A Cave in Santorini Is Turned Into a Modern Oasis With Seaside Views

Courtesy Yannis Bellonias

A hotel owner took two years to renovate the now modern masterpiece.

Santorini, Greece, is famous for its cliffside nooks and spectacular views. And that's just what Yannis Bellonias took advantage of when creating his home. 

Bellonias bought the property—an old cave dwelling—in 2006 and took two years to renovate it. He worked with local contractors only, including an 80-year-old builder who oversaw a team using traditional skills to create something where history and modernity converge. 

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"The main concept was to design a house that combines the local, traditional architecture of Santorini 'cave' houses, with more modern, contemporary design touches, resulting in what they call Cycladic Minimalism," Bellonias told Departures. "I was looking to create a place to retreat to after a busy day and enjoy quiet relaxation."


Courtesy Yannis Bellonias

There are three bedrooms in total, as well as several common areas and a terrace pool that overlooks the sea below. All the interiors were hand-created from the local pressed cement technique, which fades and ages naturally, creating a beautiful effect. 


Courtesy Yannis Bellonias

While these classic techniques certainly make the home unique, there are a few elements that truly make it stand out. For example, Bellonias found a large rock inside the house during the restoration, and it's now his outdoor dining table. There was also a space with no windows that he turned into the "black bedroom" to be the perfect place for restful sleep.


Courtesy Yannis Bellonias

In total contrast to the black bedroom, there's another bedroom that has access from outside and lots of natural light. Then, if you look up, you actually see the bottom of the swimming pool.  "It's a touch of fun and practical too, adding light to the room," said Bellonias.


Courtesy Yannis Bellonias

Another interesting detail is the window in the floor by the dining table. It is actually a natural well where our water comes from, straight from the cave. He glazed it so you can observe this rather than hiding it away.  

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In general, these types of dwellings are typically 50 feet long, going deep into the rock, and the ceilings are around 20 feet high. So, the clever use of skylights is essential to bring light through the house, making it feel airy and spacious, almost like a church. The iconic window shapes between the living room and island kitchen reflect the traditional cave dwellings.


Courtesy Yannis Bellonias

Elsewhere, you'll find two outdoor areas that make the most of the incredible views out to sea. "I love to watch the sunsets from the pool," he added. 

The design found in Bellonias' home is very similar to those in his hotel Vora. The beautiful property only has three rooms that are also carved into the cliffs of the island. It was also totally hand-built over four years as machinery could not reach its cliff-side location. Each has a plunge pool and a spacious and private terrace. "This view is the star of the show," said Bellonias. "And one of the iconic things about Santorini."