Colour has always played a central role in the career of designer Zandra Rhodes throughout her more than 50 years as a self-described “notorious figurehead of the UK fashion industry”. The designer’s trademark pink hair and outrageous clothes are as colourful as her home, the so-called Rainbow Penthouse, which she bought in 1995 on Bermondsey Street in southeast London. Her apartment sits on top of the Fashion and Textile Museum, founded by Rhodes in 2003. Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta rejuvenated the warehouse building, incorporating a split-level, two-bedroom home. The lower level houses the bedrooms, galley kitchen and textile print room.

In the kaleidoscoping open-plan living room, Amtico vinyl flooring in the colours of the rainbow vie for attention, as do the psychedelic furniture, exotic plants, pots by Kate Malone and an eye-catching art collection. Light fills the apartment via the outside terrace upstairs. There are pieces of rock strewn here and there, along with pebbles from Sardinia, crystals from Morocco and a chunk of the Berlin Wall.

When award-winning architect Norman Foster and his wife Elena chose Cap Ferrat on the French Riviera for a family holiday home, the only thing for sale was a “depressing-looking” five-storey 1950s tower on a slope. Undeterred by French planning regulations, the resourceful architect transformed the tower into La Voile, a light-filled seaside retreat. Getting there wasn’t easy. “Any sane person looking at the house would have said, ‘You are absolutely mad!’” said Foster, who sold the property in 2006.

Foster has made a career of creating hi-tech solutions to challenging problems and his team carved out the stacked building using cranes and diggers. Named after the French word for sail, La Voile features a cable-supported stretched canvas providing shade for the lofty, luminous residence and its pool. Inside, balconies rise through the heart of the villa like terraces. The 30ft tall central living and dining area is the heart of the house, with two framed glass panels – weighing 18 tonnes – opening on to the terrace. A towering mud work by artist Richard Long adds a textured contrast to all the cool, futuristic white.

Fashion designer Gianni Versace was tragically murdered outside Villa Casa Casuarina, his Miami Beach mansion, in 1997. Since then, his lavish eight-bedroom, 10-bathroom Ocean Drive property has become a boutique hotel of the same name. It was designed by architect Alden Freeman in 1930, and Versace bought the estate in 1992. He spent the next three years renovating it.

Obsessed with antiquity and extravagance, Versace installed a wealth of over-the-top classical details, including Hellenic mouldings and Roman frescoes. Walls, floors, ceilings and railings were painted in auburn, peach, violet and sky blue. Fixtures included crown-shaped chandeliers and baroque – but sometimes modern or zebra-patterned – furnishings. The bedrooms were opulent.

One of them, now known as the Azure Suite, is positively restrained, with its palette of pale blues, creams and whites working with accents of gold. There are also marble statues of Neptune and Medusa in the garden, but it’s Poseidon who has the Midas touch. The floor and surrounds of the Thousand Mosaic Pool depict the Olympian god with thousands of 24ct gold tiles, while rotundas, fountains, murals, grand stairs and tiled courtyards provide further evocations of a Roman villa.

Former creative editor of Vogue, Grace Coddington bought her weekend retreat in East Hampton, Long Island, in 1988. Together with her partner, French hairstylist Didier Malige, she has since turned it into a bright, relaxing place to escape the world of high fashion, though everywhere there are reminders of it. The neutral walls of her three-bedroom cottage provide a canvas for Coddington’s photography collection, with prints by the seminal photographers she has worked with, from Helmut Newton and Mario Testino to Annie Leibovitz, on every surface.

In the sitting room, Coddington’s style is everywhere. Quirky lamps and dark wooden furniture are offset by pale walls and the two white linen sofas by George Sherlock. Coddington has invited friends to add their own touches down the years, resulting in columns on the front porch made of railroad ties and bookshelves held up by a raw tree trunk.

But it’s the cat paraphernalia that steals the show. There are six pieces of artwork featuring cats on the mantelpiece alone, and endless feline figurines.

This is an edited extract from Life Meets Art: Inside the Homes of the World’s Most Creative People, by Sam Lubell (Phaidon, £39.95). Buy a copy from guardianbookshop.com for £34.76

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