The idyllic Ionian island of Zakynthos finds itself on every design junkie’s bucket list since the July opening of the Olea All Suite Hotel and Spa. The striking form of the 93-room property — the handiwork of Athens- and Stockholm-based Block722architects+ — is wildly impressive and yet entirely respectful to, and reflective of, its pristine surrounds. Olea is a sprawling ode to the beauty of modern, natural minimalism.
Blocks of geometric, whitewashed stone apartments wind their way around the curvature of a magnificent lake-like pool that is the centrepiece of the property. Olive and carob trees are strategically scattered, bringing dreamy tropical contrast to its earthernware architecture, while accents of organic thatched roofing in the communal areas give a sustainable nod to island style.
Olea is a far cry from the stereotypical white and blue dwellings one finds on the sunset-swathed cliffs of Santorini and Mykonos. If anything, its use of earthy tones, natural materials and bold structure is reminiscent of an ancient Athens. It’s not hard to picture a mythological Greek goddess reclining upon one of the slim-line day beds found on each private balcony.
Here, there’s a deliberate fluidity between inside and out, and yet the villa’s interiors bring a welcome and somewhat delicate contrast to the geometric cuts of its façade. Pendant lighting, rattan ottomans and low-slung seating function within open-plan living areas that give plentiful breathing space to hero features such as raw-edged oak dining tables and freestanding stone baths. Luxe linens and textural cottons in a tonal palette of whites, greys and muted prints imperfectly drape beds and lounge areas and play deliberate, and undeniably harmonious second-fiddle to the suites’ warm, intricately thatched bamboo ceilings.
Many of the suites also feature private pools, walled in by large stone dividers, that overlook both the pale blue waters of the central pool below and the lush greenery of the island beyond.
This is a Greek island getaway with a difference. Despite its idyllic beaches, sea caves, tropical terrain and turquoise waters, Zakynthos remains much less visited than its fellow Ionians including Corfu and Cephalonia. So, it’s fitting then, that Olea sits as something of a natural apparition; a peaceful, modern oasis and triumph of minimalism completely at one with its island’s beauty.
THIS ARTICLE APPEARED ORIGINALLY IN THE OCTOBER EDITION OF ICON MAGAZINE.
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