This recently completed townhouse by Athens- and London-based practice ISV Architects sits in a strategically located plot in the city centre that benefits from both the Greek capital's vibrant urban life and its peaceful parks and historical ruins by the Acropolis.

Perched on a sloped site by Philopappos Hill, the house was designed for a professional couple who decided to set up base in Athens, following a lengthy stint spent working abroad. The owners' requirements were clear; a flexible layout was at the top of their list, in order to allow future change. They also sought a refined, yet understated design that would be 'solid, yet informal; minimal, yet cosy'. Their hands-on approach meant that they played a key part in the building's design. 'It was team work from day one,' recall the architects.

Making the most of one of the plot's most enviable features - its panoramic view of the Athens basin that even stretches out to the sea in the distance - the architects (headed by Tasos Sotiropoulos, Babis Ioannou and Alexander Van Gilder) designed the house with an upside-down internal arrangement. The common areas, include living, dining and kitchen spaces, are placed right at the top of the structure, opening up to a magnificent terrace and pool deck. The two levels underneath contain bedrooms and a playroom, hidden behind a layer of vertical rotating cedar louvers. These also open up to a Japanese-inspired garden, while a lower level houses the car park.

A rounded, black matte metal staircase spanning the structure's three levels is not only the house's main circulation hub - a discreet elevator is also in use - but also a dramatic sculptural focal point for the interior. 'A project within the project, the residence's staircase is conceived as the main theme of the house's spatial structure,' say the architects. Its subtle elegance is complemented by the house's muted colour palette and simple yet sophisticated materials, such as off-white plaster, bleached oak surfaces and exposed concrete.