Development Update 2022: Africa

The striking blue waters of the Mediterranean, Ionian and Aegean seas have long attracted visitors to Greece. Luxury hotels, in particular, have established a presence here. Consider the intimate Radisson Blu Zaffron Resort Santorini Athens-based architects Arc-Set, who chose design elements that matched Santorini’s natural beauty, including a lobby outfitted with elegant domes and arches, a nod to Santorini’s architectural vernacular. Local brand Kanava Resorts, run by Greek hotelier Kalia Konstantinidou and her husband and business partner, Antonis Eliopoulos, has four hotels in Santorini and recently expanded its reach to the island of Paros. The waterfront Hotel Cosme will join sister properties Parílio and Acron Villas when it opens this year.

Additionally, Athens-based SWOT Hospitality is adding five new hotels to its roster in 2022: all 59 rooms, 24 suites Magma Resort Santorini, part of Hyatt’s Unbound Collection; the 200 rooms City of Athens Moxy; the purified Yi Mykonos; the Lindian Village Rhodes, spread over 60 acres; and the Monasteryan autograph collection by Marriott in Thessaloniki, which will be the first global brand hotel in the center of the northern Greek city when it opens in July.

Panoramic views of the Ionian coast take center stage in the lobby of the MarBella Elix Hotel, designed by Dimitris Thomopoulos Architects

Known for its sustainable tourism, luxury resort destination Costa Navarino is also booming, thanks to the eco-resort designed by K Studio Navarino Bay Hotel, nestled in the landscape. This summer will see the arrival of Costa Navarino West. Set along 32 beachfront acres, the 246-room resort will benefit from sustainable design, courtesy of Greek firm Tombazis and Associates and London-based MKV Design. Mandarin Oriental will also plant its flag there in 2023, with all 99 rooms Mandarin Oriental Costa Navarino.

“This is a pivotal moment for hospitality in Greece,” says Studio Lost founder Constantina Tsoutsikou, who has worked on two projects that opened this year in Crete, Royal Senses Resort & Spa and Numo Ierapetra Beach Resort. “Hoteliers are upping their game, new concepts are being launched and more luxury propositions are being developed.”

Indeed, Greece is experiencing a new era of luxury, confirmed by the arrival last year of the Kalesma Mykonos—another from the Athens firm K Studio, in collaboration with the Greek firm Studio Bonarchi—and the MarBella Elix Hotel in Parga, which is inspired “by the breathtaking view of the sea and the surrounding environment”, explains Dimitris Thomopoulos, founder of his eponymous company based in Athens. “Mixing the architecture with the landscape while building on steeply sloping terrain was a challenge, but it makes the hotel magical.”

Here, we dive into four properties reinventing luxury in Greece.

Housing Mykonos

Housing Mykonos

Habitat Mykonos presents a palette of wood, stone and forged cement

A warm, calm aesthetic defines Habitat Mykonos, an all-suite hotel designed by GNB architects based in Marousi, Greece, with interiors by firm Ioannina Vasilis Papadias Design Studio that bridge vernaculars of historic and contemporary design. “The building is in a traditional village of Mykonos. This is why the Cycladic architecture forms the basis of the inspiration”, explains Vasilis Papadias. “I have always been interested in the simplicity of architectural forms, holistic but bespoke design.” Wood, stone, and wrought cement make up the modern material palette, while a range of cotton textiles balance the minimalist aesthetic with beige and gray hues. Leather details punctuate the interiors along with rock elements that inject texture into the reception area and 16 guest rooms. Outdoor hubs like the living room and main pool are also tucked into the vegetation. “We want to ensure a comfortable and special space for visitors without overdoing it,” adds Papadias.

The Royal Senses Resort & Spa Crete

The Royal Senses Resort & Spa Crete

Adorned with ocher tones and suspended lights, the Platia restaurant at the Royal Senses Resort & Spa Crete offers breathtaking panoramas

London-based Studio Lost recently hosted two inviting retreats on the Greek island of Crete, including the 179-room Royal Senses Resort & Spa Crete, a Curio Collection by Hilton hotel which opened last June. Both rustic and tropical, the concept was designed alongside HBA London and Greek firm Peppas N Architects to serve as an extension of the grounds. “Royal Senses is more refined,” says Constantina Tsoutsikou of Studio Lost. “There is a grandeur in architecture.”

The airy new construction reflects its setting with a mix of natural colors like terracotta and rust, as well as brown hues and dark wood that reflect the site’s rich soil. “It was done intentionally to move away from the usual white and blue palette that dominates the island,” says Tsoutsikou. “It looks neutral, but to get that neutrality and richness and depth, there’s a lot of color.” While rough and smooth surfaces capture the wilderness of Panormos, outdoor spaces like the four large communal pools are characterized by a sense of openness that permeates the property. “The Royal Senses are more outgoing,” adds Tsoutsikou. “The way the pools are aligned – it’s on a horizontal axis, so there’s plenty of opportunity to be seen.”

Numo Ierapetra Beach Resort

Numo Ierapetra Beach Resort

At Numo Ierapetra Beach Resort designed by Studio Lost, the Tamarisk restaurant merges with the sea

Studio Lost also worked on the Royal Senses’ Cretan neighbor, the 132-room Numo Ierapetra Beach Resort, with similar design principles in mind. “We used the same teams, but the expression is completely different,” says Tsoutsikou. Opened in July 2021 after a 12-month facelift, Numo is a more “humble and bohemian” counterpoint to the Royal Senses, with a greater focus on nature while retaining some of its original features, including upcycled furniture from the previous owner, said Tsoutsikou. With gray bark and grey-green leaves, the tamarisk trees that line the beach served as the starting point for much of the design. “I tore off some of his branch and the bark of the tree, and went back to the studio and started thinking about it,” Tsoutsikou says. “It was the start of something that turned gray and cool and breezy.”

Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the retreat is its various room configurations, of which there are almost 60. Some suites combine up to three formerly individual rooms and even include newly created courtyards, while footprints of smaller rooms are exposed to the surrounding nature. “Numo is [about being] yourself and let your hair down,” adds Tsoutsikou. “It’s more intimate [experience].”

Peliva Nature & Suites

Peliva Nature & Suites

A craggy olive grove in Pelion stretches organically to the G2 LAB-designed Peliva Nature & Suites

A rarefied stretch of olive grove in Pelion is home to Peliva Nature & Suites, a naturalistic getaway overlooking the Pagasitic Gulf. The poetry of the setting serves as a muse for Ioannina firm G2 LAB’s transformation of the property, which includes a pair of revitalized stone structures whose historic composition has informed the incorporation of new elements. “The entire complex was created using techniques dating back 100 years,” explains G2 co-director and architect Giannis Efthymiadis. “The workers made and transferred everything by hand.”

Respecting the original architecture, G2 immersed the guests in the decor with a palette of stone and wood materials. Olive wood pergolas complement wooden, chestnut and rattan elements, while reed ceilings and weaving ropes are balanced by abundant greenery and sea views. A variety of staggered outdoor spaces , from the spacious terraces to the dining areas and the swimming pool, further reflect Peliva’s modern aura of tranquility. “We think the shared common spaces make the whole complex stand out,” adds Efthymiadis. “The steep slope inspired us to design different uses at different levels, creating a fun and adventurous way to explore the private plot.”

This article originally appeared in the February/March 2022 issue of HD.

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