Pastoral allure at Villa Thola: Interview with Christos Kavathas

Perched in the heights of Sifnos, Christos Kavathas and Markella Karella’s Villa Thola bridges luxury and country charm overlooking the Aegean Sea.
Pastoral allure at Villa Thola: Interview with Christos Kavathas
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The Cyclades are known for their pristine sand, the turquoise blue of the Aegean Sea, and their whitewashed villages dotted with blue shutters and fuschia flowers. Beyond the quaint cobbled towns, mountains stand tall between the rolling Mediterranean hills, providing stunning lookouts over the islands.

This was the perfect setting for Christos Kavathas and Markella Karella to plant their roots. From above the bay of Vathy, they built the stunning Villa Thola, bringing together comfortable luxury and the charming rural air that makes the island of Sifnos feel so unspoilt.

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Come along as Christos walks us through this marvellous home, revealing the secrets that make Villa Thola and the island of Sifnos so unique.

And, for all our very best tips and addresses across the Cyclades, don't miss our exclusive Le Collectionist guide to Mykonos or our exclusive guide to Paros.

After 20 years living and working in the United States, Christos wanted to return and plant his roots in Greece. He had visited several islands in the Cyclades, and found Sifnos to be the most fitting for his needs. Having spent years visiting the island with friends on and off, he was especially drawn to the wealth of experiences it offered in a small and intimate setting

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Unlike other Cycladic islands, Christos found Sifnos compact, with each village only a short distance from the next. Boasting over 5,000 years of history, you can often stumble upon ancient gems between the picturesque towns, like ruins from Antiquity which formerly served as guard posts, or a wealth of churches and monasteries. Sifnos is also known for its culinary exploits, home to the most celebrated Greek chef, Nikos Tselementes. All across the island, gourmet restaurants lure celebrities to its shores, the likes of which include Tom Hanks and Barack Obama!

With all of these attractions to draw you in, Sifnos proved to be the perfect place to call home. When Christos came across a plot of land atop the mountains, overlooking the village of Vathy and the Aegean Sea, his vision of Villa Thola crystalised. Inspired by the traditional shepherds’ houses that characterise the area, he teamed up with architect Alexander Pavledis, the son of a friend, to bring his ideas to life.

 

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As this was Pavledis’s first project, the young architect was happy to work in close collaboration with Christos, who had very specific ideas of how he wanted his home — down to the height of each step! In keeping with pastoral traditions, Villa Thola is made up of several rectangular structures, built from stones from Sifnos, Crete, and Festos, all interconnected with a central courtyard. The courtyard features a lush Mediterranean garden, planted with over 150 olive, almond, and fig trees.

Christos designed the interior in line with traditional styles. For instance, the typical limewash paint known as asvestis was used throughout the home, creating an airy and breathable atmosphere, bed frames were built into the rooms in keeping with Cycladic architecture, and the stone floors were designed to look like marble as an ode to classical Greece.

 

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Villa Thola’s decor was kept clean and simple, owing to Christos and Markella’s taste. Bedrooms are minimalist yet comfortable, the kitchen was custom-built by a renowned carpenter, and the fine Italian couch the couple moved from their other home. A unique part of the decor is the artwork, featuring roughly 20 pieces created by Christos’s sister. They range between styles, having been painted throughout her life. Christos’s favourites are the nature paintings with floral notes, but also the forestscapes.

While the house is still very new and the couple haven’t had much time to stay there yet, they nevertheless cherish special memories from their time there. One of these is visiting a secluded cove where you can pick salt crystals right off the rocks! But the couple is most excited about the memories that they have yet to make. Hosting parties for their family, getting to taste their first batch of home-grown olive oil… The best is surely yet to come at Villa Thola! And who knows, maybe your best memories will be made there too.

 

When creating this home, it was important to the owners that guests feel settled and comfortable here, like once you drop your suitcases at Villa Thola, you don’t want to leave. This is partially achieved through the calm and serene atmosphere, but also the property’s self-sufficiency. For instance, Christos and Markella planted the olive trees in hopes of one day starting their own olive oil production. They also intend to build a chicken coop and grow a vegetable garden, further reinforcing the pastoral setting in which Villa Thola is planted.

The locals who live and farm nearby also contribute to this convivial rural atmosphere, sharing their food with Christos and Markella. The owners are lucky to savour delicious staples of Sifnos cuisine, like revithada, a chickpea dish baked in a wood-burning oven, mastelo, a goat cooked in dill sauce, and manoura cheese to accompany their dishes. The couple even gets visits from the neighbour’s goats sometimes, making Villa Thola a true intersection of luxury and traditional country lifestyles on the island of Sifnos.

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