Text by Sarah Harris, Vogue UK
Given the grand façade of this pristine Parisian townhouse on a secluded street in the 16th arrondissement, two things are immediately surprising. One, that it’s the home of Lenny Kravitz - because wouldn’t you better picture the rock star in a swanky, modern glass penthouse as opposed to this, the former residence of the mayor of Deauville, no less, with embassies for neighbours? And two, that deep in the basement is a boiler room, reached by a precarious stairwell and a warren of dark corridors, transformed into a veritable speakeasy where bottles of vintage Dom Pérignon overburden shelves. The elegant, butter-wouldn’t-melt exterior does not allude to that.
What started as “somewhere to go for a smoke” is now a dimly lit, clandestine late-night hang-out that smacks of dusk-till-dawn nights. Decorated with an ad hoc arrangement of film posters, bistro tables and chairs, and an old dining table hidden behind a makeshift screen, it’s a den that is completely at odds with every other well-considered room in the house - a house that operates a strict no-shoe policy, “because, you know, we like to lie around on the floor…” purrs Kravitz, looking suitably floor-ready this afternoon in Adidas trackpants and a tight grey T-shirt. He is devastatingly handsome, much more so in the flesh, most of which is writ in tattoos. His locks look like they’re spun from Loro Piana cashmere and his skin is so flawless it’s as if he’s never had a late night in his life - yet parties here are frequent and impromptu.
Although he divides his time equally between here and the Bahamas (where he resides in a souped-up Airstream trailer), the French capital has been his “town” since his 1989 debut album, Let Love Rule, earned him success in Europe before America. “When I started out, they didn’t know what to do with me in the US,” he admits. “My music was rooted in rock’n’roll and that wasn’t what was happening with black artists at that time. Everyone was into categories and putting people in boxes. I looked how I looked and I dressed the way I dressed and so they sent me to Europe - the Europeans will deal with it!”
He found this house 13 years ago, when, at the end of a tour in Paris, he booked himself into the Georges V hotel to look for his own apartment. He was imagining something modest: one bedroom but with a grand reception room. Nothing piqued his interest until his estate agent urged him to meet at this address. He arrived, looked up, and asked which floor it was on. She told him it was the entire building. “I said, ‘I am not going in there,’ but she insisted. I got as far as the hallway and thought, ‘Oh, shit…’ Right away I knew it was the place.”
He’s stumped when I ask how many bedrooms it has. “Well,” he reasons, “they get used for different things…” His marbled en-suite bathroom, for example, was amalgamated from three rooms. “Eight,” he settles on, as we head back upstairs to the ground-floor reception room, where the ceiling goes up to the heavens - above us there’s a gargantuan Swarovski chandelier by Kravitz Design, the interior and furniture design company he founded in 2003. The room is an ode to his childhood heroes, Muhammad Ali and James Brown, and a pair of each of their boots sit on either end of the mantelpiece (some 25 other pairs of Brown’s boots are displayed in the moody, mirror-ceilinged library across the hall), which is flanked by two enormous faux elephant tusks designed by Pucci in the 1960s. In the centre of the room, Richard Orlinski’s glossy red panther sculpture prowls across a gold and ivory lacquered Elisse coffee table by Gabriella Crespi. “That’s a museum piece. I can’t remember where I got it, but it’s rare.”
What isn’t rare is the number of museum pieces in every room - there are Warhols and pop culture artefacts, and a huge Basquiat in the entrance hall, across from the sweeping staircase. “Lots of his art came my way. I could have had so many more and I just didn’t make the move back in the day - I know, I know. Idiot! We weren’t friends, but I was roommates with a guy he’d lived with. His last girlfriend was best friends with my girlfriend at the time, so when he died we had one of the first calls. Anyway, I have this one and I’m happy to have it.”
The son of Sy Kravitz, a white, Jewish TV news producer, and Roxie Roker, a Bahamian actress, both of whom died a number of years ago, Kravitz was raised between Manhattan’s elite Upper East Side and his maternal grandmother’s home in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant. He moved to LA aged 11, when his mother got a starring role in the sitcom The Jeffersons. Despite his biography - the actress mother; the winner, from 1999 to 2002, of four consecutive Grammy Awards for best male rock vocal performance (no one has done it since); and a string of high-profile relationships, including with Vanessa Paradis, Nicole Kidman and Naomi Campbell - Kravitz is bizarrely grounded. It’s something he puts down to his upbringing and watching his mother handle her own fame. “She didn’t drive a fancy car, we didn’t have a housekeeper - my mother cleaned, and I had chores, too.” He talks about being 14 years old, and how his grandfather would wake him at 5am to chop wood and bundle it before school, and of another time, when his mother, after instructing him to wash the dishes and put them away, hauled him out of bed at 3am just to close a kitchen cabinet properly. “Everything had to be done to the nth degree. That gives you an idea of what I grew up in, and thank God I did because [otherwise] I wouldn’t be where I am. That was all a part of my education.”
His own parenting skills are a lot less rigid but no less attentive. He refers to Zoë Kravitz, his 29-year-old actress/singer/model daughter from his brief marriage to The Cosby Show’s Lisa Bonet, as his best friend. “I’m so proud of her, she’s killing it,” he smiles. She went to live with him when she was 11 years old, a responsibility that enforced some big lifestyle changes. “I had to straighten up,” he says matter-of-factly, which meant leaving his Miami apartment for a family home in New York. “Until then, I was basically living in a nightclub. My place was so good - Prince came over once and he was like, ‘Oh, I see why you don’t want to go out…’”
Did he support Zoë’s decision to go into the entertainment industry? “I never discouraged it. But I did not see it coming. From the way she viewed me and my life? She was not impressed with any of it. She was always indifferent, she never seemed excited by it.” I ask how he handles her boyfriends. “I always treat them… with respect. I’m open and just see what happens. I’m like: let’s see who you are. Even when I have reservations, I tend to hold on to them and let her figure it out. The harder you try to push a young woman away from a young man, the closer she will go to him by virtue of rebellion. But she’s never brought anyone bad, she’s got pretty good instincts.”
See images and read the rest of the article here.
Feature Image: Getty Images