Karl Lagerfeld met me in the back of 7L, the bookstore he owns on the Rue de Lille in Paris, which is lined floor to super-high ceiling with some 70,000 of Karl’s 250,000 books. (He’s Karl to everybody.) The bookstore is around the corner from Lagerfeld’s apartment on the Rue des Saints-Pères, where he eats and entertains, and not far from his vast studio on the Quai Voltaire. This is where he lives most of the time with his famously pampered cat, Choupette. I was there to talk about his recent foray into interior design and his first U.S. project: designing the lobbies for the Estates at Acqualina, two 50-story residential towers in Miami’s Sunny Isles Beach, debuting in 2019.
How did you get into this?
I got an interesting proposition [New York–based art-meets-commerce agent and DEPARTURES contributor Cary Leitzes made the introduction] and I like the people very much, otherwise I wouldn’t do it—they’re sweet and funny, but they have a terrible name. [Acqualina was developed by Eddie and Jules Trump, no relation.] I do it because it’s fun, not to make a living. Dressmaking is still what pays the bills.
It seems like fashion designers are all over the interior design world these days.
Yes, but unlike some of the others—I won’t mention any names—I don’t go in with what the French call cahier des charges, or preconceived ideas. I let my personality meet the personality of the place. In China, I did something recalling the influence of Europe on China in the 18th century. In Miami, I was inspired by Art Deco, but filtered through my taste so it doesn’t look like what you’d expect. The colors are pink and gray, and the floors are metal, and, of course, there are fountains—I love fountains. I also love crystal chandeliers like a cascade.
Before this, I gather, most of your interior design work had been for yourself.
I cannot make one more house for myself; I already have more houses than I need. My favorite was the one in Hamburg [Villa Jako; Lagerfeld named a perfume for it]. I grew up next door at no. 3 Bauerspark, but I sold it quickly—I can’t take three steps in Germany.
I had the most beautiful place in Biarritz—the interior was by Jean-Michel Frank—but I never went, and so I sold it. I now have a weekend house near Paris in Louveciennes. I should go there, but I never do. If I do, I have to take all my work, and by the time I unpack, it’s time to leave. But I don’t regret any of it. The important thing is to do the house, not to have done it.
What’s your idea of luxury?
I like clean bedrooms—everything has to be cleaned every day. I have a collection of the most gorgeous antique linens—antique linens and steel go very well together.
In a hotel, what I really care about are the people who own it. I don’t want to be bothered by boring people.