Elton John and the late Gianni Versace agreed on the subject of minimalism. “Less is less, and more is more,” Versace would say. “And more is good,” John would add. “A lot more is very good.”

It’s not a bad philosophy for the pop star, who can—and does—shop often, shop well, and shop with the same uninhibited enthusiasm that he gives his performances. “There’s nothing more relaxing than an afternoon of shopping,” the musician explains. “It’s the only addiction I have left. I’m compulsive—in the past I could never have just one drink; now I have none. I could never have just one car or just one pair of glasses, so I have lots. I shop, and my decorators make sense of it; I give them the pieces, then they put the puzzle together.”

John has four homes—in Old Windsor, London, Atlanta, and Nice. Each has its own identity, its own glamour, and each is a sanctuary that offers privacy to him and his companion, film producer David Furnish. “Disguises don’t work—I’ve tried, but I can’t walk down the street,” John says. “Life and friends have to come to me.”

The grin, the specs, the clothes, the razzle—all are legendary, as are many of the most significant moments of his career: when he played with John Lennon in Madison Square Garden in 1974; his 1975 performances on a giant stage at Dodger Stadium, when he appeared dressed in a sequined baseball uniform; the 1995 Academy Awards, where he won an Oscar for his song from The Lion King“Can You Feel the Love Tonight”; Versace’s funeral in 1997, when he was comforted by Princess Diana; and later that same year, when he sang at her funeral. (His new version of “Candle in the Wind” became the biggest-selling single ever.)

Performances are quieter now, one man and one piano—no percussion, no guitars. The early shenanigans are gone, the raw talent more evident. Today, having wrested with some demons, kicked some habits, and set up the Elton John AIDS Foundation, he is the star who gives pop music a good name. “When I came out of rehab ten years ago, I realized that life is so much more beautiful than my house reflected,” John says. “I wanted a normal life, a traditional country house, and Andrew Protheroe and Adrian Cooper-Grigg created that for me at Woodside. Ever since then, I’ve always had a decorating project under way, and because I always want to do more, each house is a work in progress. If I weren’t a musician, I would love to be a decorator.”

That first house, Woodside, which John calls “the hub,” is on his Old Windsor estate. It has comfortable English interiors, romantic gardens, thirteen dogs, and many spare bedrooms for many devoted friends.

His latest project was the restoration of 18th-century orangery at the end of the drive. It is a retreat—no telephones, no television, and no pop music, only classical. There’s a library for writing letters, a gilded salon for champagne before dinner, a chapel to honor people close to him who have died—Versace, Princess Diana, and John’s much-loved grandmother, who had a cozy apartment in the orangery in the last few years of her life.

“She looked after me when I was starting out,” John says. “It was my turn to look after her. I used to say to her, ‘Nan, let me make these rooms nice for you.’ And she would always say, ‘No, dear, you save your money.’ After she died, I wanted to create something in her memory.”

To refurbish the orangery, John again called on Protheroe and Cooper-Grigg, who restored the architecture and gave the spaces symmetry. John shopped for Old Master paintings, Chippendale furniture, and porcelain, which the designers arranged to achieve rooms that are both voluptuous and warm.

Queensdale, John’s London base, is the setting for his collection of blond furniture—particularly Biedermeier pieces—inspired by a visit to the late singer Freddie Mercury’s house. “Freddie had a tallboy of Karelian birch that was so beautiful it could almost have been rare stone,” says John. “Blond wood glows with the colors of the sun.”

The Atlanta apartment was next. John likes the vitality and energy of the city: The music scene is good, and the southern charm means locals are too polite to pester him. An airport is ten minutes away, so he can return by private jet from most places in the United States and be back in his own bed every night.

Stan Topol and Fred Dilger designed the Atlanta apartment to accommodate a large—and growing—collection of photography and contemporary art. Now John has bought the duplex next door, and Dilger and his new partner, Monique Gibson, have created rooms that open up to each other “to show the art as one man’s personal collection, not a museum,” Dilger says. “If Elton likes a photographer, he buys a lot, so I hung acquisitions together, with the same frames. There’s a very good show of Herb Ritts photographs in the guest bath at the moment, but I rearrange things every time he goes away so he can see them with a fresh eye when he returns.”