Aegean Expedition

by | Aug 29, 2023 | EYE | 0 comments

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Maria Lemos had had enough of spending numerous family summers on Patmos in the eastern Aegean, close to the Turkish coast.

Lemos, the creator of the Rainbowwave showroom and Mouki Mou concept stores, has long adored the island for fashion enthusiasts, which is peppered with private houses and hyper-styled rentals, but she was also restless and desired to experience the island in a new, more personal way.

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Lemos and her husband Gregoris Kambouroglou acted quickly when Pagostas, a guesthouse owned by the monastery of St. John the Theologian and erected in 1597, was put up for auction.

They signed a long-term lease on the property at Chora, the island’s capital and home to the dominant monastery from the 11th century. The monastery has been a popular destination for Christians and Greek Orthodox pilgrims for ages because it is said that St. John wrote the Book of Revelation and his Gospel there.

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Lemos and her husband never intended to open hotels, but they fell in love with the location and reasoned, “Why not?”

“We both enjoy having guests over, and we had already made the decision to live out more of our lives in Patmos. We both genuinely wanted it, but we didn’t realize how much work it would require at the time, says Lemos, a Greek native who spent his formative years in both Athens and London.

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A view from the rooftop terrace at Pagostas.

Their initiative also served a larger goal.

The house belonged to the monastery, and for us, that was the most fascinating aspect. “We’re here doing something that isn’t really for profit. It’s more of a labor of love and an act of community service.

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The repair was overseen by Kambouroglou, a retired orthopedic and trauma surgeon. Since Patmos, like many Greek islands, only has a modest medical center, he closely collaborated with local craftsmen and builders to become the island’s de facto physician.

Leda Athanasopoulou, an interior designer who has rebuilt several antique homes on the island, was hired by the couple to redecorate the area in accordance with their concept.

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They divided it into three sizable bedrooms, updated the bathrooms, and added communal spaces where guests could have breakfast, socialize over cocktails, or take in the view of the hills and horizon.

Lemos claims Kambouroglou spins his extensive collection of vinyl recordings all year long, including Greek opera, classical music, and rock ‘n’ roll.

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A bedroom at Pagostas

Even though he wrote the music, she has a more polished, bohemian style. Pagostas is a quiet place that looks like it came straight out of a song by Homer.

“Patmos is very old-fashioned, and where you live is part of the church. We wanted to show how Greeks live and find a balance between custom and the modern world, says Lemos.

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She also asked herself, “How can we get by with less?” Greece is about simplicity and the basics, but those basics have to be current, she says.

The stone walls, vaulted archways, terracotta floor tiles, and steep slate stairs are all original to the house. Most of the home goods were made to order in Greece, and the bathrooms are new.

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Sheets, towels, and napkins for Pagostas were all hand-woven. The pottery was made by three women in Athens, and the glass was blown by hand in Crete. The silverware from England is a rare exception.

Lemos says, “Pagostas is not rustic. If you want to do simple, the elements and parts need to be very high-end.”

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Some of the furniture came from old shops in Athens, while other pieces were made in the area.

“I also have a few personal touches, like the Bauhaus chandelier and the Swedish tapestry. “They kind of catch you off guard,” says Lemos. “They are a surprise, but they fit perfectly.”

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She has design in her blood.

Lemos started her job in fashion by working for John Galliano and Clements Ribeiro. She later opened the Rainbowwave showroom in London, which has helped brands like JW Anderson, Marios Schwab, and Carven get their start. She opened the first Mouki Mou store in London ten years ago. In May, she opened a second one in Athens.

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Lemos and her husband planted plumbago, myrtle, and lemon trees in the walled garden. They did this with the help of landscape artist Helli Pangalou.

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The original arches, stone fireplace and beamed ceilings have been preserved at Pagostas.

The herbal bath items come from the Naxos Apothecary, which is one of the best fragrance and personal care brands in Greece. Lemos worked on a custom candle with her old friend and fellow Londoner Lyn Harris of Perfumer H.

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The food is from the island itself.

For breakfast, you might have eggs, cheese, and yogurt on brown bread with schinos, which is a type of flavorful root. Lemos’ mother-in-law makes jams and drinks from quinces, figs, and other fruits when they are in season. Heather from the nearby island of Lipsi is used to make honey.

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Lemos loves Pagostas as much as any of the guests, even though he has to work hard and travel back and forth across Europe a lot.

“Holidays have changed,” says Lemos, who spent his first New Year’s on Patmos this year. “My trip to Patmos in January was probably the best vacation I had all year. This whole project has put me in a totally new situation.”

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The kitchen at Pagostas.

More and more of Lemos’ time is being spent in Greece. Lemos took on another job while she and her husband worked to fix up the guesthouse. In May, she opened a branch of Mouki Mou in Athens. Even though she was born and raised in Athens, she had never done business there before. She says it has been an exciting experience.

Mouki Mou is in a house from the 1970s in the historic neighborhood of Plaka, and you can see the Acropolis from there.

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Lemos once again worked with Leda Athanasopoulou, who is an interior designer. She also planted a garden on the huge roof deck, which she plans to use for parties, shows, and other events.

The store sells clothes, jewelry, and things for everyday life, just like London, but it is different in many ways. Lemos says that Mouki Mou is the first fashion concept store to open in Athens. The crowd is different from London, and the focus is more on building a wardrobe and introducing foreign designers to the market.

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Breakfast on the terrace.

“The goal is to show the people of Athens and the people from other countries who live there a variety of artists and makers that they hadn’t seen before. We sold Lemaire in London, but I’ve stopped buying it now that it’s everywhere. But that’s not true in Athens, so we’re selling Lemaire there,” says Lemos.

She also sells the French clothing brand Casey Casey for the same reasons. She also wants to bring in the London brand Toogood, whose clothes, ceramics, and furniture are all made by the artist Faye Toogood, who works in many different fields.

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“I’m learning about the people who come from Greece. It’s about building a loyal customer base, just like in London, and we’re starting to do that in Athens. I didn’t expect to have fans all over the world, so that was a surprise,” says Lemos.

“Everyone from Rainbowwave, Mouki Mou, and Pagostas passes through Athens in the summer. Lemos says that the lines between the three are becoming less clear.

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Her style keeps getting bigger and bigger.

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