How do you create inspired and unique environments on an island where almost all the architecture is absolutely identical? An island where there are only two colours in the palette, white and blue? A sea of whitewash in stark contrast against the backdrop of a brown, barren landscape so that buildings dazzle in the sun? (If visiting, don’t forget your sunglasses and go easy on the hangovers!)
Two hotels on the Greek island of Mykonos have approached this dilemma from completely opposing directions. One is ordered and very considered, carefully designed from conception to introduce contemporary aesthetics whilst respecting the island’s traditional architecture. The other is more opportunistic, sometimes random, one man’s artistic vision that is constantly changing and adapting as he sees fit.
Both succeed wonderfully.
The Mykonos Grace Hotel is a design hotel through & through, emphasising the point by winning the European Hotel Design Award in 2007, within months of launching. Here the concept, service, brand and interior design are perfectly entwined, fully supporting the company’s ethos to offer ‘sanctuary and quality for discerning guests.’
Elegant, clean, sophisticated and understated, this is not a mainstream hotel, not classical in the slightest. An aptly named brand, gracefulness does indeed run through everything.
Initially conceptualised by investors and realised by Greek interior designer Nikolas Travasaros of architect group Divercity, the Mykonos Grace is undeniably Greek, using an understated Greek style but reinventing it using only stone, white and blue.
The reception area that greets you on arrival uses glass, stone and lighting to feel like you are underwater, immediately installing a sense of calm on all who enter, encouraging guests to relax into Grace. The Library Lounge is one of the most tranquil spaces in the hotel, airy, with the aroma of wood, bathed in natural light and with the breeze blowing through it is a favourite amongst guests.
The bedrooms are influenced by nature, bringing the outside in through materials and imagery. Above the beds are giant photographs printed on canvas depicting natural scenes. Otherwise the rooms are clean and simple, focusing the inhabitant’s attention on the views of the sea through the balcony doors. Believing that the bed is the most important aspect of a hotel, the beds at Mykonos Grace are designed to be like sleeping on a cloud, the ultimate in weightless comfort with an abundance of pillows. In complete contrast to the dazzle of light and white throughout the hotel, the bathrooms are dark stone, almost black, with a decadent atmosphere, an escape from the natural brilliance found everywhere else. The decadence theme is continued on the room balconies with double day beds and Jacuzzi tubs from which the rich blue Aegean views can be admired.
In the swimming pool area, situated on the third level of the hotel adjacent to the restaurant and bar, the space boundary merges the sea into the horizon. The restaurant and pool areas also blend together without ever feeling like they’re fighting for attention. At night it is all wonderfully illuminated, with under-lit white stone pebble bordering and a soft orange glow radiating from the bar.
Breakfast at Grace is the ultimate in ante meridiem culinary delight, with unlimited free Champagne on tap, an infinite of courses, from the healthiest options to the pastries literally dripping in melted chocolate. The restaurant walls display over-sized prints of cutlery introducing a hint of green into the palette, with teacup wall-light fittings and teaspoons as switches that wouldn’t look out of place in Alice’s Wonderland. This is all about playfulness and freedom where there are no rules or limitations, another example of how the brand, service and design are married. This is one of the best examples I’ve seen of how ordered design can also be fun.
Good hotel design can indeed create an incredible sense of serenity, of calm and tranquillity. Mykonos Grace is a classic case in point.
Wild At Heart
In contrast to the organised form of Grace and located on the other side of Mykonos Town at Ornos Bay, The Kivitos Club Hotel is an eclectic collection of art, antique furniture and fascinating curiosities. Prior to embarking on his vision, owner Spyros Michopoulos ran art exhibitions and though originally commencing the project in 1987 the hotel eventually opened in 1994.
The entire Kivitos Club Hotel is a canvas for its creator, an ongoing project where the artist can do whatever he likes, however he pleases. Every winter season changes occur, an item replaced, something else moved to a different area, a new feature piece added, a continuously evolving project. This regular evolution can apparently cause operational strife as room-cleaning processes need to be updated with each change.
The hotel is named after Noah’s arc as an old shipwreck was found on the site and pieces from the wreck have been incorporated into the design. Salvaged wood from the wreck has been used in the side of the VIP villa, and rusty iron embedded into stone walls.
Almost kitsch at times, with pillars and sculptures around the various swimming pools, exterior design features include an exact copy of ruins found on Delos Island, the mythological birthplace of Greek God, Apollo, with lion statues and all.
There is an ongoing juxtaposition between antique and contemporary, with Philippe Stark furniture surrounded by ancient art, or an antique table with a contemporary painting hung above. The hotel highlights 17th, 18th and 21st century pieces in particular. Each is an individual item, discretely selected, and added one at a time, each year. Today the Kivotos is a harmonious blend of past and present.
This balance of old and new is particularly visible in the VIP suite, Noah’s Villa, which is arranged over 3 levels and has a glass floor overhanging a private plunge pool. The interior design is acutely modern with glass, mirrors, stone and effect lighting creating an almost clubby feeling but etched with comfort and luxury. But the building structure itself appears ancient, with irregular stone walls and antique furniture.
The spa entrance is a glorious mosaic design, a hint at the spectacular and outrageous mosaic hammam found inside that is a quite stunning mix of gold and turquoise. For massages in the spa you lie face-down above a live fish tank so you can observer the piscatorial activity as your stress is physically removed. Also on the hotel site is a small chapel containing a restored 18th Century surround and beautiful old paintings.
Outside space is labyrinth-like as the hotel is spread over a hill on different levels. Decking hangs off the hill over the sea and stone steps lead to a small private beach. There are plenty of spaces to hide away and enjoy the view whilst admiring the hotel’s replica 19th Century yacht anchored just off-shore.
Article originally published in GS Magazine