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Shila, Athens. Transformable design for a fictitious world

Each room is a mystery. Beds seem to float, bathrooms have swings. Shila Athens redefines what it means to be a boutique hotel in the twenty-first century

Shila in Kolonaki, Athens 

Neoclassical design, antique fixings, wrought-iron as well as distressed wood. Shila is redefining the relationship between viewer and art. Tucked away on Mantzarou street in Kolonaki, a late 1920s residence hosts the boutique hotel. Lending itself to the storytelling quality of design, Shila provides an escape from Athenian city life. Creative Director Eftihia Stefanidi says, «designing a hotel means thinking about an experiential narrative for the guest where all senses come alive. From the sound to the interior and spatial arrangement».

The boutique hotel is imagined through the lens of a fictional character, ‘Shila’ who runs an open for her friends. Her entourage is imagined to have inhabited the six suites of the hotel, depositing their identity throughout. Stefanidi and her team visualized the space as a live movie set where their guests are inspired to become characters themselves, coming together to enjoy a their own narrative. Shila’s interest is in bringing people together to live out their inner-child, while the creators have done so themselves, expressing through various interventions around the hotel.

«It has manifested in different forms. From the art that adorns the space, the garments available in the suites, the culinary products, or bath botanicals. We share what we enjoy with others. There’s a personal touch to what we do». At Shila, «simplicity» has informed the architecture, interior design, and conduct of hospitality, «we host our guests the same way we’d host a friend at our house».  

Shila’s relationship with art

The Shila team has strong ties with the local and international art & design scenes, primarily due to being artists themselves. At Shila, art, in fact, is outside of the traditional white cube. Treating Shila as a stage, artworks adorn the space on a rotating basis, allowing for constant transformation. The hotel also offers private viewings of their exhibitions and hangs pieces around the hotel, in common areas, on bedroom walls, and inside of suite wardrobes to allow for an immersive viewing experience.

The integration of structured pieces redefines the way art is traditionally consumed: questioning the relationship between the work and the viewer. Stefanidi explains, «this is the whole idea of our concept, to create a stage where art can be exhibited in an organic way, and also where artists intervene creatively with the space. It’s what makes the Shila experience unique». When sourcing, Stefanidi says the space and ambiance dictate what artwork fits in the space, «it’s site-specific, we see how the pieces blend into the interior, what conversations we can create between the space and the art, but also how we can renew this milieu by rotating the artworks. Each room has its own energy and narrative».

The creators consider ‘Shila’ (a name that in Sanskrit means ‘character’), to exude a potent feminine energy throughout the residence, hence many of the works displayed depict women, and are sensual in ways. They frequently  collaborate with designers and hand pick garments, ceramics, and design objects. Further, they frequently collaborate with designers and select items like paintings, ceramics and fashion. All artworks displayed are also for sale and the hotel offers to arrange international shipping if needed. 

Lampoon review: Shila’s design philosophy

Shila has maintained the original terrazzo floors, marble staircase, high ceilings, and old wooden windows. Discussing the importance of preserving traditional integrity Stefanidi deduces, «spaces carry history and it is touching to work on a building with so many layers of time. We do not want to alienate the building from its core».

Instead of tearing down, Shila repurposed materials already found in the space by peeling off layers, exposing brick, and adding materials like metal and cement to modernize the space. «Our interior designer Anna Bonnet created custom hand-made lamps, wall applications with cement technique and smokey mirrors. We also worked with local craftsmen to design the metal furniture, such as the floating beds, lounge sofas, suite mirrors, and the library». Intervening as little as possible, the only new addition in the space is a second bathroom in each suite. «We want to reveal rather than add».

Painted in shades of mint, ochre, and sienna, the six suites span across three floors, with two on each floor. The fifty to sixty square meter rooms can be connected if necessary. On the ground floor lie the two garden suites that open onto a courtyard. Floating four-poster beds convert an idea of tranquillity. «We designed on-the-go, we had mood boards but the execution process was spontaneous. Each room has its narrative, conceived through our shared ideas of the characters developed in our heads».

Sustainability and Transformative Design at Shila

On the first floor, fine art photography and 1960s style interiors are persuaded by Shila’s composed friends who exude masculine energy. While the suites on the third floor incite a Bohemian sojourn. Double bathrooms and Shila’s brand of spa amenities characterize all suites. There’s also a secret swing-set in one of the suite bathrooms as a «little reminder to not forget to play».

Further, the rooms feature velvet upholstery and furniture from its prior wood-making owner who closed shop in the 1990s. The antiques found in the hotel belong to stores around Greece, and are updated regularly. There is a library to retire to for drinks as well as a roof terrace featuring tropical banana trees and bamboo shoots, a shaded drinks area, and rattan furniture. Stefanidi’s favorite piece is an armor chandelier by Bonnet. «it’s at the entrance of the hotel and is made of beeswax church candles».

Stefanidi discloses their motive is not to do something different for the sake of it, but to create a world that reflects what they looked for during hotel stays. «For example, our hotel doesn’t have any televisions in the rooms as we’d rather use an iPad with Netflix subscription. Even more so, the TV was a total nuisance against our interiors. Nothing is prescribed, it is created».

Through the design process, sustainability was a key element in mind. Working only with natural materials, and with a passion for repurposing furniture, the transformative design suits their ever-changing needs. «We host a range of events and exhibitions which therefore means we need everything to be mobile». Namely, Shila has also played host to major photoshoots for fashion houses like Dior and Versace. The furniture, including the couches, have wheels to allow for convenient movement. Eco-conscious, they also avoid plastic and propose guests staying for longer periods to change their linens and towels less frequently.  

Shila, Athens. Roof garden, photography Pia Riverola

Culinary proposals at Shila

Collaborating with a local bakery and brunch restaurant in Kolonaki, Shila serves breakfast all day. Locally sourced ingredients accompany the bakery’s sourdough bread and vanilla butter. «We have curated honey from the island of Kimolos as well as home-made marmalades». While, for their coffee, Shila opts for quality and says no to espresso machine capsules. «We quest our beans from Greece and pair them with coffee machines that grind on the spot». 

At Shila, building rapport and community with their guests is key. Besides private events, Shila hosts a weekly social club on their rooftop every Thursday night open to guests and the public. Hotel stayers are privy to a tailor-made concierge to fulfill their needs. «We recommend our personal favorites, always experienced by us. It’s like where we would send a friend visiting Athens».

If in Athens for just a weekend, Stefanidi recommends visiting the Acropolis, preferably over sunset, and then making your way to the Acropolis museum nearby. For a full day’s trip, she suggests exploring the temple of Poseidon that is an hour out of the city center. «For me, it is the epitome of the Greek landscape to have the ruins and the water together». All in all, Shila hopes their guests walk away with an updated outlook on life. «Perhaps moved by a work of art, a small detail that they encounter, someone they met in the hotel or something they tasted». 

Mona and Shila Maison D’Objects

Shila has a new addition to the family with sister venue Mona on the way. This is a slightly larger boutique hotel with twenty rooms, in the area of Monastiraki-Psirri. It is going to open in 2022. The building is an ex-textile factory from the 1950s. The rooftop overlooks the acropolis and holds a more urban Athenian energy. Stefanidi describes Mona as «the urban woman» and Shila as her counterpart.

Shila is also developing their furniture and design strand, Shila Maison D’Objets, that will allow guests to purchase the same furnishings of the hotel for their homes. Stefanidi says they will be working with local ceramic artists and planning a pop-up exhibition this fall. To access the open spaces regularly, they are creating a membership scheme for their social club.

Shila

Mantzarou 10, Athina 106 72, Greece

Shila is a boutique hotel with a focus on the arts. Geared toward exhibiting beyond a white cube, Shila Athens provides a platform for local artisans as well as designers.

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

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check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore
Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only
natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
for more info, please email us at [email protected]

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