Online | Architecture

Natural High

Crete, Greece

With views of the ocean and the wild Cretan landscape, this newly built hilltop home by architect Block722 speaks both Mediterranean and Scandinavian design languages

It’s easy to see how O Lofos got its name: this newly built house’s moniker means “the hill” in Greek, and it has a commanding position overlooking the wild Cretan landscape on the island’s eastern side, and out to sea. Clean lined and beautifully crafted, it is simple, natural and tactile, combining the precision of minimalism with the charm of local building materials and techniques.

O Lofos is the work of Athens-based Block722, a practice that combines both Greek and Scandinavian heritage thanks to its co-founders, architect Sotiris Tsergas and interior designer Katja Margaritoglou. To Margaritoglou, the Mediterranean influence comes from “the careful manipulation of sunlight that has a huge range of intensity and warmth, and can dramatically change the sense of space,” while the Scandinavian side is about a “more balanced, minimal aesthetic.”

The overarching desire for this house was to create somewhere that felt settled in its landscape. “The biggest challenge was to place the house – which is over 500 sqm, including the basements – on top of a hill and integrate it in an organic way,” says Tsergas. To achieve the necessary harmony with the surroundings, the form of the house hugs the slope: “We placed the central volumes of the main house on the highest point of the hill and the guesthouses around the perimeter at a lower level,” he says, “and we used materials from the land and vegetation of the rock on which the house rests, transferring the natural elements to the roofs of the volumes.”

Breaking the house up into these smaller, interconnected spaces makes it feel on a more human scale. Tsergas adds that the house brings a sense of both “grounding and elevation” – it feels submerged when you approach it down a path from the road, higher up, yet when you are inside, you’re surveying the scene far below you.

The layout takes into account both the path of the sun, and the homeowners’ lifestyle. Living spaces and bedrooms are on the sunniest south-eastern side, but carefully shaded and sheltered from the wind. The architects have created a spot a little away from the house for viewing the sunset, perched on the western edge of the cliff.

Margaritoglou has introduced a palette of neutral, earthy tones to the interiors, with the paler grey terrazzo floors and off-white polished plaster walls contrasting with rich, dark timber. The living area, on three levels to match the terrain of the hill, features a sculpture by Greek artist Pantelis Chandris, filling one wall in the centre of the space.

Block722 worked with vernacular materials and local trades such as stonemasons to ensure that the finished house felt even more rooted in its landscape – although, as Margaritoglou says, “it is not so common in these villages for craftsmen to work with such precise directions. We wanted the two stone blocks to be built with great attention to symmetry and with very precise boundaries; we made several samples of stone walls and found the method we needed to achieve what we wanted.”

The practice also worked with a weaver, who created the cupboard-fronts and headboards: although she used traditional techniques, her usual materials of wool and cotton have been switched for paper and corded leather, with invitingly tactile results. Block722 also designed furniture for the project, from majestically proportioned outdoor dining tables to black iron and smoked oak coffee tables with a distinctly Japanese aesthetic. So successful did the practice find their furniture design, it has now been released as an inaugural commercial collection, under the name Anata – bringing the tactile minimalism of O Lofos to a wider audience.