Mamma Mia? Greek villa gives birth to new life
Ever since the movie Mamma Mia, the Greek islands have been associated with romance, love and a healthy lifestyle. Karpathos is no exception, explains Huguette de Chassiron, who found that a four-bedroom villa gave birth to a life she never could have conceived.
Huguette left behind the busy world of London to live on the South Aegean Island with her husband. After six years of relaxed life in the capital, she decided to do something with one of their wedding presents: a plot of land from her sister-in-law.
“We were going to build a hotel but we were stopped by a change in Government policy that removed the grant for the project,” she explains to me as we walk through the quiet countryside towards the property. “So we decided to build our own villa instead!”
“For months we paced the land,” she explains eagerly, “looking at the light for every room and imagining the implications the weather may have. We did this until we were completely sure of the plan then showed it to an architect friend who agreed to take the project on. He transformed my drawing into an earthquake-proof country home.”
Walking through the dining room to the sitting room, the whole property has an impressively open plan, almost graceful, feel. You can even stand in the corner and see out of three sides of the house. It must have been a nightmare to get that right, I comment.
“It was a… collaborative project!” she laughs.
As we stroll into the kitchen, what strikes you is the sheer size of the place. The whole plot of land spans 2,000 square metres, she tells me.
“You can’t build another metre of house on it,” she says. She’s not kidding.
Still, you can tell they laid their plans carefully, leaving a patch outside one of the bedrooms for a swimming pool and even a large space by the entrance to plant a new olive grove. Not that the villa needs any more trees: the building is surrounded by them.
“You can pick fruit straight from the balcony!” says Huguette, only too happy to prove it.
But her astonishment at having her vision so well realised is nothing compared to another surprise the property had in store.
Building the four-bed villa nestled in the mountainside was all part of Huguette’s plan for a new life away from London – a chance to start a family. But after six years of trying, the couple were still without a child.
“I told my doctor in Athens I would stop seeing him so I could finish my house,” says Huguette, sitting down in the main bedroom. “He told me bluntly that I would probably never have children.”
But two weeks after moving in to the half-finished house, the doctor was proven wrong: Huguette suddenly became pregnant. She did what all new mothers would do: continued building her nest.
“I was probably the only resident in the area to be working, driving a truck up and down a bumpy mountain side road until I was 8 months pregnant!” she chuckles.
“We worked hard to finish the house before I gave birth in Athens. I returned a few days later as a mother in her new family home.”
She smiles as the sunset pours in from the coast. I look out from the balcony with its elevated view and take in the breathtaking vista. The stars at night must be spectacular, I think aloud. She nods.
“The moon rises above the ocean right in front of the balcony too. You feel close to nature here.”
I return inside, imagining what storms must look like across the island. Even in the bathroom – one for each main bedroom – you feel close to nature.
It breaks her heart, she continues, to have to sell the place. An equal distance from the main town and the international airport, it’s the perfect place to raise a family – or rent out to another.
I look around the cavernous insides. You could chop the whole thing in two and still have half to yourself while letting the rest out, I muse. With the expensive accommodation in town and that ocean view, demand would surely be strong.
“It could work really well as a holiday home rental,” she says. “There are only three other villas nearby and we have all the necessary internet and telephone connections. You could run anything from here!”
But for her, she admits, this will always be a family home. And now, with her child all grown up and studying abroad, it’s time to downsize and find a smaller nest.
She pauses. “I just hope whoever lives here next will share the same magic we did.”
Mamma Mia, I think – and imagine the look on the next doctor’s face.
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