Athens is perhaps best known for its ruins—from the dilapidated remnants of ancient Greek civilizations to buildings left empty by the 2009 economic collapse. But new life is taking hold as the next generation of artists and designers transforms once derelict spaces into cafes, bars, art galleries, and, maybe most important, studios.
Stamos Michael—an interior architect, furniture designer, and cofounder of Athens’s artist-run Grace gallery—explains that the city’s low rents have attracted emerging creatives from within Greece and abroad.
"There are many empty spaces that can easily be transformed into studios," Michael says. "Students are coming from European universities to practice their craft. The ability to have an affordable studio is crucial for young artists and designers, and it’s very easy to do here."
Michael—who recently turned a wrecked 1930s residence in the Philopappou Hill area into the guesthouse–cum–exhibition space Esperinos—is one of many up-and-coming Athens designers focused on discarded and repurposed objects. "Kostas Lambridis’s work uses a mix of raw materials that relate to the Athenian industrialized landscape," says Michael, who also calls out Savvas Laz, a Greek designer creating nontraditional furnishings from everyday products and found items.
In October, the first-ever Athens Design Week will be held in the millennia-old capital. "It’ll be the first time the city’s design community will officially come together," Michael says. "It’s going to be spectacular."
"There’s a patchwork of architectural styles in Athens due to the high development years. It gives you a lot of freedom as a designer because you’re like, ‘Okay, I can do whatever I want.’"
—Stamos Michael, Grace
Holy Yogurt by Greece Is for Lovers
Credit: Photo captions written by Adrian Madlener
Get the Dwell Travel Newsletter
Start exploring far-flung design destinations, the newest boutique hotels, and well-designed bars and restaurants perfect for the modern jetsetter.