There have surely been few hotel openings more ill-starred than that of New Hotel, which unveiled its radically renovated interior in the heart of Athens just as furious anti-austerity protestors took to the city streets in June. But the latest property of Cypriot hotelier Dakis Joannou came through the disturbances unmolested, despite being located a mere stroll from Syntagma Square, where peaceful protesters and car-burning indignados are still intermittently demonstrating their discontent. Banking on a sustainable style of luxury that seems geared to a post-crash economy, the hotel hopes to receive any tourists trickling back to the Greek capital as the country, and Europe, pull together to try and save the union.
The hotel's designers, Brazilian brothers Fernando and Humberto Campana, are masters of recycled chic and have fashioned the interiors with materials that look as though they have been yanked off last summer's barricades. The lobby walls are mesmerizing collages of old wooden furniture pieces; the restaurant columns, bedecked with chest drawers and table legs, resemble a fairy-tale forest. Many fittings have simply been salvaged from the building, formerly the Olympic Palace Hotel, which shut its doors in 2004. The elegant Modernist wood-and-brass balustrade and its white marble stairs were restored; various vintage chairs have been restyled or combined for charming new looks. "Instead of promoting more garbage and moving it to another place in Athens," says Fernando Campana, "we decided to put it inside the new hotel."
For the guest rooms, the brothers have designed graceful lamps and furniture such as the fanciful but practical "ladder chair," whose slats reach to the ceiling and function as clothes hangers, and bedside tables that double as stools. Bathroom mirrors have a funky jagged edge, and the long oak desks neatly conceal multiple functions in their sleek fragmented forms. Floors of light, eco-friendly bamboo contrast with lush, dark corridor walls covered in a textured cloth fashioned out of Moracceae bark in Uganda.
Amenities include a basement business center, gym, and small spa with treatment rooms. In keeping with the air of informality, the restaurant is set up like a market. It features an organic coffee bar, a produce area serving fresh salads, shelves displaying homemade baked goods, and floor-to-ceiling windows that integrate it with the vibrant street life. Hopefully the latter will soon be free of balaclava-clad youths hurling petrol bombs. In the meantime the New Hotel makes a relatively safe alternative to the luxury hotels right on parliament square, where a gas mask is de rigueur.
The prices for New Hotel's 79 rooms are reasonable, with doubles from about $225. See newhotel.athenshotels.it.