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Vacation home at Simi ― 

Architectural polychromy is a traditional feature of Greek island settlements; vibrant colors were the way for sailors to recognize their home from a distance, returning there after long sea journeys.

Perched on the cliffside of Symi, in the outskirts of the village, the new vacation home, designed by De-ar Architects for a family of four, enjoys magnificent views over the bay, the Turkish coast and Nymos island. The color scheme relies on the vibrant contrasts between complementary colors and enhances the rich material palette of the building.

Having chosen Symi as their preferred holiday location since many years, the owners bought an old bakery adjacent to their small vacation home, as well as a narrow strip of land between the bakery and the public stairs, to build an addition for accommodating their two children.

The new addition includes the old bakery and extends to the interior courtyard and the narrow land strip. The addition took under account the scale of the traditional settlement, preserving the local proportions of the openings.

Old and new house together, make up for 85 sqm; they remain detached, and communicate through the common courtyard. Standing in front of a stone wall, the two buildings flank the open-air space, which becomes private and enclosed, opening only to the stunning view of the harbor.

The interior follows the relief of the landscape and is structured in multiple levels, adjoining the sheltered open-air space. In-between the old and the new house, the courtyard is divided in two stepped terraces, lush in flowers and trees. The corner of the lower level accommodates the sitting area, and the upper level, between the indoor kitchens, is dedicated to open-air cooking. The multiple access points to the open-air courtyard create an interplay between indoor and outdoor spaces.

The selection of materials for the interior followed the architects’ informed intuition, in a way that each element feels unique. In the bathrooms, cement mortar is complemented with hand-made mosaic tiles and bespoke, colorful washbasins. On the floors, mortar highlights the interplay of different levels and is joined with local stone and terracotta tiles. Woodwork is reserved for the special corners of the house and emulates the local craft tradition.

The color scheme involves vibrant colors highlighted by warm details, in a way that each space is endowed with a distinct identity. On the interior and exterior wall surfaces, the architects chose the colors of the earth and sky, in low tonality, and also, in low content of black; the rest of the elements composing the facades are painted in high-tonality complementary colors, lighter or darker, where color intensity results in high brilliance. In the smaller interior spaces, complementary color adjacencies illuminate the rooms and intensify the natural light coming indirectly from the “low” openings.

The hand-made, bespoke character of the building is further supported by the chosen construction techniques: The natural bedrock became a core element in the design of interior and exterior spaces. Many materials were found on site and were integrated in careful detailing. From the outset, the architects employed local builders for the main construction work, and, later on, with the help of the owners, invited a guild of craftsmen from another island to carry out detailing, and to ensure that the house would look and feel unique.