Sit down with Coast Architects founders Simon Nicholls and Chris Davies and you’ll get the impression the partners have developed a balanced working relationship after 10 years in business together on Providenciales.
Nicholls is Welsh, you see. Davies is English. On the one hand, they’re connected by the United Kingdom and centuries of shared history. On the other, they’re each products of distinctly different environments.
“It means we can have banter when rugby is on,” Nicholls jokes.
That shared-yet-contrasting identity as expat UK-born architects lends their firm a bit of its natural personality, but it’s hardly the full story. “We are all quite different in terms of what we do,” Davies says.
“We,” in this case, refers to the firm’s team of seven. “It is a bit of family, really,” Nicholls says. In Davies case, that’s literally true: His wife Rebecca joined in 2009.
“The practice has never been driven by one person,” Nicholls notes. “It is actually lots of heads together, lots of design studio discussions, and everyone bringing a little different angle to the conversation.”
The Coast story begins, as so many great stories do, over a pint.
It’s about 2000, and Davies is chatting with a University friend in a pub about the islands. “Jokingly I said, ‘If you ever know of anyone looking for an architect in the Caribbean, let me know.’”
A few months later, the phone rang with a job offer in the TCI. He spent more than two years in the islands before returning to London, and was looking for another overseas posting when the phone rang again in 2005. This time it was a resort development looking for a site architect. Davies has been living on the island ever since.
Nicholls, the son of an architect, followed a similar path to TCI. In his fourth year at university, one of his father’s friends told him about Turks and Caicos. He eventually took up an architectural post here as well.
“That’s when I met Chris in a local pub,” Nicholls says. They hit it off.
A year-and-a-half later, while the two friends were working together on the Amanyara resort, they decided to start their own local firm. Coast opened its doors in July 2008, just months before the global economic meltdown.
Despite those financial headwinds, Nicholls remembers the early days nostalgically, with “friends popping into the office and cups of tea, looking at ideas and scribbles they brought in.”
Eventually the firm landed contracts for several larger villas on Parrot Cay, a private island home to the Como resort. “We filled up our portfolio without quite so much being built on Provo,” Davies says.
Word spread about Coast’s Parrot Cay designs, and as interest in the private villa market heated up, demand for their services grew. Cast Away, one of their early projects, set a new tone. “For us, it was really the first thumbprint of the beginning of what has become a pretty consistent idea of a rental villa,” explains Nicholls.
Consistent ideas aside, the Coast principals stay current on shifting design trends in the local villa market, including the movement away from the traditional “master bedroom” paradigm. Today’s customers want designs incorporating multiple rooms of equal grandeur, Nicholls says – and as many ocean views as possible.
After a decade spent handling everything from one-off private homes to restaurant makeovers, Coast’s diverse portfolio includes some of the islands’ most renowned resort developers, including Gansevoort Villas, The Residences, and Rock House, Grace Bay Resorts’ North Shore project.
“The opportunities that we have had are just incredible,” Nicholls said. “But I think what our clients seem to like are the opportunities we see in a place.”
Coast’s principals reject the notion of some overarching “design language,” and favor the idea that each client and every site unveils an opportunity to create something unique, with designs that respond to both the site’s particulars and the owner’s aspirations.
Discovering each solution is the fun part.
Ten years on, the team is enthusiastic about the future, and Davies and Nicholls describe the current market as “effervescing.”
“It’s hard not to be excited,” Nicholls says.
Coast Team Image: Ileana Ravasio/Attimi Photography