Karpathos is steeped in lore; in Greek mythology, Karpathos is home to Prometheus and many other Titan gods.
In Constantine Cavafy’s poem “Ithaka,” which tells the story of Odysseus’s epic journey home, the poet stresses the importance of the journey over the destination: “As you set out for Ithaka, hope the voyage is a long one, full of adventure, full of discovery.”
For Odysseus and many other expats, one of their most important journeys will be the one back to their places of birth; however, the path isn’t always a smooth one.
Socrates – not to be confused with the famous Greek philosopher – is a native Greek who moved to Australia. He yearned for a vacation home on Karpathos, a large island southwest of Rhodes in the Aegean Sea.
Dreaming of his homeland, Socrates, who remained actively involved with the project from Australia, enlisted Athens-based A&M Architects to design his Karpathos vacation home. “Every immigrant who leaves dreams of coming back,” says Alexandros Komninos, a vice president at the firm.
The principal architect, Michael Mavroleon, and associate architect, Tassos Koukoutsis, wanted to create a home that incorporated the island’s indigenous materials, such as wood, marble and stone, while respecting the island’s architecture and craftsmanship. They wanted to use the vernacular of the island but present it in a modern, harmonious way. Size was also a factor; it was important for the home to have a human, accessible scale.
“We pushed the traditions a bit,” recalls Komninos. “If the client were a Greek, it would be different, but Socrates lives in Australia. He wanted something more contemporary.”
The result is a home built from traditional terracotta that looks like a series of cubes due to its location on a slope on the highest point of central Karpathos. While this presented a design challenge, it benefited the owners; every room offers panoramic views, thanks to the home’s numerous windows.
Restraint was exercised throughout the home when it came to decor; anything extraneous was stripped out. The bedrooms are the most minimalist areas of the home, with pale wooden floors, low platform beds and minimal use of knickknacks. Without an overwhelming amount of objects to see, the eye feels rested.
The only pattern that pops up comes from the upholstered dining room chairs. The overall effect is of a calming retreat that is minimalist, yet warm. Nothing is too perfect or “done,” and pieces like the slipcovered furniture in the living room add to the luxe casualness.
The home does reveal surprises, but even those are subtle. While the floors look like limestone or marble at first glance, they are actually handcrafted from plaster. The overall creamy palette is broken up by touches of wood, such as exposed beams and a driftwood tree that doubles as kitchen decor. “The house has a message: Whatever comes from the sea enters our life,” explains Komninos.
The spacious kitchen opens to the living room, and incorporates both modern and traditional elements. The hooded range resembles a traditional Greek wood-fired oven, while antique bread paddles are on display as a nod to the tradition of baking one’s own bread. Framed kitchen utensils are one of the few bits of decoration in the kitchen.
Bread paddles aside, there are pops of modernity. The black, wrought-iron lighting fixtures are decidedly modern, as is the use of a concrete-plaster mix in both the kitchen and bathroom.
The exterior spaces follow the same minimalist design ethos, which can be seen in the open, airy spaces with furniture that has strong sculptural lines but doesn’t detract from the sea views.
For Socrates, and so many before him, the long journey home was worth it.
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