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Costis Psychas House located in Therassia, Greece | The Hardt
Costis Psychas House located in Therassia, Greece. Costis Psychas was diving off the coast of Therassia, an islet in Greece’s Aegean Sea when he first spotted his future dream home. Nestled in a cove at the base of a ruddy cliff, the building had been abandoned for decades and was not much more than a pile of rubble. “I almost didn’t see it at first because it was built of red volcanic stones collected from the mountain, so it blends into its environment,” he says. What’s more, much of the structure was under water. “Which,” says this passionate sailor, “is what makes it so special.” The low tables in the living area are family heirlooms that were originally used for making flatbread; the wool pillows and cotton rugs were handwoven in Greece, and the handmade floors are a mix of white cement and sand.
The year was 1984. Psychas had recently moved from Athens to the Greek island of Santorini to help his mother with the renovation of a group of guesthouses. His family has roots in the Cyclades: His paternal great-grandfather was a sea captain who ferried one of Santorini’s native wines, vinsanto, over the Black Sea to Odessa in the Ukraine, where his father was born. The family later moved to Athens, though his father fantasized for years about relocating to Santorini. “He was just in love with the place,” Psychas says. A sundeck overlooking the Aegean Sea at Costis Psychas’s home on the Greek island of Therassia; the ladder leads to a circular room above.
When his father turned 80, his parents finally made the move, and his father lived out his final years on the picturesque island with its whitewashed homes, blue domes, and painterly sunsets. After his father died, Psychas–who never felt at ease in the city moved to Santorini to help his mother turn four traditional Greek houses into a five-star hotel called Perivolas. Psychas’s golden retriever, Gandhi, outside the house; the wood doors were custom made by local carpenters.
The façade of the circa-1860 house, a former warehouse for a pumice mine, is constructed of volcanic rock gathered on the property.
He is the first to admit that he is his father’s son. For years, from his perch at the hotel, he would gaze across the turquoise water to Therassia, a speck of an island that was wrenched from Santorini more than 3,500 years ago in what is known as the Minoan eruption of Thera (the catastrophic volcanic event is said to have inspired the legend of Atlantis). “Costis is quite a dreamer,” says his longtime friend, the photographer William Abranowicz, “and a seeker of severe solitude.” A bathroom features a wood boat made by a friend; the lantern was bought at a local market.
Psychas discovered that the object of his desire was a warehouse that had been built in 1860 for the island‘s now-defunct pumice mine (the lightweight material was used in construction before modern gypsum took its place). The building also housed the mine’s workers. “They mined the pumice at the top of the cliffs and then carried it by donkey to this building, part of which was in the water so that boats could easily come and take it away,” he explains. The built-in bed in a guest room was designed to take advantage of the seaside views.
At that point, he was only halfway there. The renovation required four more years of painstaking work. He assembled a team of 20 artisans from Santorini–stonemasons, carpenters, and plasterers–to help with the renovation. They rebuilt the submerged foundation and reconstructed the façade, which was made of local volcanic rock. “It took a long time because everything had to come by water,” Psychas says. “First we built a pier, then we cleaned up the property, which had been abandoned for more than 60 years, and then we started to build.” The dining area’s mahogany table was built by local carpenters, and the antique chair is a family heirloom.
All words in this article are via ElleDecor
Photos by William Abranowicz