Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly said that architect Bernard Tschumi, who designed the Acropolis Museum in Athens, is Italian. He is of French and Swiss descent. This version has been corrected.
It’s no secret that Greece has recently been in the news for misfortunes no country could possibly be happy about. Although the Greeks are undeniably responsible for many of the world’s most iconic cultural masterpieces, their status as design influencers started to crumble.
Recently, however, the light at the end of their very long tunnel suddenly has become brighter. Years of severe belt-tightening and serious government spending cuts have drawn foreign investors and a revived interest in Greek design.
Long-absent hopefulness has returned to the Greek people, and their years of doing without have left an indelible mark on how they now think about design, shifting their perspective toward a pared-down aesthetic that champions a less-is-more philosophy.
This revamped take on Greek design is still founded on timeless elements the culture has become renowned for, such as the Greek key pattern (thought to symbolize unity), classical statuary and a preponderance of white marble. But it now also exhibits a restrained effortlessness that’s easier to incorporate into existing design schemes.
Suddenly, home décor items with a pared-down Greek point of view are noteworthy with interior designers and their clientele alike. Greece is the word, and everyone seems to want a taste of it in their homes.
Since my last trip to Greece was decades ago, I decided to go back and see firsthand what this modern outlook on Greek design was all about. Immediately, I noticed that Greek design, whether manifested thousands of years ago or yesterday, has not wavered from an inherent understanding of proportion, balance and scale. The Greeks mastered this skill when they were the world’s leaders at producing architectural and sculptural masterpieces and incalculably influenced design in the western world.
I canvassed huge swaths of Greece to fully appreciate their aesthetic point of view and visited sites that spanned the Parthenon (completed in 438 B.C.) to the recently opened Acropolis Museum (opened in 2009), designed by Bernard Tschumi but heavily guided by proportions and principles refined by the ancient Greek masters. Throughout Greece, there is a noticeable connection to the colors of nature, the strong use of geometric patterns such as the Greek key and a celebration of its most famous building material, marble.
Though many ancient Greek marble masterpieces are thought to have initially been colored in deep, saturated hues, those colors have long faded and today, they’re appreciated for their incomparable carving done in Greece’s most famous and abundant natural resource. This stripped-down, white marble aesthetic seems to be the underpinning of the modern, Greek design perspective, which now celebrates the inherent beauty of naturally finished materials, the simplicity of geometric embellishments and color tones borrowed from Mother Nature rather than the more vibrant hues of their ancestors.
One of the best ways to understand any new trend is to see it in action and executed at its best, so I set out to visit the recently opened Amanzoe resort, revered as one of the finest examples of this pared-down take on Greek design.
Located several hours outside of Athens, in the Peloponnese region of Greece, Amanzoe has an unequaled locale with unparalleled Aegean Sea views, but it’s the heralded, minimalist Greek design that I’m most curious to see. Upon arrival, the influence of thousands of years of design history is evident in the endless array of perfectly proportioned Doric-influenced columns and the abundant yet restrained use of marble as far as the eye can see.
Today’s Greek design is largely about old and new coming together in a quietly harmonious way, and it’s done to perfection here. Subtle traces of the ancient Greek key pattern are found on otherwise unadorned accessories, local white marble is celebrated on sun-lit door panels to showcase their veining, and a reproduction Greek sculpture sits atop a modern marble mantel while a tall, marble column lamp sleekly illuminates a reading chair.
The only bold color in the whole room comes from ripe peaches sitting atop a minimalist, wooden compote. The rooms exemplify the restrained effortlessness that modern Greek design is all about and underscores why it’s become such a notable trend. This new approach is restrained yet dramatic, peaceful yet exciting and current yet timeless, and the Amanzoe offers accessible cues as to how to effortlessly fold this trend into any home.
If incorporating the restful and timeless style of modern, Greek design into your home sounds appealing, know that it can be relatively easy to accomplish without trekking all the way to Greece.
Today’s take on Greek design starts with a less-is-more approach, so put your editing hat on and remove any clutter build-up. Those extra pieces will make excellent donations or can be sold to help fund some basic, timeless purchases that will transform and endure.
●Marble is a must with this trend, so look for an affordable but well-crafted marble addition in the form of a lamp, side table or decorative object. Clean lines should prevail to really nail this trend.
●The subtle addition of some graphic, Greek key pattern also will help elegantly layer the modern Greek look into your home.
A little can go a long way, so use restraint and sew a single band of Greek key trim down the center of a decorative pillow or graphically finish the vertical edges of curtains with this iconic pattern. If they’re in good shape, you can even recycle your existing curtains and pillows by adding Greek key trim to them rather than starting completely anew.
●Lastly, add a touch of ancient Greece through a bust or torso mounted onto a clean-lined base. Almost no one can afford the real deal, so look to the many high-quality reproductions but be careful not to overdo it.
A single piece will look elegant and understated, whereas multiples will re-clutter and be unappreciated in a sea of competition. The biggest obstacle to accomplishing this trend is the urge to overdo it, which can completely unravel any efforts to create a peaceful, Greece-inspired getaway.
After years of being downtrodden, a pared-down, simpler Greece is on the rise again and a modern take on Greek design is one way they are making elegant lemonade out of previously burdensome lemons.
Vern Yip is an interior designer and star of “Bang for Your Buck” and “Live in Vern’s House,” which debuts on HGTV in June. Originally from McLean, Va., Yip is based in Atlanta and New York. Follow him on Facebook (Vern Yip/Artist) and Twitter and Instagram (both @VernYipDesigns). His column appears occasionally in The Washington Post.