Founder of luxury villa rental platform The Villa Collective, Nick Cookson understands understated luxury. Immersed in the industry from a young age when his parents started the first UK-based Villa Agency in Greece in the 60s, it was inevitable for Nick to inherit the same passion and appreciation for luxury travel. We caught up with the travel connoisseur on the story behind setting up The Villa Collective, how the brand offers exceptional private retreats and his favourite spots in London.
The Villa Collective is a brand that was born out of a lifelong experience of yours. Can you elaborate on this?
My parents came to Greece in the 60s and started the first UK based Villa Agency, initially in Corfu. As a result, I would spend four or five weeks here every summer watching them work. It was an old school family business where many clients knew each other as well as my parents. They then sold the business in 2002.
What was the journey behind the launch of The Villa Collective? When did you have the lightbulb moment to start a brand that has turned into a hugely successful business four years in the making?
I was working for Charles McDowell Properties in London, saw an opportunity and decided I needed more sun in my life!
How does the brand’s philosophy differ from other luxury villa rental platforms?
It comes down to our clients trusting our judgement as to what is the ideal villa for them. While most agencies claim to be selective, few genuinely are and that's where we differ.
What is your favourite villa currently available through The Villa Collective? Or area?
I recently visited Ithaca in the Ionian islands and was blown away. Villa Kioni is a spectacular villa with direct sea access, a private jetty and walkable to the magical harbour of Kioni.
What’s your best kept secret gem in this destination?
Spend the day at Filiatro beach.
As someone who is well-connected in Corfu/Greece, you also have early access to villa’s for sale on the islands - any in particular that you love that’s on the market/that you’re selling at the moment?
Being in touch with owners regularly means we do know who is open to selling, but we wouldn't be able to advertise them openly.
What does luxury mean to you?
The terms luxury has little meaning these days since so many down and mid-market companies use it. In the true sense of the word however, to me luxury is the top 2% and that's what we target when signing new properties.
How do you think the luxury travel industry changed after this year’s events?
Villas have performed better than other areas of travel since they are naturally more compliant to social distancing measures than hotels. I believe this trend will continue in a naturally more health conscious world and new clients who wouldn't have previously considered a villa will continue to be converted.
Describe The Villa Collective in one sentence.
Do you have a favourite pocket within London? And why have you chosen this one.
Exmouth market has a great atmosphere and some wonderful pubs and restaurants.
What’s your best kept secret gem in the city?
One of my best friends has just launched Maison Francois in St James's. He's making French food fashionable again.
If you had to live anywhere except London, where would that be and why?
Probably Hampshire because it's a beautiful county and close to London as well as the airports. I can then spend the summer in the Mediterranean, commuting back easily and regularly. Cape Town is my favourite for winter sun but I wouldn't want to live abroad permanently, it’s just a perfect place to discover along with the good food and good wine. My perfect life balance is to live in the UK and travel regularly, especially over the summer.
What can we expect to see from The Villa Collective in the near future?
More villas, better tech and a growing profile!