The Collignons are a fearless father-daughter combination responsible for designing many of the most important homes in Punta Mita, Mexico. The patriarch is Juan Collignon, a renowned Mexican architect who leads a team of 15. The protégée is Karen Collignon, an accomplished interior designer who learned under her father and now leads her own design firm. The two work together on almost all their projects. Karen describes her father as an artist, writer, photographer, poet, and architect/designer. Growing up around all these aesthetics along with 10-plus years working alongside her father helped her develop the instincts that now guide her work.
Juan and Karen have collaborated on Punta Mita villas like Casa Majani, Casa Tres Soles, and Palmasola, counted among the area’s finest luxury homes. On any project, Juan’s work comes first—along with his team. They conceptualize the home’s footprint, then design the home’s layout and plan for the build, including drawing the building documents, engineering, millwork, flooring designs, finishes, and landscape design. Karen directs the projects and gives the homes their soul. She finds and incorporates inspiring decor, as well as designing all the furniture and interior architecture of spaces like kitchens and bathrooms.
Casa Koko is particularly important to Karen because of the project autonomy her artistic team was given. A unique relationship between the homeowners and Karen’s team allowed her to put her creative heart and soul into the home, more than ever before. “I love Casa Koko. It was my favorite project because I had so much creative freedom and I could really take it in whichever direction I wanted. That made it a special project for me. The result, I think, is a beautiful house.”
The construction team broke ground on Casa Koko in October 2015 and the build was completed in June 2017. More than two years after the project began, with the intention of attracting vacationers seeking Punta Mita villa rentals, Casa Koko welcomed its first guests in October 2017. “We wanted the home to feel earthy, natural, and relaxed. We didn’t want it to be formal or pretentious in any way. We wanted it to be a luxury home that gives guests the feeling of being in Mexico, on the beach, and relaxing.”
Karen admires and is inspired by a pair of Belgian designers: an architect-turned-designer with the clean and elegant award-winning work, Vincent Van Duysen; and the designer/curator/buyer/dealer extraordinaire, aptly described by Interview Magazine as “your favorite designer’s favorite designer,” Axel Vervoordt. Her veneration towards the latter helps explain some of the choices she made in designing Casa Koko; Karen’s love for antiques is Vervoordian. “I get inspired by old objects or things that can be recycled or reused. I like the feeling of time over things.” The bathrooms’ hand-carved stone tubs and pebble carpets immediately come to mind. “I like to incorporate objects that are weathered.”
Many of the home’s pieces have a story, like the Turkish hemp blankets Karen bought to use as rugs. Originally, they were used to hold packages and tie them to camels for transport like a suitcase in the desert. “Many of the accessories were from my personal collection; things I had been buying over the years since I started in interior design, when I traveled or when I shopped. I never sold any of these items to other projects because they were my favorite, most precious things! I was keeping them for my own house…and they ended up in Koko.”
Of all the Punta Mita villas Karen has designed, this one carries her imprint most. “The team played around with so many names but we couldn’t agree,” she says. “We wanted a name that would resemble nature—and one that we hadn’t heard before. One day, I said, ‘What about Casa Coco?’ referencing my childhood nickname and the name I gave to my business, Coco Interiores. To give it a twist, I suggested we use the letter ‘K’ instead of ‘C’. Though I had said it as a joke, everyone liked it and it stuck!”
During the design process, Karen observed a pathway dividing the property down the middle with suites to be built on either side. She had a vision. Mexico was rebuilding a 19th-century railway connecting Guadalajara and Mexico City at the time, so the Collignons bought some of the track’s old wood, refurbished it, and used it to build a bridge that slices down the middle of their property and connects its main entrance with its rear.
At the end of that bridge is the home’s centerpiece: an egg-shaped palapa that is strategically designed to optimize space. “We wanted the palapa to open up towards the pool but we didn’t have so much space towards the back so my father designed it like an egg. I love it.” Underneath the thatched roof, custom-designed light fixtures shine down over egg-shaped tables and comfy outdoor furniture seated poolside to the villa’s 90-foot long heated infinity pool. The pool has sharp Z-shaped edges and it connects with water alleys that surround the property. The southern wall of the pool spills water over its edge which then feeds back into the pool. From there you have a view of the Pacific Ocean under blue skies, which Karen says is one of the villa’s best sights. When the sun sets over the pool, she says, there’s nowhere else you would rather be.
Casa Koko and its surroundings
Casa Koko flanks the memorable 17th hole (a 387-yard par four with a dogleg left and a carry over rocks to a waterfront green) at Punta Mita Bahía Golf Club. The Jack Nicklaus design opened in 2009 and sports an oceanfront backdrop and a challenging layout. Guests at Casa Koko are welcome to play Bahia and can meander over using the villa’s two supplied golf carts.
If you prefer riding waves to hitting drives, Bahía surf break is right in front of Casa Koko. Bahía is one of the best surfing spots in the Puerto Vallarta area with groundswells and a nice high tide, but because of its rough ocean waters, it’s not meant for lounging. “That’s why we decided to build a beach on Koko’s property—so guests could enjoy the feeling of being in the sand right at home.” Sand engulfs much of the property along with a Caribbean garden, inspired by one Karen saw during a trip to Riviera Maya while designing Koko.
Both inside and out, Casa Koko embodies barefoot luxury; everywhere you walk is a treat for your feet, from the railway-inspired bridge to the mammoth amounts of sand to the interior’s floors. “The floors were crafted with white cement and were all hand-chiseled, which is a tremendous amount of work,” Karen explains. “When you do cement floors, you have to do it in slabs. A concrete finisher has to get on his hands and knees with a chisel for months creating geometric patterns. I don’t know if that hard work and detail can be appreciated until you see it.”
The same can be said for many of Casa Koko’s architectural and design details. At this Punta Mita villa, the magic of the Collignons shines through at every turn. The patriarch and the protégée have created genuine luxury. “Even with luxurious finishes, it has an earthy feeling. That’s what makes it special.”