Ancient Greek

Maria Vafiadis, MKV Design, creates the interiors of The award winning Romanos at Costa Navarino, Greece

The Romanos, at Costa Navarino, opened last year, together with the Agora village centre, the House of Events conference centre, The Dunes Course Clubhouse, Westin hotel, and Anazoe Spa — all designed by London-based MKV Design.

Together they form Navarino Dunes, the first phase of a 20-year long vision to create Costa Navarino, a new destination in the Mediterranean.

Navarino Dunes is the first of four sustainable resorts created by Costa Navarino’s developer, Temes. The brief for MKV Design’s owner, Maria Vafiadis, was to create a destination designed to celebrate and support the history, culture and ecology of Messinia.

“The original vision for Costa Navarino belonged to the “Captain”, a native of Messinia. He left his rural homeland when he was a young man and went on to make his fortune as the head of an international shipping company that he founded in 1974. However, his passion for his native land did not abate and in 1982 he
started buying land around the coast of Navarino Bay,” said Vafiadis.

“A keen environmentalist long before it became fashionable, the Captain was driven by a desire to preserve the heritage and natural beauty of Messinia while developing it as a destination that would create employment for local people. Today, it is the Captain’s son, Achilles, who runs Temes, sharing with his father the vision for sustainable resorts that will help make Messinia a sought after destination in the Mediterranean region.”

As part of the eco-vision for Navarino Dunes and its objective to celebrate the natural environment, the key materials used are local and organic. Pale stone is used both inside and out and timbers are dark, to bring out the colour of the stone. The design aesthetic at The Romanos was a response to its location — the sea, the sun, the curve of the bay, the dunes and the olive trees.

“The in/out experience is everything; there are no barriers in between. We achieved this by continuing the key materials used indoors, outside, such as the timber flooring of the guestrooms which continues onto the private terraces, and, in reverse, by bringing some of the water channels which criss-cross the gardens and terraces into the buildings,” said Vafiadis.

“Both public and guest spaces flow, from open terraces to shaded ones in interior spaces that are open out onto the view and then indoor areas that are intimate. Our choice of natural materials and fabrics, together with largely monochromatic colour schemes, added to the in/out quality of the experience.”

The Anax Lounge in the resort starts outside with a sunken terrace surrounded by a small canal. The next “zone” is a glazed colonnade, with views towards the sea and the main space is behind this where the ceiling has an exposed timber roof.

A raised area with a lowered ceiling is next to this, with tables for board games and billiards, followed by another terrace with views of the stone and timber buildings in the village.

“The resort’s guestrooms were designed with today’s lifestyle in mind, again flowing, and this time leading from the bathroom to the bedroom and onto the terrace; textured white gypsum headboards hint at the geometric forms of ancient Greek design. Outside on the terrace are built-in sofas, a fireplace and walls adorned with lanterns and textured friezes,” added Vafiadis.

“The Messinia region of Greece’s Peloponnese is one of the richest in terms of natural beauty and culture of anywhere in Europe. For Greece, it is the place where legend and history merge from ancient times through the centuries as part of the Byzantine Empire and, finally, the overthrow of the Turkish rulers and independence. It is also the place where the sacred art of hospitality is enshrined in native stories.

The resort itself was developed along Navarino Bay; it is untouched land with wetland habitats and species of indigenous plants and trees.

“As a design company that takes its cue from the natural environment as well as from the region’s traditional architecture and history, we had a great deal to inspire us.”

According to Vafiadis, the team intertwined the ‘provenance of Messinia’ with timeless architectural design and contemporary furniture and fittings, creating layers enhanced by this ‘barrier-free’ flow between the indoor and outdoor spaces.

The design elements it chose are natural and, wherever possible, from the local area. They reference, in some parts, to the history and legends of Messinia, and, in others, the architectural inheritance of the region.

“Working from the master plan, we developed simple but monumental forms that refer to ancient Greek architecture. Take the entrance lobby, for example. On each side, full height bronze fretwork gates give onto the two wings of the low-rise hotel. The proportions are a modern interpretation of an old Greek temple.” said Vafiadis.

With its 321 bedrooms and suites, much of the upholstery is linen or leather, and bronze metal is widely used. Some of the details, such as the mosaic floor in the lobby, subtly reference the nearby Palace of Nestor, the Greek king who, according to ancient poetry in the Odyssey, offered hospitality to weary travellers; elsewhere, vivid mosaics are used in a contemporary manner.

“The main challenge we faced was the risk the guest experience could end-up feeling impersonal due to the sheer vastness of Navarino Dunes. The resort is 130 hectares and comprises two hotels with 766 guestrooms and suites between them, numerous restaurants, bars and terraces, a signature golf course with clubhouse, outdoor swimming pools and decks, the 4,000m² Anazoe Spa and the Agora village with shops, cafes, bars and restaurants, an amphitheatre and outdoor cinema as well as the House of Events with conference spaces for 2,000 people,” said Vafiadis.

“We had to make sure that each element was carefully considered and then designed with the proper proportions, which would allow guests to feel comfortable while providing that flow from one environment to another so that they wouldn’t feel intimidated or overwhelmed by the scale.

“One challenge that was specifically Greek was that Greeks do not like to feel they are replicating the design details of ancient Greece. These are sacred. So, it required a particularly sensitive rendition of the Palace of Nestor, for instance, before our client would agree to it.”

Speaking about the award for Favourite Overseas Leisure Hotel: Europe, Asia Minor and the Russian Federation, Vafiadis said she was thrilled at the recognition and added the property has also been included in the Condé Nast Traveller Gold List 2012 category Best Hotels for Leisure Facilities.

“It is an honour to be recognised for this pioneering vision to preserve Greece’s natural beauty and cultural treasures within a contemporary framework,” she added. “It validates the thoughtful consideration and planning that went into our design — the spatial layouts, the material selections, the sense of scale — all the elements which were balanced to give guests an unforgettable experience.”

The development of Navarino Dunes is ongoing and recently opened a dining, and entertainment destination in the Agora called Inbi. The team has also opened Treasury by MKV Design, a concept design store in Navarino Dunes.

“We were overwhelmed by the interest of guests staying at the resort wanting to know all about the furnishings we used and, since I have a passion for vintage and beautiful items, Treasury seemed like the perfect opportunity to share this with the guests,” said Vafiadis.

“The response to our store has been great and we are now looking at developing the idea further and expanding the range of items we have on show, perhaps to include some pieces designed by the MKV Design team.”

“We also have several exciting completions coming up in 2012 — the refurbishment of The Royal Savoy in Lausanne and The Icon in Burgenstock, above Switzerland’s Lake Lucerne. They are both challenging projects but are utterly contrasting in character.

The Royal Savoy is 100-years-old and has a past that needs to be reinvented and celebrated; The Icon is a new building in a natural setting and, although a remote location, it has inspired us to do something quite different and transform the property into a futuristic experience.

“The final phase of our renovation of the Sheraton Grand in Edinburgh is due to be completed early next year, and our work continues on the Angsana Santorini for Banyan Tree and The Regent Emirates Pearl in Abu Dhabi.”

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