A passionate cinephile, the Mexican movie executive knows the impact a dramatic setting can have on the senses. So when he heard that a sprawling villa perched on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Mexico was for sale, he snapped it up. Then he called the Paris-based Argentinean AD100 architect Luis Laplace to create a family and business retreat that would be theatrical as well as welcoming.
The two men have a long history of working together: Laplace designed the executive’s apartments in Paris and New York City in addition to a handsome 18th-century building he owns in the colonial town of Morelia, Mexico, which Laplace converted into a café/bookshop/pied-à-terre. “I like Luis’s sense of aesthetics and the way he blends beautiful furniture and textiles with local materials and crafts,” the executive says now. “We have similar visions.”
That may be. But when Laplace surveyed the property, nestled in the 1970s resort enclave of Costa Careyes, he decided the only way forward was to tear down the existing compound. The client was taken aback, to put it mildly. “I was first opposed,” he recalls. “Then I understood that we could arrive at a more personal and coherent project if we started with a blank canvas.” Or, as Laplace explained it, a home “for what you need today.”
The requisites were Panavision large. As a major player in the film business, the client entertains lavishly and hosts VIP guests regularly. Therefore, there was a checklist of musts: plenty of guest rooms, a gym, an annex to house staff, and, of course, a state-of-the-art screening room. Overall, he wanted a home that would be “timeless and well integrated into the landscape of the Mexican Pacific coast.”
Laplace, an architect known for conceiving homes to showcase art—he’s a firm believer that form follows function—knew exactly how to fulfill that mandate: by designing enormous windows and sweeping open spaces to “focus on the spectacular nature and the sea. You have whales pass in front of the house, and sea turtles,” he says. “Usually, we put art in the center. But here, nature came first.”
For building materials, Laplace went as natural, and as regional, as possible, so that the home would harmonize with its surroundings. He used parota, an amber-hued tropical wood that withstands humidity, for tables and other furnishings; lava stone for tabletops; straw for cabinetry finishing; and bamboo and straw for the palapa, a spectacular outdoor living room with a soaring, cathedral-like thatched canopy. Traditionally, palapas are made of straw, with concrete columns. But the client wanted bamboo supports to give the space a lighter, lusher atmosphere. To erect it, Laplace brought in a bamboo specialist, architect Simón Vélez of Bogotá, Colombia.
The interiors, centered around the owner’s contemporary furniture and art collection, evoke “something that is clearly Mexican, but with international flavor,” Laplace explains. Think midcentury Acapulco, when the Hollywood elite would jet down to holiday in grand style. Laplace carried on the palapa’s bamboo theme with mod wall sconces, curvy ceiling fixtures, and retro bamboo-handled flatware by Alain Saint-Joanis, which mercifully, unlike vintage versions, is dishwasher-safe.
Another recurring note is ceramic tile, produced in Guadalajara, in a bespoke palette of palmy greens, earthy browns, and ocean blues, inspired by the surrounding landscape. Laplace used the tile to tie the rooms together: on walls in the bedrooms, baths, and kitchen; for tabletop surfaces; to enrobe the bar. Building on this ceramic narrative, he added colorful modernist lamps that he and his partner, Christophe Comoy, purchased from galleries and antiques dealers in Paris and Los Angeles, and throughout Mexico, as well as a plethora of large terra-cotta jugs, jars, and other statement pieces, many of which Laplace—a former ceramist—drew up and had produced in Mexico. Laplace also commissioned regional carpenters to handcraft beds, tables, and chairs. Mexico’s artisans, he notes, “have incredible technique.”
For a finishing touch, at the client’s request, Laplace created three water features, so the home would link to the ocean, like a river flowing to the sea. One, a low black-stone cylinder on the terrace, awash with smooth water, was a riff on the glass sculptures of American artist Roni Horn. Another, a stone canal, serenely pours into the infinity pool. As Laplace points out, “fountains are a recurrent element of Mexican architecture, and water is very soothing.”
When the house was completed, the client christened it Casa Luz, he said, “because it is full of light, because you can see the most beautiful sunsets throughout the year, and because my daughter’s name means ‘light of dawn.’ ”