The discerning visitor will notice that Athens is full of noble neoclassical structures denoting its early 20th-century elegance. Expensive to maintain or renovate, and expressing an identity that no longer ties in with Greek reality, many of them have been left to rot. Fortunately, one such building, at 32 Solonos street in Kolonaki, has been rescued by a fashionable young couple (they choose to remain anonymous) who diagnose themselves as being “obsessed with old buildings,” and who spent three years looking for “the one.” The 300-square-meter building, dating to around 1937 (but thought to have existed since before 1900), was once the home of Evripidis Koutlidis, an art collector from Lesvos island, and is now under the aegis of the National Gallery, which is now home to his collection of over 1,500 artworks.
Since December 2014 the building has housed Philos Athens, a concept store selling clothes, accessories and homeware (from American heritage brands like Sandqvist, Pendleton Woolen Mills and Suigeneric, Paris-based Bacsac and British Falcon Enamelware), as well as serving food and drinks in its ground-floor café, and aspiring to create a cultural community through live artistic events.
The owners’ want to engage the visitor’s senses as they browse through items on racks, shelves or glass cabinets. Different soundtracks – such as birdsong, crashing waves, poetry readings and music – are played in each room, which are permeated by wafts of freshly brewed coffee and mouthwatering food.
The interior of the building has been kept in a condition reminiscent of its history. The moldings that had been painted over dozens of times while it was a home, heavy windows with original glass, a marble sink and wood stove in the kitchen, an old heavy wood staircase winding up the three floor levels and a beautiful stained glass window on the roof, generate a haunting feeling for the time the building was a home, while the space is also imbued with an edgy contemporary aesthetic crafted by its present-day proprietors.
The ground-level café serves what the owners describe as “basic, seasonal Mediterranean dishes – nothing fancy or exotic, just good food.” Their self-confessed passion for eggs is why they serve all varieties of them, including Greek favorites like kayana, comprising scrambled egg, tomato sauce and Mani syglino (smoked pork), and strapatsada, another scrambled egg and tomato sauce dish but with feta and oregano. Tarts, salads, sandwiches, soups and dishes of the day are also on offer, as is a special Sunday menu.
Philos Athens is a concept store with intriguing character, and the care and vision that has been poured into it is evident in every corner. It’s an ideal hangout on a cool, rainy day when you want quality time with your laptop, friend or lover in a place with an understated yet unique style and a soothing atmosphere, or to shop around for textiles and accessories that the owners have spotted on their travels around the world.
32 Solonos, Kolonaki
• Tel.: (+30) 210.361.9163