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Sun, sea, winds…
Have you ever traveled to Mykonos? Have you ever wondered what’s so special about the white & blue houses in the Cyclades, Greece? You most likely know Greece for its unique cuisine, beautiful beaches, and perhaps some memorable summers! Now, what makes Greece unique is the intense sun and the great balance between elements. Just the Cyclades consist of over 200 large and small islands. So there is sea covering most parts of the country. But there are also mountains, valleys and thus plenty of green all around. And you probably heard about the ideal Mediterranean weather.
What geography has to do with the Greek interior design, you ask? Simply put, the Cycladic interior design is inspired by the local elements and fully embraces them to celebrate life! After all, what’s life other than the sun, sea, winds, earth, and natural colors!
And all such elements marry beautifully in the Cyclades
For those of you who don’t know, the Cyclades is a group of islands in the Aegean Sea in Greece. The largest one is Naxos. The sacred one is Delos. The most romantic one is Santorini. The most visited one is Mykonos.
How was the Cycladic interior style first adopted?
Although each island has a unique ‘color’ and aura, they all have a special Cycladic interior design style. Beaten by the winds, sea, and sun, the houses on these islands were built to resist elements. The walls, for example, are thick and used to be constructed with stones so that they would protect the households during the winter and keep them cool during the summer.
Don’t forget that back in the day the inhabitants of the Cyclades had to find defense methods to deal with pirates. So they used to build fortresses all around the islands. They also had limited means and money and so they had to take advantage of the local resources. In order to keep their homes at good temperatures, they constructed their homes with small and a limited number of windows on the north side just for ventilation but also to keep the houses protected from the cold in the winter.
Basic characteristics of the Cycladic architecture
Under the pressure of survival in the harshest conditions and with minimum resources, the people in the Cyclades became resourceful themselves.
- The houses were built in a certain orientation for minimum harassment from the elements.
- The walls were 60-80 cm thick to keep the home protected during the winter and keep the house cool in the summer.
- The big openings in south, east, and west allow for the sun to find its way inside the house and thus keep it warm and make it more pleasant.
- The color white is broadly used in order to keep indoor temperatures controlled since white doesn’t absorb heat.
- Roofs and window shutters are painted blue to match with the blue of the sky and sea and thus blend nicely in the natural environment.
If you notice, everything has always been done with the intention to make homes part of nature and don’t let them stand out for protection but also practical purposes.
So much alike green homes today
Now, consider how these people built their homes and then compare the characteristics of the Cycladic interior design with the features of the modern ‘green home’ concept. Everything is done with the intention of ensuring higher energy efficiency.
The intention of modern green homes is to bring us back to nature and enable us to save money from energy consumption. With big openings, thicker walls, plenty of plants in the surroundings or even green terraces, modern interior designers aim at making homes more environmentally friendly. And that is basically the idea of the Cycladic interior style which has been around for ages.
Main features of the Cycladic homes
- Due to the limited space in every household, they all had built-in closets. One of the main characteristics of the Cycladic interior is the curves. This feature is the main home feature in Santorini. This island is known for its cave houses. They are often hardly visible. And that was necessary for their protection from the volcano in Santorini too.
- But if you take notice, many features in Cycladic homes are built-in – from closets to beds and kitchens. The intention was to gain space in limited rooms and still enjoy functionality. That’s why staircases are always narrow.
- Due to the limited resources, people used cement and other simple construction materials – even for floors and kitchen countertops. Today, a similar approach would be Corian – although much more expensive.
- From built beds to bathrooms, all surfaces are usually covered with this special cement mixture creating at the same time a sense of uniformity. There are no cracks and splits in between. With the walls, floors and embedded furniture (build tables, beds, etc.) covered with the same material, the home doesn’t cost too much to build and creates a sense that the space is larger and definitely more practical (easier to clean).
- Another unique characteristic of the interior design in Mykonos, Santorini, Paros, and other islands in the Cyclades is the imperfect walls and arches, which often separate one room from another. They are all curved and the curves are not perfect. There is a perfect symmetry without focusing on symmetry. Imperfection is celebrated in its perfection, if you will.
- There often exposed beams in the ceilings, which are very trendy today. But the ceilings were not often made of wood due to timber scarcity. The roofs are often vaulted to protect from the heat and help for the collection of rainwater. And the lack of symmetry helped.
The role of the 4 elements
As an overall, the traditional Cycladic architecture is simple. The houses are cubic to embrace the needs of the family and enhance functionality and they accomplish their goal.
Think about it. There are 4 main natural elements: air, water, fire, and earth. Out of need, people in the Cyclades had to embrace the four elements in order to build their homes and thus protect themselves from the elements. Paradox, isn’t it!
- Earth became the source of materials for home construction.
- Rainwater was a useful survival source too but homes were built with stone for higher sea-salt resistance.
- The sun was the number one source of heating but homes were also protected from the sunlight and extreme summer heat with the white color.
- Winds have always been intense in the islands and thus the houses are built in a north-east orientation for better protection.
Plaster, stones, and cement are broadly used for greater protection from the elements. Wood is scarcely used. After all, Mykonos has a rocky terrain which is eroded by the strong winds. Mykonos is also known as the island of the winds.
Simplicity makes it all easy
Out of necessity, the Greek homes in most islands in the Cyclades are the first approach to minimalism. They are simple to remain functional and still resistant to elements and so they first celebrated the concept that less is more. And that’s very interesting.
Minimal homes today focus on neutral colors, which allow you to use the walls as a canvas and create a functional space by just including everything needed. Nothing more! This has always been the idea of the Mykonian and Cycladic (as an extension) interior design idea.
It didn’t start as an interior design idea. It started out of need. But today you can embrace the idea of curved walls and Corian bathroom and kitchen looks to bring simplicity into your home.
What simplicity brings is functionality and what functionality brings is convenience. With our hectic lives, that’s exactly what we all need.
Nowadays, the concept of minimalism is the trademark of many posh homes since the cost is much higher than the original version. Even if you cannot afford the transformation of the entire house, a kitchen or bathroom remodeling in accordance to the Mykonian interior style will make the use and maintenance of these busy rooms much easier while it will enhance their appeal and make them really unique.
Now, if you want to check out these gorgeous homes from up close, all you have to do is plan a trip to Mykonos, Santorini, Paros, Naxos, or other islands in the Cyclades. There you can discover how to take advantage of the elements to transform your homes and create the perfect green home of your dreams in the Mykonian interior design way.