Simply put, making this French Riviera home a reality was a total family affair. The owners—Nicolette, an interior designer and artist, and Christian, an entrepreneur and wine lover—are the mother and stepfather of Jerry Pellerin, who cofounded Caprini & Pellerin Architectes along with Kevin Caprini. This, however, did not mean that designing the apartment-style dwelling was an easy task. On the contrary, the project took 18 months to complete, with high expectations from the start. “My mother has over 35 years of experience in interior design,” explains Pellerin. “Therefore, the challenge was very personal and emotional for me. I had to take her out of her comfort zone so that I could lay out my own architectural and decoration language.”
Located on the upper hills of Cannes, the home boasts dramatic views of the Bay of Cannes, the Lerins Islands, and the Esterel Mountains. It also sits on 150,700 square feet of private grounds with exotic trees and shrubs planted in the 18th century. “I had an eye and an ear on the building for years,” says Nicolette who, along with Christian, had no hesitations about downsizing from their villa. “When we saw the apartments, we immediately understood the potential, bought [one] straight away, and put our previous property on the market.”
Originally, the complex was designed by architects Sir Basil Spence and Eugène Lizero, with the Brutalist stone structure appearing to have been carved out of rock. “In the ’70s, architects enjoyed a lot more freedom and were more extravagant and generous in their creative approach,” Caprini says. “Our motivation was precisely to give life to an apartment that [showcases] the work of the two architects and respects the original codes, while exploring new avenues of design.”
Spread over almost 6,000 square feet (3,843 for the interiors, and 2,153 for the surrounding grounds and private garden), the two-story flat is hardly your average apartment. The ground floor has private and service entrances, which are connected through a 75-foot-long corridor with small niches to display the owners’ collection of artifacts. The ground floor also features two en suite bedrooms, a primary bedroom with a bathroom outfitted in an impressive travertine, and a kitchen facing the sea. To the left of the kitchen, a large, light-filled open-plan area includes a lounge, a dining room, an office, and a hunting room. A nearby glassed-in fine wine and cigar room is another showstopper, while the basement level makes room for more everyday needs.
“The main architectural challenge during this renovation was to find a way to organize three very distinct apartments with partitioned spaces and different ceiling heights into one,” Caprini says. The oculus windows and arches of the building openings and exterior terraces inspired the curves of the vaulted ceilings and arched doors of the apartment. “The construction has a cavernous, almost troglodyte look,” Pellerin adds. “We reproduced this atmosphere indoors.”
The monochromatic palette of sand tones and beige hues makes every object and piece of made-to-measure or vintage furniture pop. This scheme is complemented by touches of green introduced on the kitchen credenza wall—which features glazed zellige tiles—and in the primary bathroom, where Caprini and Pellerin installed handmade feather tiles to echo the outdoor palm leaves. The use of five main materials—ash gray Dordogne stone, travertine stone, oak wood, walnut wood, and bronze—also contributes to a cohesive feeling.
“I never thought that after 35 years of working as an interior designer, I would be able to give carte blanche to anyone for my own home,” Nicolette says. “It was a big step for me to let go. Jerry convinced me and the result is stunning. I am so proud!”
Thanks to Pellerin’s in-depth knowledge of his parents’ lifestyle and personal belongings, everything was tailor-made down to the smallest detail. Molds were even taken of the homeowners’ silverware and spice jars so that they would perfectly fit inside the drawer organizers.
“It is a wow apartment,” Nicolette says, praising her son again. “We love the building so much that we recently purchased the apartment above, where I will create a yoga room, my atelier, and another bedroom.” For the next phase of this project, which will begin soon, Caprini & Pellerin Architectes will of course once again take the lead.