“Basically, it’s a nest,” says Christian Louboutin of his remarkable Paris apartment, which sits in the eaves of a block near the Opéra Garnier. Ground-floor living simply doesn’t do it for the king of heels. He needs to soar – the higher the better, just like his shoes. “It’s always been that way. If it was not that way, I just didn’t like it. I couldn’t explain why, but now I’ve realised that it’s important for me to be [up] there. And I don’t like to have someone above me.”
For many years, he didn’t have an official Paris apartment and used to live at his office “because I really needed to be fully connected to my work.” But having built the business to the point where it became the first word in luxury footwear, Louboutin felt it was time to get a place of his own.
Louboutin, who is 59, searched for years for an abode that ticked all his boxes. He needed space and light and ceiling height – one of his hobbies is trapeze and he was hoping to have enough room to swing. He found the ideal space in a northern arrondisement, but there was a problem. The apartment had been renovated in the 1970s by a celebrated decorator and Louboutin would have had to destroy its historic interior in order to get what he wanted from the space. He decided against it. “To destroy a very, very well-made apartment, I feel a little bit bad,” he says. Eventually, he found what he was looking for: a space that was a wreck and needed everything doing, allowing him to create his perfect interior from scratch.
At first, he wanted to model the space on a 1920s gym and install his beloved trapeze, but he was a metre short in ceiling height. “So I thought of Mimi, [the main character from] La Bohème,” he says of the famous Puccini opera. “The story is about a woman who works as a maid. She lives on the top, on the roof of Paris, and has this beautiful voice and she sings. So, I was like, okay, I’m going to be Mimi La Bohème,” he says. Working with his friend Jacques Grange, the famed Parisian interior designer, Louboutin created a stunning feature of fan- shaped zinc skylights cut into his soaring ceilings that offer views of the higgledy-piggledy Parisian rooftops. It should also be said that his Mimi has been travelling in the Middle East and brought back many treasures including Syrian textiles, an antique carved fireplace from Iran and a mosaic floor for his kitchen that once graced a palace in Damascus. Alongside them sit African masks, Peruvian and Amazonian objects, and Mexican and Aztec pieces, as well as a few covetable vintage items, including a claret-red sofa, chairs by Jean Royère and a handsome 1960s coffee table by Maison Jansen.
Despite the variety of eras and objects, the place has a soaring, symphonic feel, with everything working together to create an interesting and exciting whole. “Well, I collect objects but I don’t see myself as a collector,” says the designer. “If you have a collection, that means you want to improve it. Me, I don’t want to improve anything. I like objects and I buy them. I’ve never sold one thing.” He has storage units full of fabulous finds, which are carefully catalogued and organised, although, he says, “everything is in my head anyway”.
His approach to living with these objects is a combination of meticulous organisation and a delicious dose of serendipity, where everything, eventually, finds its perfect place in one of his international homes (he has places in Portugal, Egypt and California). “I’m not really a minimalist,” he says, with a deadpan look. “I have more objects than I have space for.” But Louboutin believes you only regret what you don’t get. “My partner is screaming at me, saying, ‘You are buying six huge doors, wooden doors: what are you going to do with them? Six huge doors, that’s crazy.’ I say: ‘Don’t worry about them, they’ve found their space.’ They will all have their space. It’ll take 20 years, but they found their place.”
The abundance of things makes it difficult to hold big parties at the apartment. “There are too many objects. I did a few birthday parties but you always have things broken, and then it drives me crazy.” He prefers to host intimate dinner parties for just a few friends in the space. Anyone lucky enough to secure an invite would experience a rich, layered and joyful space, where objects from different centuries and traditions co-exist and vibe off each other. “I definitely believe in the energy of objects. Even in a negative energy of objects sometimes,” he says, referencing how statues of Egyptian gods would be taken from temple to temple to confer their radiance on a place and how Catholic communities also parade their statues.
Louboutin never stops looking for new things. As we talk over Zoom, he is poring over the Hubert de Givenchy auction catalogue (Christie’s recently held a blockbuster auction – bringing in £99.2 million – of the legendary French couturier’s impressive personal collection). He’s also just as happy scouring the city’s flea markets or picking up buys on his extensive travels. “But I don’t have things which cost millions, nothing. I don’t have an expensive painting. I really like objects for their shapes, for their forms, for what they bring you. But it’s never linked to money.” Instead, he finds an attraction to objects that link back to his childhood memories. “Things I always wanted since I was 13 years old,” he says. He was in his teens when he saw his first contemporary art exhibition, by Gilbert & George, “so it was important for me to have one Gilbert & George”. The living room features a large, mesmerising, lava lamp sculpture, which reminded him of one he used to see and covet in a shop on the Champs Élysées when he was a boy. In turn, it brings him much joy to see how his seven-year-old twin daughters react to the many fascinating objects in the home. “They are super-energised by looking at the things,” he says.
Louboutin’s house in Lisbon has seven bedrooms and he sleeps in every one of them. Similarly, in his Paris home, he doesn’t have a favourite spot or a favourite chair, but goes where the mood takes him. The designer has an aversion to habit-forming behaviour, which could, he feels, lead to boredom or stagnation.
“I don’t like the world ‘comfort’, which doesn’t mean I like the word ‘discomfort’. But for instance, if people say ‘a comfortable relationship’, I feel like it’s the worst thing that can be said. I have an allergy to the word ‘comfort’, because I think it’s the worst thing. [It means] a lot of compromising, and not for good reasons. And if I look at comfortable shoes, like [ones] for sensitive feet, it seems really sad. I prefer to feel uplifted [rather] than feel comfortable. It doesn’t mean that I’m sitting on a spike. I like to lay down on my sofas, but more important than comfort is the excitement.”
That sense of thrill-seeking and adventure, the need to stimulate his senses, is what drives Louboutin. It’s why he constantly sources new objects and changes the ones in his apartment often. It’s also the reason why, several years after moving in, his flat is still not finished. He’s currently building an extension and confesses that the idea of completing the place fills him with dread. “When an apartment is about to be finished, I have to say, I don’t like the idea that, suddenly, it’s frozen. This is the way it is. I like a bit of movement.” The story continues.
Photography by Jason Lloyd-Evans. Taken from Issue 56 of 10 Men – PEACE, COURAGE, FREEDOM – out now. Purchase here.