Joseph Karam’s Villa Caprice At Cap Ferrat in The Cote d’Azur

Lebanon born architect Joseph Karam discusses his fabulous project Villa Caprice on the hills of Cap Ferrat on the Cote d’Azur.

After founding my agency in Paris in 1973, I did a lot of work in the French Riviera and particularly in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. There I opened an agency in Nice and Monaco and it became very natural, after trips to the four corners of the world, to choose the Mediterranean as my source of inspiration.

Here, I built a family home, positioned on a sloping site in the heart of the cape. I imagined an architectural house reduced to a drawing of four yellow lines and red ocher which, by extrusion generate the central space of the house. Drowned in abundant vegetation, these asymmetrical lines float on a mirror of water multiplying the geometric shapes.

Framing the entrance to the house is a carved door made of solid oak on a dry stone wall from Lebanon. On the garden side, the lines open onto the pool, crowned by a forest mass animated by the play of shadows and light that imprint on the facade. Sloping roof tiles, recovered from a nearby village, are embedded in the architecture. The frame, in solid oak, echoes the volume to the interior space.

Everything is designed for the holidays and the family living in the heart of Cap Ferrat. The interior of the house is characterized by a bold avant-garde feel: a skylight in the centre of the structure houses a monumental staircase in transparency wedged between the asymmetrical concrete walls.

A brutalist aesthetic mixed with a humanist vision facing a stone man sculpted by Tarik Essalhi, with its feet in the water which accentuates the irregularity of the space.

The base colours are ochres of Roussillon. Red ocher for interior spaces. An ideal layout with bay windows all overlooking the garden. Yellow ocher to delimit the reception area. Major areas are set out in stages. With first basement and garden level, dug in the slope to increase the ​​common areas’ scope.

On either side of the staircase, the yellow ocher side, extends in enfilade, the kitchen opened on the stay and the dining room. In the centre, a transparent trapezoidal space leads to the rooms. The characteristic of this place: register fully in its environment.

By using concrete, I knew that the contrast with the sensuality of the planned layouts would be captivating. This in-between feel is at the heart of the design and results in a harmonious place of sharing. This ideology is the exact interpretation of my personal vision of architecture.

I especially wanted to give the illusion of space without borders or restriction. The all-height volume, transparency, open from one end to the other through bays, increases the impression of space without compromising comfort and functional intent in a skilful construction game and sliding partitions.

Space, out of sight rooms, redraw volumes. The choice of oversizing, that of the voluntarily exaggerated ceiling height, prolongs the illusion even further. I really enjoyed inventing new perspectives throughout the spaces. On the material side, no compromise was taken; tinted concrete ocher yellow or red, pierce the whole house from side to side, glass, treated anti-sun, polished marble floors and bleached oak planks inspired by cubist geometry of construction binds the look.

The materials emphasize a minimalist design, a correspondence between architecture and furniture that accompanies strong contrasts such as monochromes ochres Roussillon. A lounge, a dining room, a kitchen, a playroom, a laundry room, a technical room, a master suite, four bedrooms and six bathrooms invite the spectacular Cap Ferrat Mediterranean view from the background indoors to a space where outdoor and indoor living flow uninterrupted.

Art Director: Gilles Dallieres
Photographer: Francis Amiand

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