From a piano-shaped pool to a tropical parlour, these amazing homes are as famous as their celebrity owners. Sam Lubell takes us on a VIP tour.
Frank Sinatra’s weekend bolthole
Often credited with putting Palm Springs on the map as a stylish Southern California retreat, star crooner Frank Sinatra hired local architect E Stewart Williams in 1947 to design a weekend home to advertise his ascendant status. The house – full of light, space and classy modern furnishings – became a symbol of West Coast glamour. It was the setting for countless celebrity parties, film shoots and dramas (such as the time that Frank threw then wife Ava Gardner’s possessions on to the driveway).
The spacious four-bedroom residence, also known as Twin Palms, is now let as a holiday rental but still channels Ol’ Blue Eyes’ charm with its open plan, stone and wood walls, ball chandelier, Rat Pack-era furniture and, yes, pool in the shape of a piano.
Agnes B’s Parisian palace
Born in 1941, just outside Paris in Versailles and yards from the beautiful palace, Agnès Troublé grew up to establish Agnès B, the fashion empire inspired by French chic simplicity.
She has carried that theme through to her elegant home in the western Parisian suburb. Named Le Coeur Volant (The Flying Heart), it is the epitome of French taste – where trends are ignored and history respected. And this place, where Agnes still lives, is full of history.
The house was commissioned by Louis XIV in 1710 and its rooms are filled with natural light, as seen here, thanks to the window-dominated facade. Flooring in other rooms includes Burgundy stone or Hungarian chevron parquet, while the music room’s acoustics are enhanced by 18th-century wood panelling.
Charles & Ray Eames’s ultra-grand design
Now open to the public, Eames House is as delightfully quirky, magical and transformative as its creators – iconic 20th-century furniture designers and architects Charles and Ray Eames. Located in the Los Angeles neighbourhood of Pacific Palisades, the home is dappled in light that comes through eucalyptus and peppertrees. Large glass expanses overlap the exterior with gridded windows and white, black and coloured stucco walls that resemble a Mondrian painting.
Inside, lofted double-height spaces flow without interruption, showing off the Eames’s furniture, lighting and small sculptures.
Terence Conran’s natural habitat
In the 1960s British design icon Sir Terence Conran created Habitat, an affordable home furnishing empire that has been emulated worldwide. But Conran didn’t rest on his laurels, and thrived as a ground-breaking designer, restaurateur, hotelier and writer.
After living in Barton Court – a 145-acre, 17th-century estate in Berkshire – for more than 30 years, he took on an intrepid project: a complete overhaul to salvage its rotting bones and usher it into the 21st century.
With larger, more open, modern spaces evoking the minimalism of his early Habitat stores, the space is dressed with a mixture of old furnishings – inherited or bought in antique shops and flea markets – with new items.
The rooms are simple, painted white to let the furniture and objects take prominence: here, a sofa and rug of Conran’s own design plus coffee and chess tables by furniture maker Benchmark are paired with classic design pieces such as the Achille Castiglioni’s Arco floor lamps and Ingo Maurer table lamps.
David Bowie’s rock-star retreat
While enigmatic rock star David Bowie spent most of his time in big cities such as New York, London and Los Angeles, his favourite getaway was the hilltop home he built with architect Arne Hasselqvist on the island of Mustique in the Grenadines.
The five-bedroom house, which he shared with his wife Iman, unfolds in a series of thatched hardwood-framed Balinese temple pavilions and verandas arranged around a two-tiered ornamental pool leading down to an infinity pool that flows visually into the sea. The airy ‘parlour’, as Bowie called it, seen here, remains just as he left it. The ceiling is painted with a trompe l’oeil of tropical foliage, and an 18th-century Murano-crystal oil chandelier hangs from the ceiling.
Antique Venetian mirrors, 19th-century settees and colonial-style leather armchairs, topped with zebra- and leopard-pattern cushions, complete the exotic look.
This is an edited extract from Life Meets Art: Inside the Homes of the World’s Most Creative People by Sam Lubell, published by Phaidon.com, price £39.95. Order a copy for £27.99 until 18 October at whsmith.co.uk by entering code YOUART at checkout. Book number: 9781838661311. For terms and conditions, visit whsmith.co.uk/terms