Valentino: The Last Emperor and His Houses

Valentino Last Emperor poster

Valentino: The Last Emperor is a fascinating look inside the legendary fashion designer’s final year before retirement. I was excited to see the documentary for the clothes. What I didn’t expect was the glimpse into three of his six beautiful homes. The DVD provides a special feature that shows how it takes dozens of staff members to keep his various residences running smoothly–and up to his exacting standards.

Chateau de Wideville, Valentino’s Home Near Paris:

chateau de wideville front-wide

Chateau de Wideville front door ext

chateau interior 3

chateau interior 4

chateau interior 7

Valentino Garavani walks through the house with his staff before the party begins to be sure everything is perfect:

chateau interior 6

In the special features, we’re treated to outtakes like this one, where Martha Stewart decides to give herself a tour of the house. She visits the laundry room and kitchen below the main house and introduces herself to the chef, saying, “Hello, I’m Martha Stewart. I write cookbooks.” Cracked me up. (The French chef nods and says, “Yes, I know.”)

chateau kitchen-Martha Stewart

Chateau de Wideville-side

The groundskeepers painted brown patches in the grass green before the party. One says, “Don’t tell Mr. Valentino. He doesn’t know we’re doing this.”

chateau-painting grass

Chateau grounds 1

The back of the house with a tent set up for a party:

chateau de wideville back-tent

Valentino’s Apartment in New York City:

NYC-covered furniture

Valentino’s majordomo (the “major” person on a household staff) is Michael Kelly, who follows him from house to house and makes sure that everything runs smoothly for him. He supervises 30-40 staff members at each of the homes. Here he arrives a few days ahead of Mr. Valentino to get the New York City apartment ready for his visit.

After Kelly has removed all of the dust cloths, including the ones protecting the drapes, the room is ready:

NYC-prepped for Valentino




Valentino and Giancarlo Giammetti leave the apartment for a night out:

NYC apartment entry

Chalet Gifferhorn, Valentino’s Home in Gstaad, Switzerland:

Gstaad chalet ext

Gstaad staircase

The table is meticulously set for Mr. Valentino’s lunch at the chalet:

Gstaad 2

Gstaad 3

Michael Kelly says the important thing is that the napkins should be handled as little as possible, so they keep the napkin folding simple:

Gstaad table setting

Heather posted some gorgeous photos of Valentino’s ski chalet over at Habitually Chic that were taken for British Vogue.

Gstaad 4

Forget what Us Weekly says–famous people are not just like us. I can’t remember the last time I was served tea in my chalet in Gstaad.


Valentino’s pugs go everywhere with him and steal every scene they’re in. So cute. Here they’re wearing little black sweaters to go out in the snow:

Gstaad pugs

Love the green shutters on the chalet:

Gstaad shutters

Valentino has been with his partner Giancarlo Giammetti for 50 years. Giammetti took care of the business side of things so that Valentino would be free to create. It became one of the most successful long-term collaborations in fashion history.

They were young men when they met. Giancarlo was still a student who had no business experience at all, but he was determined to help Valentino–whose first business had gone bankrupt–anyway.

Giancarlo and Valentino

Have you seen the movie? Fashion and real estate aren’t the only reasons I enjoyed it. I thought it was really inspirational and touching. When Valentino retired in 2008, it was the end of an era.

Visit my TV/Movie Houses page for links to all of the onscreen houses I’ve featured, from Brideshead Revisited to Under the Tuscan Sun.

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  1. E. George says

    Hi Julia glad you’re back . I love Valentino clothes and perfumes but I don’t like his homes too austere for me I would feel closed in and have a panic attack . I found Yves St Laurent more easy breezy with his home style . What do you guys think? Regards Esther from Sydney…

  2. Nita says

    THis reminds me of Yoville, the multiple house thing. I can enjoy it there, but this kind of opulence kind of gets to me after awhile. He earned every penney, but when you think where that money could go, I just think some people live way beyond what is really necessary for happiness.

  3. says

    I have not seen the movie but your post makes me want to check it out. The homes are amazing! It’s hard to imagine living that kind of life.
    .-= Vicki´s last blog ..Welcome Basket! =-.

  4. Kim says

    Wow! That house is amazing. It looks like it’s fit for a queen. There’s no way I could ever afford a house like that.

    Great movie post!


  5. says

    I sometimes think that if I were very, very wealthy, I would want 4 homes. One in Los Angeles, one in Palm Springs, one in New York and one in London. But other than the one in LA, they would all be very tiny. They would just be a place to stay while I visited my other favorite cities. I think with such grand homes, one loses a sense intimacy. How can I feel intimate with my things if I have so much and visit them so seldom? Anyone can do whatever they want with their money and time, but I wonder if such excess really add to one’s appreciation of life.
    .-= Why S?´s last blog ..Billy? Is That You? =-.

  6. says

    I have a feeling I have seen this chateau somewhere on French reality tv before. I love the part: ” don’t tell Mr Valentino, he doesn’t know we’re doing this”. Anyways, I think I prefer Valentino’s taste in fashion rather than in decor!

    p.s: I tagged you for a Best Blog Award, the icon is on my blog, please pass it on
    .-= Sharon´s last blog ..Best Blog Award =-.

  7. says

    I hope you had a great time at Blissdom! Hopefully I can go someday….on to the houses…That one near France is AMAZING! I didn’t think people still lived in houses like that. I visited the Breakers and marble house in Newport RI and they looked like this and no one has lived in them for years!!! Now that’s wealth!! Can you imagine being Valentino? I’d love a majordomo to get things set up for me!!!
    .-= Jen @ After The Alter´s last blog ..Being A Voodoo Doll =-.

  8. Cori Heffernan says

    Just like my life ,exactly. Instead of 4 houses of course -I have 4 bedrooms in my house. Instead of 4 pugs in cute sweaters I have 4 kids in messy tee shirts. Oh yeah and my staff is well ,.two me and DH. Other than that….. One day though I plan to have those kids serve me lunch and they will use almost untouched napkins!

  9. says

    I can’t even imagine. The houses to me were very cold and museum like. I need cozy and comfy. Amazing that it takes that many poeple to keep them up!
    .-= Becky @ Farmgirl Paints´s last blog ..Laundry love =-.

  10. says

    Hey, Julia, so great to hang out with you this year at Blissdom, glad we got to spend a little time together. I don’t know why you didn’t get in pics at the lunch table, Jen was there too & I missed her also. I think we got caught up in eating very quickly. I have plenty more of you though from the other events. :) Got to get my pics sorted and posted. I was tired when I got home!
    .-= Rhoda @ Southern Hospitality´s last blog ..Gaylord Opryland in Nashville =-.

  11. says

    I love the part about painting the grass. Hysterical! And I also like the chalet, especially the green shutters.

    It’s amazing to think about having all those houses. When I think about having multiple houses (even though something that will never happen!) I imagine small homes or condos. This is just overwhelming but amazing.
    .-= Lesley @ TheDesignFile´s last blog ..Black & gold – in honor of the Super Bowl champs =-.

  12. says

    I mean…honestly. What a way to live. I JUST NOW saw The September Issue and am wondering why I haven’t seen this yet either.
    .-= Bailey´s last blog ..I see you. =-.

  13. says

    No, the very rich are not like us…at least not like me! A staff of 30-40 for each house! Somehow it doesn’t suprise me that Martha treated herself to a tour–Hope Blissdom was a ball. Can’t wait to hear. This was a great post!
    .-= Susan´s last blog ..Met Monday Art, Blogaversary, and a Giveaway! =-.

  14. says

    Oh posh…he should live in my little house with it’s little yard! I wonder how he would cope? Sometimes I just think that the money people earn are out of proportion with what they do to earn it. Sure, he’s a great designer, but is that worth more then a scientist who discovers a cure for a disease, or….my husband who fights fires and saves lives? I know, it’s silly to even think that way!
    I do love seeing how the other half’s always fun and interesting!

  15. greenie says

    Whew! Livin’ large! The Parisian Chateau is definitely over the top, but I’m really taken with the Swiss chalet. Looks cozy and inviting, especially on a cold winter’s night.
    And Martha Stewart cracks me up! “I write cookbooks.” HA! :-) Like how could anybody NOT know who Martha Stewart is?!? Too funny. I’ll have to check this documentary out.

  16. says

    LOLing at Martha’s introducing herself. She is so funny and odd, but I love her.

    You’ve gotten me excited about this film! I’m off to Netflix it:)
    .-= Mary-Grace´s last blog it yourself =-.

  17. says

    The homes are gorgeous, no doubt, but very museum like. And I hate to be cynical, but all I can think is, “Get over yourself Valentino!” Yes, you are a brilliant designer, but you’re just a man. Picturing legions of staff scurrying about just to prepare for his fabulousness to arrive seems ridiculous! I would be embarassed to have people waiting on me like that. It all seems so severe and put-on. But I guess that’s why I’m me and he’s him.

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog by the way!
    .-= Stephanie´s last blog ..Tada’s Revolution =-.

  18. says

    Somehow I missed this post. I love the Valentino! His clothes are gorgeous. My mom owns one of his couture suits from the early 80s. It’s so small (a size 2 I think) I’d never fit in it. Trust me, I tried, albeit years ago. Anyway, I think the homes reflect his style, but it cracked me up when I read one of the comments that said they look fit for a queen. A truer statement never said LOL

    .-= rue´s last blog ..Daises and Tulips =-.

  19. Lori says

    I agree with E. George. I love the passion, energy and sheer talent of Valentino—but mother nature is quite a grand designer too. Especially in the Gstaad house-open up the darn drapes and look at that VIEW!