Decorator, architect Panos Petridis discusses ‘post-bubble’ design in Greece


A glance around the Kolonaki offices offers plenty of information about Panos Petridis. Everything about the property, a former restaurant that currently houses the interior designer-architect’s headquarters, highlights his personal touch: From the space layout to the colors on the walls via the furniture and objects, everything points to a mix of usability and high aesthetics. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about?

“Indeed, although you do have to make small sacrifices in one or the other every now and again,” said Petridis. “It’s preferable for example to have a beautiful carpet to see and walk on, even though it might require more scrubbing when cleaning time comes.”

Born into a typical middle-class family in Thessaloniki, Petridis grew up with a penchant for DIY. He would often pick up pieces of furniture left on the street and restore them.

He bought his first architecture magazine at the age of 12, while his school friends were reading comics about the adventures of superheroes. Following studies in architecture and design, he received his first commissions in his hometown: a small cafe to begin with, followed by several houses and restaurants. At a certain point he was drawn to scenography and ended up working with singer Anna Vissi for several seasons. “It was the time of large-scale productions, shows which required several months of prep work. It was great back then and I really enjoyed it, but I’m not sure I would show the same kind of enthusiasm today,” he said.

He is now based in Athens, while in the last few years he has turned his focus to the hotel industry – an ideal sector, it seems, for him to nurture his talents and creativity. “I despise hotel facilities of inhuman dimensions, such as those in Dubai. I love boutique hotels like the ones you come across in the Marais, in Paris. I’m in love with those,” he admitted.

His passion for “human-scale” hotels led him to form a collaboration with Canaves Oia Santorini – the luxury resort complex was recently voted Europe’s top hotel as well as 34th best hotel worldwide by readers of the US edition of Conde Nast Traveller. Now fully refurbished, the resort includes the Canaves Hotel (18 suites), the Canaves Suites (26 suites), the Canaves Villa (a three-bedroom villa hosting up to eight guests and featuring a “spa with view” facility for treatments overlooking the island’s stunning caldera.

White is the dominating color throughout the premises: “to help visitors to relax, to empty their minds of any kind of stress,” explained Petridis. The same is the case as regards the furniture and decorative objects, accentuating the blue of the sky and the sea, and of course the natural light.

"The Cyclades – and Santorini in particular – is a special chapter, a different kind of Greece. You cannot go overboard in terms of decoration. You have to go with neutral, high-quality pieces and avoid going against the landscape, because, if you do, you will lose the game,” noted Petridis.

Another high-caliber project is the Racconto Boutique Hotel in Parga, northwestern Greece. According to Petridis the hotel proves that location is not the only factor when it comes to success in the hospitality sector. “A good hotel will, in turn, offer added value to the area where it is located.”

What is the determining factor when it comes to taking on a project? “My chemistry with the client. If my aesthetics clash with his, I put an end to it after the first meeting,” he said.

Aesthetics is a recurring theme in the conversation, so what would be his own definition of the search for beauty and balance?

“As far as I’m concerned, aesthetics is about going in search of uniqueness and quality. No concessions,” he stressed. “It means staying away from fashions and trends, so that your work takes on a timeless quality and improves with time.”

What does the Greek architecture and interior design field look like following the end of the “bubble” era of pre-crisis Greece?

“The field cleared up following the crisis. The ones who were no good have disappeared,” he said. “People started appreciating classic lines and better materials. Nowadays, those who decide to fix up their homes want to do so in the right way, in a sensible and organized manner, while looking ahead. They want to get their money’s worth.”

Is a home makeover solely a question of cash?

“Of course not,” said Petridis. “There are little secrets when it comes to revamping our living space. A clean and orderly environment is more relaxing, for instance. Candles offer a sense of warmth, while lots of fresh flowers remind us that life is beautiful. Good-looking objects are also important. As long as Cheap Art [annual exhibitions in Athens where up-and-coming and established artists sell their work at low prices] is around there is no need to spend a fortune. After all, interior decorating is not a luxury, but a personal need.”

* This story first appeared in Kathimerini’s Sunday magazine K.