A luxury resort entirely designed by Gian Paolo Venier, from the logo to the landscape, by way of the interiors, as a story of nature and crafts in Crete

It all begins with four rocks, which form an essential, refined logo. Then one enters a world full of impressions, where every detail, even the smallest, narrates the (infinite) possibilities of an island: the green hue of olive trees and grapevines, the pottery turned on a pedal wheel by local artisans, the pebbles and stones arranged in white-gray or white-blue patterns, used by the Greeks for centuries to pave squares. The silhouette of these particular stones was the starting point for the interior designer Gian Paolo Venier, a collaborator of collaborator OTTO Studio-Paola Navone since 2010, to develop a personal project for Cayo, a resort in Plaka, on the stretch of coast known as Elounda, which for 30 years has been Crete’s location for luxury.


Gian Paolo Venier
Passionate traveler, Gian Paolo Venier is constantly looking for afar atmospheres to contaminate his "design vocabulary". Internationally active interior designer, product designer and art director, his distinctive signature combines cosmopolitan elegance with the utmost attention to materials, textures, resulting in bespoke creations and sophisticated color palettes. Since 2010 Venier has been collaborating with Studio OTTO by Paola Navone for interior design projects. From 2013 to 2015 he was responsible for the creative direction of the Italian luxury brand Ivory Collections. He is the art director of Airnova (Italian furniture manufacturer, specializing in leather and metal furniture; since 2016), Mary & by MIA Collections (Greek furniture and lifestyle brand; since 2017) and Abitex (Italian fabric manufacturer; since 2020).

A total project, “from the spoon to the city,” we might have said in the past, and truly camouflaged in the sense that it reproduces the nature of the island, its traditions and crafts, as in a story written with painstaking care, in a space of over two hectares, of which 4500 square meters are indoors. The owner, Venier explains, wanted to create a resort of sober, refined luxury, not overly decorated but certainly welcoming. “The client was interested in my idea of developing a project that would have a strong connection to the territory. Often, people in a given setting are unaware of the beauty that surrounds them, and wind up being attracted by faraway things. We were guided by the desire to realize that the traditions of a place are a fundamental factor. This led to a project developed together, evaluating and challenging everything from the outset, in a true spirit of collaboration.”


The first theme addressed by Venier was that of the surrounding nature, reflected in gardens full of olive trees, the main type of plant in the landscape design. “The palette of the interiors and exteriors rotates around the color of the olive leaves: the Plaka landscape is so strong that I have tried to find the hues that could completely blend into it, attenuating contrasts as much as possible. The same colors return in many of the furnishings and fabrics, while the grapevines (Crete is a land of wines) have become the decorative sign of the parapet of the central staircase, handmade in wrought iron.”

The Elounda landscape is a very strong presence, and the resort is like a big theater, where nature is both actor and spectator, running the risk of making you feel overwhelmed."

The universe of Cretan craftspeople and their traditions is represented by the resort’s entrance wall, with half-pots turned on a pedal wheel in the nearby village, using the shards of the other halves to make the pique-assiette decorations of the columns. Volakas marble crafted in Drama, near Thessaloniki, has been used for the big ‘quotation marks’ inserted in a pour of resin on the floor, forming ‘carpets’ for the services of the guestrooms.


“The Elounda landscape is a very strong presence,” Venier says, “and the resort is like a big theater, where nature is both actor and spectator, running the risk of making you feel overwhelmed.” In the midst of all these vivid features, the interior designer has therefore interpreted the theme of freedom, making a break with the schemes of urban living; along the central staircase, 16 large bamboo cages, with heights from one to three meters, form a lamp with an overall height of 11 meters. From the cages, butterflies have escaped, landing on the walls of the stairwell, all made by hand in sheets of beaten aluminium.


The client was interested in my idea of developing a project that would have a strong connection to the territory"

Outside, the theme of the stones returns, from which the “tale of the island” began. The Cayo logo is made of the four letters of the name, drawn in such a way as to suggest pebbles, traditionally used in Greece for the pavements in front of churches, generally decorated in white and black or white and gray. “The pebbles represent the main concept, which from the logo of four stones extends to the pavement of giant rocks at the beach club, in the spa entirely clad in black pebbles, and in the beach bar.” The pebbles have also been used for the signage of the restrooms. Another example of exceptional attention to detail.

Project by Gian Paolo Venier - Photos Vangelis Paterakis courtesy of Cayo