio edged by cloister pillars.
La Pausa’s interior evokes simplicity and elegance with white open spaces offset by warm rustic furniture, shimmering carpets, sunburst mirrors and giant chandeliers, lending a sense of modernity to the whole.
In 1930, press coverage includes a piece in American Vogue entitled "The Dwelling of Mademoiselle Chanel".
Indeed it was a special place for Gabrielle Chanel who for the next 20 years spends her vacations there, surrounded by close friends: the Duke of Westminster, Jean Cocteau, Salvador Dalì and his wife Gala (the artist painted "L’Instant Sublime" there), Serge Lifar, Jean and Valentine Hugo, Misia Sert, Paul Iribe, Pierre Reverdy and Gabrielle Labrunie, her young niece.
Following the Duke of Westminster’s death in 1954, Gabrielle Chanel sells the villa and its contents to the American author and publisher Emery Reeves who in turn entertains houseguests including Winston Churchill, Greta Garbo and Jackie Onassis.