On an extra hot summer afternoon I walked down Thissio and paid a visit to Live in Athens 02, Varnabas, Andreas, Vassilis and Antonis’ second short stay apartment. I have to say I was amazed to see what four guys can do to a place, and not just any guys, but four guys who are not into the construction business, nor architects, but they have good taste, good laughs and good goals! Just hours before closing the deal on their third apartment for Live in Athens, they showed me around their masterpiece and posed in their renovate-the-apartment outfits.
So, there’s four of you, with completely different backgrounds, is that right?
Yes. I, Varnavas, am a graphic designer and art director. Andreas is a designer, currently designing exhibition stands. Vassilis is now finishing his studies at the Food Technology department and Antonis works at a hotel and at the same time runs his family’s taverna Μάνα μου Ματζουράνα μου.
And how did you guys meet and decided to start Live in Athens?
We all met on the ferry from Crete to Athens one summer. It was a fun journey and that’s when we decided to start taking trips together. We’ve travelled to Crete, Gavdos, Evoia, Pelion, Karpenisi, Agrafa, Aigina… and also abroad to Berlin, London and Paris. Berlin was one of our recent trips and on our way back home we started working on the idea of how a short stay apartment in Greece could actually work. It wasn’t long before we actually gave it a try. Our first apartment was ready for rent in early Spring and it’s already booked for most 2013!
Both your apartments and the one you have set your eye on are located in Thission. Why is that?
Well when we decided to start this business we were thinking of ourselves as tourists in Athens. So, if we were visiting this city, where would we like to stay? Thission is a very nice area. It’s quiet and safe, it offers amazing views to Acropolis and the general area of Athens and it’s located right in the center of the city. We have seen apartments in other areas as well, but Thission one outdid them all.
How does this work exactly? Do you own the apartments you rent?
No, we rent them and then sublet them.
And what were the landlords’ reactions when you told them what you wanted to do?
Some people had no idea and no clue of what a short stay apartment is and we tried to explain that to them on the phone, when booking an appointment to see the apartment. If we understood that they were afraid of letting us set our business on the places we would rent, we cancelled the appointment, as we didn’t want to lose any time.
Where do you guys live?
Antonis live in Imittos and the rest of us in Pagkrati.
How come you aimed for apartments? How much do you actually change the place you will be renting?
We also thought of renting houses and then subletting the rooms to people visiting Athens, but that would cost too much and we wouldn’t be getting the result we wanted. The apartments we rent have gone through slight changes, like the colors of the walls, maybe some changes in the bathrooms or kitchen, so it can be new and clean, but we are not doing major things like tearing down walls or anything. We want to keep the character of an Athenian apartment as live and vivid as possible. Trying to do something else would just cause the beauty and reality of it all to fade.
Do you meet the people that stay in Live in Athens personally?
Oh yes! Most of the people who stay in our apartments end up being our friends. We take them out and show them around. Once a couple renting Live in Athens 01 threw a dinner party at the apartment and we were guests at the apartment we were renting. That was nice!
You have made many of the things and furniture in the apartments. Like the painting in the living room, which has been done by Vassilis, or the wooden stools, which were designed by Andreas. Do you sell these things?
No, not yet. But we were thinking if this goes well, we would start our own gallery / exhibition space and maybe sell some. So far, we are only promoting independent Greek producers. For example we have friends who make their own organic jam or olive oil, so we have a small sample in the fridge and if you like it you can order some to take back home with you. And of course, we are showing our Greek hospitality for every guest arriving at Live in Athens. That would either be a homemade spanakopita, or homemade ice-cream. It’s nice to take care of your guests.
What was the hardest thing you had to work on in this apartment? And what was the thing you were most sorry to get rid of?
The floors. We had to rub them so many times to get the marbles in the balcony and the bathroom all cleaned up. We were in serious pain after scraping the floors! I guess the thing we were sad to get rid of was the kitchen’s ventilation. It was such a nice and retro fan, but they don’t sell those any more.
A few comments on the things pictured above: Most furniture in Live in Athens apartments are hand me downs from family and friends or fabricated by the guys alone. / The lamp in the bedroom used to be an old car’s honk. / The back of the chair which serves as a hanger was designed by Andreas. / The painting in the living room was made by Vassilis. / The guys are teaming up with Athens Insiders, a team providing tailor made visits around Athens for special offers and package deals. / Live in Athens has people visiting from all over the world and that makes them proud and happy. / None of the boys have had the chance to stay at least for a night in the apartments they rent.