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Online Exclusive - Iconic Santorini, Greece

Apr 2, 2014

By Erinn Waldo

Before it became a honeymoon spot and luxurious destination, Greece’s Santorini island simply was the leftover product of a massive volcanic eruption. Around the resulting caldera, some of the locals from the village of Imerovigli dug out a community of cave homes—and later a boutique cave hotel. “Iconic Santorini was a big challenge for us,” says designer Alexis Kontodimas of Athens, Greece–based A & T Kontodimas. “But the moment we saw these caves, we immediately realized the potential.”


Between strict preservation restrictions and the goal for an authentic Greek experience, Kontodimas took advantage of the caves’ rustic, yet dignified white walls. “The owners didn’t want something minimal and modern,” he explains. “They wanted an elegance, but they mostly wanted it to be very Greek.” Keeping the uneven shape of the walls, the 22 rooms and suites recall their simple origins.


Elements like the Iconic Suite’s fireplace originated from a former bakery’s stone oven. In some of the larger suites, such as the Grotto or Cliff Suites, heated pools also took a cue from the previous incarnation. “These used to be little wells that the locals used to collect rainwater,” says Kontodimas. The pools are now heated and have recesses for candles, as well as jets.


“We didn’t want to look outright expensive, although the infrastructure is incredible,” Kontodimas continues. “We wanted to be luxurious but have a simple luxury using Greek materials.” Each room boasts modern technology, including wifi and flatscreen televisions, which are well hidden within the volcanic walls.


In contrast to the white walls, touches of azure blue in the pillows and chaise lounges echo the Aegean Sea. Many of the furniture pieces also use local wood, treated to appear weathered by the sun. “All of the headboards are Greek branches, set one on top of the other in horizontal lines,” says Kontodimas. “They match the wall’s imperfections.” Along with their zinc detailing, the rooms’ coffee tables and bathrooms also repeat this use of wood. Kontodimas coated bathroom walls with a painted cement finish to incorporate a traditionally Greek material. “It’s what the locals used to do with floors and verandas,” he notes.


The hotel’s own verandas play a significant part in the design. Overlooking the caldera, Iconic Santorini’s cliffside location spans five full levels. In order to give the suites privacy, the balconies are closed off with candle boxes and pots of Greek plants. These small yards, usually harboring umbrellas and chaise lounges, reflect the locality as well. “Every Greek mother has a little garden filled with herbs like oregano, mint, and basil,” he explains. “It’s very important that when you walk by, your arms and legs hit the plants and these Greek scents float into the air.”


Pergola Restaurant wraps these elements together in a space that focuses on the view. “We covered it with strips of wood on top, so you can see the sea, sky, and stars and have the breeze coming through,” Kontodimas says. The tables, wooden square pieces with a white marble centerpiece, are a revival of traditional tavern coffee shops. Some of the chairs continue the blue scheme and are placed on the diagonal as a rule so every diner can enjoy the view.


“During the sunset in Santorini, everything becomes purple and orange,” says Kontodimas. “The environment is really magic.”

hdtalks: the interviews

During HD Expo 2014, Hospitality Design’s Michael Adams sat down with HBA’s Michael Bedner to talk about his half-century in the hospitality design industry. View the video.



Produced by: Emerald Expositions
Nielsen      Contract Design | Hospitality Design | K+BB | DDI

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