California Style Midcentury Design on the French Riviera: Villa Aloha

Villa Aloha

It took only a few minutes for the current homeowner of this gorgeous Californian-style midcentury modern home to make the decision to purchase the summer home. Surrounded by plenty of green created by palms, pines, and olive trees, among others, Villa Aloha rests in solitude on the French Riviera, within the peaceful residential area Tour de Mare. Built in 1965 by French architect Jean Reitz, the home carries an original vintage spirit to this day. Hiking routes, beaches and nearby cities such as Nice and Cannes come with the package.

Villa Aloha

First of all, could you tell us a little bit about your background?

I am an entrepreneur operating in the market research industry. I like arts in general and I’m passionate about design of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s and also about modernist architecture.

How did you come to live in your house and what drew you to the midcentury style?

I was looking for some years for a summer house located on the French Riviera but I wanted something special, definitely not a typical provincial house but, if possible, a modernist house even if I was very much aware that such houses are extremely rare in this area.

After numerous visits and no interest, I was offered Aloha, which had just been put on sale. When I visited the house 3 years ago, it took me less than 5 minutes to make a decision: Aloha was the house I was looking for. I now share my time between Aloha and my flat in Lyon. 

Villa Aloha
Villa Aloha

What do you think was so special about this period in American design?

It was a very creative period with a totally new way to design houses and their interior. A new revolutionary approach based on simplicity, easy maintenance, space, transparency, in and out approach, light, ergonomic furniture, etc.

What do you know about the architect who designed your house?

I have some information about Jean Reitz, the architect, but not so much. He was a French architect and I’ve been told that he was very much influenced by famous american modernist architects like Richard Neutra for instance.

In the 60’s and the 70’s, Jean Reitz designed public buildings and churches in France, very few houses as far as I know. What is sure is that he was a detail freak. I have a complete file on the house including plans and drawings and each piece of the house (entrance gate, portal, guardrails, etc.) was specifically designed and customized.

Villa Aloha
Villa Aloha

What are the advantages/struggles of living in a midcentury house?

Not so much struggles to be honest, maybe (but it’s personal and related to my own approach) the fact that if you want to keep such a house in its original vintage state (which was my intention), you have to upgrade it with no or with very few impact so it does require some compromise (keeping my small although very nice kitchen for instance).

Apart from that, and assuming your house has been designed according to the standards you like (modernism in my personal case), living in such a house – open to nature and light – is only an advantage and a pleasure.

What’s your favourite part of the house and why?

Definitely the living room which opens to the swimming pool and its terrace when the large picture window is entirely opened.

Villa Aloha
Villa Aloha

Have you had to renovate any part of the house? If so, which area(s)?

The roof has been totally renovated (insulation and sealing). Apart from this no heavy renovation, only interior painting, electricity and garden.

Last but not least, do you have any tips for people interested in buying a midcentury house today? What should they pay attention to and why?

Not really. Maybe making sure that the roof is ok and if it’s not, start with renovating it but this tip is for any type of house, not only midcentury ones.

Villa Aloha
Photos by Marc-Antoine Jacoud