Small is beautiful – The Olive Tree Villa
Nestling in an exclusive location on the Greek Islands, The Olive Tree Villa combines contemporary design with an innovative and imaginative use of space that effortlessly blends both indoor and outdoor living. One of the principle aims in the design of The Olive Tree Villa was to achieve the impression of a large living space without exceeding the constructed square meterage allocated to the plot. The aim of the UDesign architects was to make the most of the least – to create a building with a relatively small (compared to what has become the norm in luxury housing) constructed square meterage but to make it feel really spacious. This was, of course, the original concept of the villa, and everything else would develop from there.
Above: With the olive tree and a vertical garden on one side, and a bright Costel Larka painting on the other, the living room doesn’t feel like a space enclosed by walls.
To achieve this, the team at UDesign came up with the ingenious solution of creating an open garden space that feels as if it’s attached to the main living room, but without actually being part of the villa’s constructed area. The innovative garden space gives the impression of being part of the living room but, being technically outside the house, it is not counted as part of the building. Having come up with the idea of an interior garden area, the next challenge was what to put in it to make it interesting. The idea here was to create the most dramatic effect possible.
Above: A game of textures between the onyx wall panel and the natural wood of the tables is settled by the common warmth of their colour.
Given the inherent beauty of trees in general, and more specifically, the sturdy but sinuous olive tree, sculptural in shape and relating to times long lost in the history of the Mediterranean, the idea of using it as an integral part of the building was an easy winner. Properly illuminated by night, the rugged bark becomes the patina on the twisting shapes of the trunk, and as natural sculpture, it works beautifully in a villa like this, quite apart from providing the name of the property itself.
Above: One can sit at the dining table, reach out to the tree and pick an olive.
The intelligent layout of the villa maximizes the feeling of space. The first thing that one sees on entering the house is the olive tree and the courtyard. To the left are the bedrooms and to the right, the living room and kitchen area. The courtyard is surrounded by glass, allowing plenty of natural light to filter to the hallway, bedroom areas, the landing and into the lounge. As the courtyard, with its olive tree, is the main feature of the entire villa, it was decided not to separate the lounge from the olive tree itself. To solve that issue, folding glass concertina doors were installed instead of a fixed wall. When folded back, one could literally sit at the dining table, reach out to the tree and pick an olive.
Above: If searching for an example of a kitchen perfectly integrated into the living space, look no further. This onyx-panelled cooking area is so subtle it camouflages the kitchen almost completely.
Positioning the dining table correctly, the feeling is as if eating in the garden itself, with the olive tree as part of the dining room layout. A green wall was also added to become an essential part of the overall design, increasing the illusion of outside dining. As one of the team’s architects observed: “In terms of bringing nature to the inside, this is a far as we have ever gone, and I love that”.
Above: The velvet Utrecht armchairs by Cassina, which add a constructivist vibe to the living room, were created by Dutch designer Gerrit Thomas Rietveld back in 1935. The model reveals a designer’s fascination with distilling a piece of furniture to its structural basics.
The feeling of nature continues in the interior finishes and features of the Olive Tree Villa. The fireplace uses natural wood and granite, and the tables use natural wood as well as brass. Granite also features in the fireplace, kitchen and on the kitchen island, and in the bathrooms, which also use individually made white artisan tiles. The ceiling continues on this theme, with architectural lighting highlighting the contrast between the roughness of the olive tree and the smoothness of the granite.
Above: The use of stunning views as an integral architectural element is a classic feature of the UDesign style.
The living area is also a perfect example of combining natural influences with clinical and clean contemporary objects, featuring a singular dramatic abstract artwork on the wall in the living space. The master bedroom, which overlooks the pool, features a UDesign bed, and beautiful wood panelling. The headboard has lights integrated into the unit itself, while the side tables act as a stylish continuation of the piece. The lights also highlight the wood behind the bed, giving the whole room a cosy and well-detailed feel. The outside space includes a BBQ on the terrace, as well as a stylish pool made with dark granite.
Above: These 3-dimensional bathroom tiles are a subtle beige, but mismatched in such an eclectic way that they become true artwork.
Above: The master bedroom features a UDesign custom-made bed and wood panelling.
The unusual colour of the swimming pool was a highly successful attempt to bring an inviting atmosphere to a feature that can often seem too clinical in its whiteness. This is the essence of the design concept behind a property that is somewhat smaller than usual for a luxury villa, and it is what makes the Olive Tree Villa stand out from the crowd.
Above: A dark pool with LED lights brings a different vibe to the terrace.
Proportionality, practicality and easy access are vital elements in the overall design, and the result is a glorious piece of architectural and interior design handcraft. In this case, small is, indeed, beautiful.
All architecture and interior design in this feature is by UDesign.
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