Monday, March 7, 2011

Building a house - In Greece: Part II

In case you missed my post last Monday - I've started a new series documenting my family's adventure in building a home in Kefalonia, Greece. We had been looking at a few plots of land for a number of years. The first criteria was that it had to be within ten minutes of the city - and when I say city, the capital of Kefalonia has a population of about 12,000 - and secondly it had to have a view of the sea. We wanted to find land that was situated in such a way that no one could ever block our view, and finally in 2007 we found this beauty just outside the village of Sarlata.

Me sitting on the shack that was originally there when we bought the land*

I don't think I can begin to delve into where we are today with the design and construction, without giving you a quick background of the island's architectural history. When most people think of Greek island architecture, they envision the homes of the Aegean islands with white painted houses and sea blue painted roofs. The seven islands of the Ionian Sea, however, experienced a much different history, and thus developed a completely different architectural style. While the islands of the Aegean were under Turkish rule for much of the 15th through 19th centuries, Kefalonia and the other Ionian islands were ruled by the Ottomans for only seventeen years.

Cephalonian architecture was rather heavily influenced by the various Western European nations, such as Venice, France, and Great Britain, that conquered the island from the 16th to the 18th centuries and introduced neoclassic architecture, which can be seen throughout the island's history.

Pre-earthquake Cephalonian architecture**

Located on a very active and powerful seismic fault line, Kefalonia suffered a devastating earthquake in 1953, which leveled the island and destroyed most of the 18th and 19th century buildings that characterized the island. During the rebuild in the subsequent decades following the earthquake, adherence to the neoclassical architectural styles and details were pushed aside for rather quick construction to accommodate the thousands of homeless families. In only the last few decades, have building codes become more rigid, as a call for resurgence of this traditional architectural style has been mandated in certain villages.

Traditional village of Fiskardo ***

Traditional style Cephalonian homes**

Sarlata is zoned as a "traditional village," which basically means that the architecture of the home must match the traditional architecture of the island. Other more well-known traditional Cephalonian villages are Fiskardo and Assos.

When we first bought the land, my husband and I schemed of ways to convince my father and the rest of the family to build a super modern residence. We envisioned large folding doors opening out to the pool and terrace, and double-height ceilings. Almost immediately we found out that the community of Sarlata would squelch that idea.

Homes built in the traditional neoclassical style of the island must be no more than two-stories high (underground garages don't count as long as they are covered on all four sides) windows must follow the ratio of 2:1, and must have shutters. The roof must be covered by ceramic roof tiles (this is actually required on all new construction throughout the island), and the structure must not be more than 50% of the land it's built on. Additionally there were requirements about the maximum height of retaining walls surrounding the property, and the structure must be built at least five meters away from the perimeter of the property.

Plans of a traditional Cephalonian home**

Between 2007 and 2010 we did most of this research and scoped the local talent for an architect, engineer, and a slew of third-party contractors as my father has assumed the role of general contractor. Next week I'll show you photos of the various stages in the ground breaking and construction of the foundation and underground garage, which happened between October and November of 2010. Until then, here is a snippet of the plans for the house.

Plans of our house ****

* Photos by Cartoules Letterpress
** Photos/Illustrations scanned from the book, Architecture In Cephalonia: From the 16th to the 21st Century by Yvonne Markantonatou and Lambros Simatos.
*** Photo from here
**** Designs by architect Georgia Galiatsatou


  1. Wow! This looks amazing! Can't wait to see more pics when the work is completed...

  2. Shmera epesa panw se mia sunenteuksh pou dwsate sto esu kai h Euge kai edw kai treis wres exw kollisei na diavazw ta blog.....!!:P

  3. Ha! Bravro. Keep reading - mexri tora exo grapsi 9 posts gia to spiti.

  4. I’ve looking for and excited to read all the posts. I am looking forward to another great article from you.

  5. Thanks Maria for following along! The house is almost done, and this summer my posts will be all about decorating, so it should get interesting!