French food can be a wonderful thing but it can also be a little too much. All those rich sauces, layer after layer of flavours and textures can be, well, a little heavy. Back in the seventies Michele Gerard came up with Cuisine Mincer, French food but lighter. You still got the flavours and the textures but without the stodge. And that’s what Jerry Jacobs seems to do. You get rich textures, fine furniture and wonderful textures, you get luxury, but you also get light and space.
When Modenus spoke to Jerry recently we wanted to know how he developed his style. Jerry, however, reject the very idea. “How do you define style?” he says “it is unnecessary. I see myself more as a filter of experience, of circumstances and clients.” His earliest influences were avant-garde and modernist but life is not that simple. “As a student of architecture, I never thought I would practice in anything other than an avant-garde, cutting edge style” he told me “but at some point I was bothered by the fact that I liked other things.” Jerry was brought up in Mexico surrounded by classical architecture and colonial styles. As he says , “You can trace influences – Palladium – all the pyramids and colonial architecture all symmetrical. I never thought I could practice with so many influences. I try not to be overwhelming with elements – although I always look for drama.”
His background in architecture is never forgotten and represents a great deal of his work. But Jerry is critical of traditional architecture for its neglect of interiors. “The interior is as important – and is more humane – you spend most of your time inside your home. The structures are going to last longer. Many schools of architecture barely admit that interiors exist.”
Jerry moved to San Francisco nearly 30 years ago and took to the life style immediately. He says it was at this time that he realized that all styles were open and acceptable to him.
He carefully describes himself as ‘not cutting edge’ and, like many leading interior designers, talks about the importance of the client. “I have been blessed with some great clients” he says. “I listen to the client, I interpret their dreams. I have ideas that they couldn’t define – but that are theirs nonetheless.
He also claims to have been blessed with great views. This is only partly true and is another sign of his disarming modestly. While it is the case that many of his projects have been in locations that offer the potential, many of Jerry’s designs include picture windows with motorized blinds. All of his work is sensitive to the relationship between the exterior environment and the interior – perhaps a legacy of Bauhaus influences while training as an architect? And there is the use of light. It is true that a lot of Jerry’s work is in California and the Caribbean but while for some the light may be a helpful context, Jerry brings it into his interiors and makes it part of the environment.
There are other signatures to be spotted in a Jerry Jacobs’ design. There is almost always a place for sculpture and antiques. And often a signature wall. I suggested to Jerry that floor to ceiling, wall to wall bookcases are also frequently to be found. Our interview is being conducted by telephone across several time zones but I can hear and feel Jerry smile. “Yes”, he says “my father did nothing but read, my two sisters are writers, I love books.” But there is more. Jerry is fascinated by what he calls ‘modularity’ referencing the work of the of the seminal architectural group Archigram and the Japanese Tatami. He tells me that he likes the idea of creating an ordered framework within which clients display their own individuality and creativity, their own stories be it through books or objects. And a tall modular wall requires a moving, rolling ladder which adds dynamics and motion. It is an element Jerry used with his ACA store designs – buildings which he turned into transparent frames for the products once again with wonderful light and space.
The use of light, almost the celebration of it, comes from an approach which is very straightforward, in Jerry’s word “honest”. There are no unnecessary trims or fabrics and, as we have already noted, the exterior is celebrated. “Open the door to any of my villas and I give you the ocean” he says.
All of this produces a timeless finished design. When I ask him what he is most proud of he laughingly tells me about clients who tell him that after living with his design for 20 years realized that they “hadn’t moved a damn thing”. And he goes on to say: “And that’s good because we are, after all, talking about big investments”.
So what of the future? Jerry clearly enjoys living in a world where he can work with clients in California and London, talk to people about projects in China and absorb influences from across the globe. And we talk a little about technology and its use inside the home but while we talk I find myself thinking of Jerry’s designs, the way in which he brings the exterior inside the home and his use of light making all those classical elements sharper, like the flavors in the very best cuisines. And I think about how enduring his work is and then it clicks. Fashion is temporary, style and class are permanent. And the educated, sophisticated and carefully considered style of Jerry Jacobs is pure class.