architecture

Step inside Maximos Mansion, the Greek 'White House'

Updated 15th June 2021
Credit: Marco Argüello/AD
Step inside Maximos Mansion, the Greek 'White House'
Written by Jacqui Palumbo, CNN
Nestled on a tree-lined street in Athens, the pale pink and white Maximos Mansion is the residence and office of Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Located just off the famed Syntagma Square, and near the Presidential Mansion and Hellenic Parliament, the modest low-slung building is neoclassical in style, welcoming visitors through a portico with twin ionic columns.
The 1921 mansion has been the seat of every Greek prime minister since 1982, and it was in serious need of an interior overhaul by the time Mitsotakis took office in 2019, according to first lady Mareva Grabowski-Mitsotakis.
First Lady Mareva Grabowski-Mitsotakis among some of the art and furniture of the reception area, including an oval marble table from on.entropy and an untitled canvas by Apostolos Georgiou.
First Lady Mareva Grabowski-Mitsotakis among some of the art and furniture of the reception area, including an oval marble table from on.entropy and an untitled canvas by Apostolos Georgiou. Credit: Marco Argüello/AD
"It had not been repainted since 2004, just before Athens hosted the Olympics," she said in an Architectural Digest online exclusive. Just a few years later, following the Great Recession, the country faced a debt crisis that sent its economy into a tailspin and forced austerity measures.
In early 2021, with Maximos Mansion seeing far fewer visitors due to the coronavirus pandemic, Grabowski-Mitsotakis decided the time was right for a restoration. She wanted to finish by Greek Independence Day on March 25, expecting they might be able to have a scaled-down ceremony, since the spread of the virus in the nation appeared to have slowed.
"(The Prime Minister) said, 'You can do whatever you like, but it can't cost the Greek state one penny,'" Grabowski-Mitsotakis recalled.

A rotating display

A team of volunteer curators and collectors helped Grabowski-Mitsotakis plan the upgrade of three rooms: a formal meeting room, a reception area dubbed "the living room," and the Prime Minister's office. The updated office features wood-paneled walls and geometric lighting fixtures by designer Michael Anastassiades, while the remodeled "living room," where dignitaries are received, is an inviting white room overlooking greenery outside. The space houses modern furniture, including an oval white marble coffee table by the sister-led brand On Entropy, a blown-glass Soda table by Yiannis Ghikas, and leather and walnut chairs by Saridis of Athens.
In fact, each room is filled with art and design objects made by Greek artists and artisans, with many on loan from studios as well as private and institutional collections. Grabowski-Mitsotakis decided the restoration would "represent the Greek people" in addition to the country's culture through a rotating presentation of these items.
The Neoclassical-style Maximos Mansion was designed in 1921 but had several purposes, including being used as a guesthouse for foreign dignitaries, before it became the residence and office of the prime minister in 1982.
The Neoclassical-style Maximos Mansion was designed in 1921 but had several purposes, including being used as a guesthouse for foreign dignitaries, before it became the residence and office of the prime minister in 1982. Credit: Marco Argüello/AD
"The idea is to change the art on display every two years so we can demonstrate the talent and craftsmanship of local artists," she said, though she noted the boundaries they had to work within. "We're not a museum; we have very limited space."
The current display includes an acrylic-on-canvas painting, "Full Moon TH" by midcentury painter Yiannis Moralis, two photographs by 20th-century photographer Nelly's, and the iron sculpture "Minotaur" by artist Alex Mylona. One wall of the living room is covered with a work consisting of two tufted tapestries that depict the verdant Samaria Gorge on the island of Crete and extend from the wall out onto the floor, anchored by fabric boulders. Titled "Hope the Voyage Is a Long One," its creator is textile artist Alexandra Kehayoglou.
Grabowski-Mitsotakis explained that, while the new interior serves to embody Greek art and culture, it is personal to her and Prime Minister Mitsotakis as well.
"We are guardians of this place for a few years," she told Architectural Digest. "My philosophy is: You might as well leave your soul in the places where you spent time. You have to love the places that represent you."
Top image: The art and furniture of the "living room" in Maximos Mansion.