An island retreat by Kokosalaki Architecture interprets Cretan vernacular design

An island retreat by Kokosalaki Architecture interprets Cretan vernacular design

This ‘simple, distinguished and very proud’ house in the Cretan mountains is a Greek holiday home rooted in its context and designed by the Athens based architecture studio of Natalia Kokosalaki

When a French couple decided to build their holiday home in Crete, some 500 metres from the village of Roustika, they turned to Athens based architect Natalia Kokosalaki for help. 

Sat at the foot of the Lefka Ori Mountains, among idyllic olive groves, vineyards and herb bushes, the site had a lot to offer. Part of the clients’ brief was for the design to respect this Cretan environment and ‘stand the test of time’, explains the architect. Kokosalaki responded with flair, composing a complex that feels modern, but is also rooted to the local vernacular and the island’s tradition. 

‘At first we wrote a brief as if it was a first page of a summer novel, narrating a summer day in this imaginary Cretan house and its rural environment,’ she says. ‘Simultaneously, it describes different areas of the house and the surrounding large garden and how could be enjoyed by the inhabitants on different hours of the day.’

kokosalaki roustika house outside

A large arched entrance leads to an enclosed courtyard, in turn guiding the visitor to the generous, open plan living areas on the ground level – or a guest suite off the main house. Upstairs are a further four bedrooms. 

Thick stone walls transform into staircases, terraces, an outdoor shower area and seating, while clean overall lines and the use of local materials (such as stone and ochre plaster) enhance the house’s connection to the landscape around it. This was conceived as a calming, tactile environment, designed for rest and contemplation. 

‘We wanted to create a typically Cretan dwelling: simple, distinguished and very proud,’ says Kokosalaki. The house does not disappoint; it is a structure that feels contemporary but is also inherently of its place, nestled gently in its Greek countryside locale. §

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