We catch up with the directors of French design practice Caprini & Pellerin Kevin Caprini and Jerry Pellerin, to learn more about how traditional French craftsmanship continues to propel their work.
French architects Kevin Caprini and Jerry Pellerin are the names behind Caprini & Pellerin – a multidisciplinary creative studio spanning hospitality, hotel, residential and furniture design. The pair met in boarding school and joined forces in 2008, setting out to establish an architecture firm that pays tribute to the ancient know-how of French artisanship.
A recent example of this traditional approach is in the architects’ Villa Fidji project – a Neo-Provencal villa reinvented through materials reflective of regional French architecture. This home was also our most-liked Instagram post in 2020, landing Kevin and Jerry a firm place in our top ten international architects and designers of that year.
Speaking to Kevin and Jerry, we uncover the designer’s affinity for old-world construction and timeless materials, how the Mediterranean serves as daily inspiration and the exciting year ahead for the design studio, including an overhaul of the iconic Palm Beach Casino in Cannes.
You established Caprini & Pellerin as two architects – and friends – with a shared passion for residential design. So take us back to where it all began.
Jerry Pellerin: Kevin and I met in boarding school and rapidly forged a friendship. As you can imagine, we made some unforgettable memories during school. Kevin is like an older brother to me. We used to spend hours daydreaming and designing our perfect islands with resorts and cabins! Kevin has always been an amazing sketcher with such artistic talent. I have so much respect and admiration for him.
Kevin Caprini: We are bound by the same passion for architecture, despite our differences. Our relationship is expressed by bringing together the emotional (Jerry) and the rational (me) in a way rooted in a rich understanding of sense and place. I couldn’t imagine doing this with anyone else because our collaboration comes to us so naturally. I am older than Jerry – when I was studying architecture, Jerry would never hesitate to come and help me out with my coursework through the early hours of the morning. Later, when I was working, and Jerry was passing his finals, I was there to advise and help him. So one could say that our respective degrees are a collaboration!
How would you best describe your work; what elements define the Caprini & Pellerin aesthetic and philosophy?
Kevin Caprini: For me, the devil is in the details. Initially guided by the context, our principle is to use local construction methods and choose sustainable materials. Every detail is treated with care. We like to combine design and craftsmanship to achieve a unique and tailor-made architectural vocabulary. We personalise each project; our two constants are always elegance and wellbeing.
Jerry Pellerin: I would say that we are anti-style as well as multi-style. I think that’s what makes us strong today; knowing how to adapt to any project and any architectural style. Each new project for us is a new territory of research in which we feel the duty to immerse ourselves until we feel that our creative conscience is adapted and ready for the project. Our background is in architecture. Therefore we have a certain commitment to this systematic approach. It’s in our DNA! The fact that we master both the design of large-scale buildings and the design of small-scale details gives us the complete vision of a turnkey project.
What are your favourite aspects of traditional French architecture, and how do you ensure your designs remain respectful to the homes’ original era?
Kevin Caprini: For every project we undertake, we carry out a lot of research. This helps us come up with a design solution that will honour the original architecture and the context of a project. French architecture is very varied; we have grandiose projects such as the Versailles Castle and the Eiffel Tower that still looks modern today and crazy projects such as the Pompidou Center in Paris. Furthermore, each region in France displays very different architectural codes. There are countless amazing buildings and a very profuse culture and history – we are privileged to have this strong cultural influence in our lives.
Jerry Pellerin: French architecture is a bit like French gastronomy; very rich and diverse! There are many different styles. We are very much in awe of French craftsmanship and ancient know-how. We are fascinated by old stone constructions and how they were built back in the day, particularly castles, palaces, farmhouses, and convents. Sadly, over time some of these ancestral techniques have disappeared. We like to think of ourselves as ambassadors of these traditional crafts, and we use any chance we have to reinterpret or apply them.
What is the most significant project you’ve designed to date, and why?
Kevin Caprini and Jerry Pellerin: For us, the best is yet to come! To date, the most iconic project we have worked on is the Palm Beach complex in Cannes. The edifice was designed as the first summer Casino of Cannes, built-in 1926 to look like an Arabian Palace. It is an emblematic construction of the city of Cannes that took part in forging the international reputation of the French Riviera. It was immortalised in 1963 in a movie with Alain Delon, and Jean Gabin called Melodie en Sous-Sol (Any Number Can Win).
The venue was the symbol of elegance and glamour, where numerous galas and jet-set parties took place. Unfortunately, over time it has been modified and degraded. The objective of our rehabilitation project is to modernise the establishment while reinterpreting its original atypical Hispano-Moorish and Art-Deco style in a contemporary way. The building is an architectural icon – it is a highly anticipated project and we’re doing everything we can to revive this legend.
Your homes have a strong emphasis on indoor-outdoor living. Why is this important now, more than ever before?
Kevin Caprini and Jerry Pellerin: Our offices are based in the south of France, so the relationship to the exterior is essential to us as we spend most of our time outside. The Mediterranean and nature are a daily source of inspiration to us. The relationship of a building with its surroundings is fundamental; it’s crucial for dressing a facade and highlighting the architecture.
Decoration and design go through fashions, whereas the relationship with nature is immutable. One will never tire of gazing at the change in seasons, the changing leaves’ colours, smells, and the light that shadows an interior space through the vegetation. Therefore, we always endeavour to find a strong relationship with the immediate and far landscape in all our projects. This gives us an additional design frame to work with, and it nourishes our creativity.
What are your favourite materials to work with and why?
Kevin Caprini: We always use noble materials that will never go out of fashion, such as wood, stone and metal. We also use many upcycled materials such as stone from old convents and old wooden parquet floorings or vintage doors. These reprocessed elements bring charm and authenticity to our projects.
Jerry Pellerin: We love natural and authentic materials that will last over time and acquire a patina as they age. Once again, we cannot say which type of material we like the most because the material choice depends on the project. We are also light lovers – the most important elements to work with –especially how light interacts with the materials themselves.
What do we have to look forward to from Caprini & Pellerin in the next year?
Kevin Caprini and Jerry Pellerin: We would like to complete more hotel projects. The hotel industry is a sector where we have an increasing interest as architecture, interior architecture, bespoke furniture design, and decoration work together in harmony. Working on all aspects of design in projects is what we are most interested in. We are currently working on a very interesting sustainable hotel project in the Al-‘Ula desert. The site is breathtaking and spiritual. We are also designing a furniture line; we would love to launch a collection soon.
Design Insider’s Guide:
Favourite local designers and studios?
Kevin Caprini: Luis Barragan, Paulo Mendes da Rocha and Peter Zumthor.
Jerry Pellerin: Frank Lloyd Wright, Tadao Ando and Vincenzo de Cotiis.
Favourite design stores?
Kevin Caprini: The Village des Antiquaires in Isle sur La Sorgue – a great place for vintage finds.
Jerry Pellerin: Les Puces de Saint Ouen in Paris.
Favourite galleries or spaces?
Kevin Caprini: The Grand Palais in Paris is a stunning space that hosts great art exhibitions. They recently organised an art ‘treasure hunt’ experience; they hid modern art from JR and Murakami within the building, and those who found the pieces got to keep the art! I also love the Chateau Lacoste in Provence as it contains outdoor sculptures by Tadao Ando, Frank Gehry, Louise Bourgeois and Alexander Calder in the gardens. Another favourite is the Fondation Carmignac on the Porquerolles Island because I think there is added charm to admiring art outdoors.
Jerry Pellerin: The Fondation Maeght in Saint Paul de Vence is a fabulous museum built by Spanish architect Josep Sert, with great sculptures by Alberto Giacometti, Henry Moore and Joan Miró sculptures in the gardens.
Where do you go to look at great design?
Kevin Caprini: I like to discover architecture during my travels. All architecture is interesting to me.
Jerry Pellerin: The AD 100 exhibition during the Paris Design Week.