Are design-led hotels reviving Greece’s fortunes?
Despite recent hardships, a wave of design-led boutique hotels has put Greece on the map
The arrival of a series of architectural, design-led boutique hotels is always a reliable barometer of a country’s reviving fortunes and, if the wave of openings over the past few years are anything to go by, Greece is certainly on the up. Even despite the difficult current climate, the country’s tourism industry has soldiered on, with a couple of new hotel openings further boosting its growing collection.
In Athens, these have mostly emerged in sensitively restored buildings, such as A77 Suites by Andronis and Monsieur Didot, which both unfurl within the sturdy bones of 19th-century neo-classical piles, or the sleek 38-room Perianth hotel, whose low-slung 1930s frame has been converted by Athens-based K-Studio.
The newest kid on the block is the just-opened 38-room Modernist. Ensconced within the former Canadian Embassy, in a corner building on a quiet street that overlooks the leafy residential square in Kolonaki, the hotel follows the group’s debut opening in the port city of Thessaloniki a couple of years ago.
Like its sister property, its Athens iteration has once again been designed by Thessaloniki-based studio FORMrelated, the building’s unfussy lines informing much of the design. ‘The characteristic elements of the existing buildings are an inspiration for us, something that is a common element of our concept for both hotels,’ say the design team.’
As such, raw materials like marble, bronze and black glass are softened by the more refined nature of the oak wood floors, leather headboards and mid-century-inspired furnishings from both local and international brands. ‘A clean-cut environment and simplicity in design was the basic approach and the natural materials are what give luxury to the space.’
Not far from Thessaloniki, in the Halkidiki region of northern Greece - known for its jutting peninsulas, lush, Mediterranean forests and sandy beaches – Ekies All Sense Resort has just emerged from an overhaul that includes a new lobby, ten new suites and five renovated rooms.
The owner, Alexandra Efstathiadou, in collaboration with Athens- based Agarch+ Architects and Fytron Landscape Design, has pulled together a mood influenced by area’s rich spiritual history. ‘We wanted to rethink the ‘less is more’ approach in our interiors for the new suites, taking cues from the ascetic tranquillity we encountered upon visiting the stunning monasteries of Mount Athos,’ explain the design team. ‘Key design elements for us were marble, bronze, and wood and an earthy colour palette.’
Over on the west side of the country, near the town of Amaliada, Dexamenes Seaside Hotel is housed in a derelict wine factory and floats above the beach at Kourouta like a chic, horizontal sea liner.
Making the most of the low-slung proportions, Athens-based practice K-Studio, performed a delicate but definitive intervention that complements rather than erases the spare, industrial aesthetic. Having wrapped the building in a sun-shade of louvered plywood canopy and cut spacious window openings into the wine tanks, flooding the ten suites subsequently created with light, the studio carefully restored interiors, preserving existing texture and patina where possible, relying on generous glass walled bathrooms and minimalist, unobtrusive furnishings to add elegance and sophistication.
On the island of Zakynthos, just off the Peloponnese, Athens-based architects Block722, has been busy. First with Olea All Suite Hotel, which is anchored by a freeform 4,000sq. m pool that winds its way through the 93 rooms, and second, with Zante Maris Suites. Both properties stay true to the firm’s approach for simple, geometric volumes, clean lines and top-quality natural materials. At Zante Maris Suites, in particular, nature is at the forefront, the understated design – which includes ‘swim up’ suites – attention to texture and a carefully curated muted colour palette, allowing the landscape to organically emerge and command attention. ‘Recently, we have seen an evolution in the dialogue between the building, the environment and the surroundings, which has been really fulfilling,’ explain the Block722 team. ‘The past few years has seen the use of more and more natural materials, like wood, rattan and natural stone in addition to earthy materials and colour palettes.’
Meanwhile, carved into the cliff of the island’s famous caldera is Vora, designed by Athens-based K-Studio, which sits suspended high above sea, overlooking the volcano. Comprising just three villas, the ultra-exclusive property boasts minimalist Cycladic design, custom-made furniture, and a soothing palette of beiges and greys complemented by dark brown wood – and each comes complete with a private plunge pool.
Of course, with resorts in Santorini jostled for prime real estate and jaw-dropping views of the immense caldera, the flatter, but equally breathtaking eastern shores and vineyards have been left relatively undisturbed by the madding crowds that arrive each summer.
Staking a particularly handsome stretch on the black volcanic sands of Perivolos Beach on the island’s south-eastern tip, the 12-suite Istoria is a languid sprawl of raw stonework, greenery and white walls. Behind the thick masonry of the three-storey compound, Athens-based Design Laboratorium has fashioned, quite literally, a cool modern interior of mosaicked and concrete floors, roughly hewn timber furniture, bed throws in summery hues, and terracotta accents.
Laboratorium has also made its mark on the isle of Paros, with Parīlio, by inserting 33 suites into an existing series of buildings, its simple, clean-lined Cycladic architecture, the ideal frame for the rolling rock-strewn landscape. Inside, the designers have dressed base materials like exposed concrete, terracotta floors and local marble in a quiet colour palette of white, grey, ochre and sienna, and a mix of bespoke furnishings, vintage finds and contemporary design pieces such as bedside tables from 101 Copenhagen and outdoor furniture by architect Vincent Van Duysen.
Of course, if there is one hotel group that is a sure measurement of a country’s upswing, it’s Soho House. On the island of Mykonos, in a cluster of white, Cycladic buildings, perched on a rocky stretch of coastline, the property dos not stray from the group’s MO, its vibrant poolside scene boosted by a veranda, an outdoor gym, restaurant, lounge areas and 45-rooms dressed in a bohemian palette of rattan armchairs, wicker lampshades and earthy tones. And while, the opening of Soho Roc House – the group’s foray into Greece – was a quieter, later opening than originally planned, these setbacks have certainly not hindered the group’s signature feel-good vibes. §