On a terraced hillside, high above Mexico’s Pacific coast, sits a villa named Casa Torre. The residence—in an area near Jalisco developed by the late Italian banker Gian Franco Brignone and dubbed Costa Careyes (“tortoise shells” in Spanish)—is home to fashion-world bon vivants Sally and Michel Perrin. For Michel, the chairman of his family’s 130-year-old French leather-goods house, Perrin Paris, and his American expat wife, Sally, who serves as the heritage brand’s creative director, Careyes is more than a part-time escape, it’s a way of life. “It’s a place that has brought us great joy,” she says.
They were introduced to Costa Careyes when they were invited down from Los Angeles for a birthday party 14 years ago. “It was a real watershed moment for us—we just fell in love with the vibe,” Sally says. With their two then teenage daughters in tow, the couple returned later that year for a few weeks at Christmas and were totally hooked. “The community was so warm and friendly, so we kept coming back year after year and rented different houses each time,” Michel says. Then in early 2019 they learned Casa Torre was for sale, and the stars had suddenly aligned. They sold their L.A. house and started a new chapter living between Paris and Brignone’s world.
It’s been almost 55 years since Brignone first set eyes on the nearly six-mile stretch of jungle, cliffs, and beaches that make up Costa Careyes. Peering down from the cockpit of a single-engine Cessna in 1968, in search of an idyllic spot to retire with his family, he instantly became enamored with the area, and the rest is colorfully preserved history.
Once an uninhabited coastline that had to be accessed by boat and explored on horseback, Costa Careyes is now an exclusive enclave of about 60 stunning private homes designed in what’s become known as the Careyes style. With their open-air, thatched-roof palapas, curvilinear architecture, and electrifyingly colorful facades, these coastal castles dot the region’s modest expanse like delicious confections. Apart from his architectural ideology, Brignone’s mission—along with that of five decades of residents—has always been to support the local communities and safeguard the vast area of wetlands along the coast, which includes a sanctuary for sea turtles.
Designed by Mexican architect Diego Villaseñor and built in 1988, the Perrins’ five-bungalow raspberry sherbet and golden yellow–hued home, with its living palapa and three separate dining palapas—each used at -different parts of the day based on the sun’s positioning—offers gloriously unobstructed views of Playa Rosa and the coastline. The property’s lush tropical gardens came with their own incredible pedigree, having been created by Eric Nagelmann, the landscape designer behind Lotusland, the fabled botanical garden in Montecito, California. “Communing with nature—the outside experience—is almost more important than being inside,” Michel says. “We don’t have glass windows anywhere in the house. It’s all open to nature, and that’s the key element. It’s extraordinary, like a moving painting—you can stare out at the sky all day.”
Most of the furniture is built-in, including expansive lounge-style seating, side tables, and platform bed frames. “Apart from a few pieces of artwork, we didn’t import anything from the L.A. home,” notes Sally of the thoughtfully curated interiors. “None of it would have worked, and besides, it’s nice to have a fresh start.” At the beginning of the pandemic, the Perrins spent six months living comfortably in the welcome oasis, with minimal furnishings, learning how their lifestyle fit with the home’s flow. From hiring a master woodworker and skilled upholsterer based in nearby villages to sourcing retailers of indigenous goods, the couple created their own version of Shangri-la.
When in residence, they’re up early managing business in Paris, and, while the days are full, there’s always time for fun and relaxation. “I swim in the ocean each afternoon, and we play backgammon and have cocktail hour every night,” says Michel, who favors an Americano (“it’s a Negroni without gin”) while his wife prefers a spicy margarita at game time. “There’s a word in French, ludique, which means whimsical, clever,” Sally says. “I think that’s what we were trying to accomplish with this house—to keep it light and playful.”
Styled by Anita Sarsidi
This story originally appeared in the WINTER 2023 issue of ELLE DECOR. SUBSCRIBE
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