Situated along Mexico’s Pacific Coast in the state of Nayarit is Sayulita, a charming village 45 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta airport that's become a travel destination. Tucked between the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountain range and a lush jungle is NICO, the inaugural project of married couple Robert Humble and Nicole "Nico" Johnson.
Humble is the principal of Seattle-based architecture and development firm Hybrid, while Johnson is a registered ICU nurse and founder of Unwound Retreats, a travel company dedicated to offering wellness experiences for healthcare providers. Driven by their shared passion for travel and design, the couple set out with a lofty goal: to create a micro-hospitality concept that offers the flexibility of an Airbnb with the luxury and service of a boutique hotel. For this, Hybrid chose to collaborate with Mexico-city based architectural studio Palma.
True to its context, NICO’s form is derived from the steep topography of its site. Reading as a modest two-level structure from street level, the five-suite program unfurls itself across a dramatic descent into the jungle view. Each space is meticulously designed to both optimize the relationship between the private and public and also maintain a purposive ambiguity between the indoors and outdoors.
Visitors have the choice to rent the units individually or all together as one large collective home. While the common areas boast amenities such as a heated salt-water lap pool, a chef’s kitchen, a bar, and a rooftop complete with plunge pool, barbeque area, and fire pit, NICO’s most prized quality is the distinct interaction between each of its spaces, and the local landscape.
The minimalist design relies on the structure to tell its story. The structural armature of the building articulates its zones, with concrete pillars and lattice grid flooring doubling as a spatial organizational device and an aesthetic juxtaposition to the warmer hues of the natural wood and brick floorings. This gridded motif is clearly expressed in elevation, framing the native foliage and ocean views in an ode to Mexico’s tradition of concrete and block infill construction.
Most of NICO's details are carefully curated to complement its greatest collaborators: the surrounding landscape and the local community. The interior design direction from Mexico City-based Decada is wonderfully restrained, allowing Roberto Michelsen’s bespoke artisanal millwork pieces to shine through in relaying the built traditions of the region.
Good design tells a story. Whether it's being nestled in the privacy of the suite within the terrestrial level of the jungle or enjoying thrilling viewpoints of the Pacific Ocean from the rooftop, what is clear through its holistic design approach is that this story is one driven by a passion for contextual design, adventurous travel, and attention to detail. NICO is as much a love letter to Sayulita as it is to its eponymous muse.
If you want to stay at the property, prices for the summer season start at $840/night with a four-night minimum for all five bedrooms. Contact NICO for pricing on individual suites.