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At Home In Greece: An Architectural and Interior Design Office
by Aspa Papazaharia
Our business started with a simple idea; how can someone who owns property in Greece but lives abroad develop and manage their property as if they were a full time native. We want to cut through all the bureaucracy and complications and deliver a well-designed space that makes you feel at home in Greece. That’s how we came up with the name for our office which is based in New York with offices in Athens and serves clients in both countries.
Our New York Office
I am Aspa Papazaharia an Architect who grew up in Greece and came to the United States to study. I have a Master of Arts in Architecture from SUNY Buffalo and a Master of Science in Advanced Architectural Design AAD from Columbia University.
I have worked in Architecture offices both in New York and Athens Greece. While working as an Architect in Athens I met my business partner Christina Fractopoulou. Together we formed an office to serve the needs of Greeks and Americans outside of Greece who have property, want to evaluate a property they are considering buying, or just helping managing the day to day when they are not there. We also do Interior Design for clients in New York or anywhere.
Our Office in Athens
Christina Fractopoulou has a degree from the Ecole d’Architecture de Grenoble, DPLG as well as one year at the Universidad Politecnica de Madrid. She is a licensed Architect and has been working for twenty years with her team doing commercial, residential architectural work as well as property management. Our colleagues Alexandros Papadias and Thisseas Fractopoulos are both experienced architects with numerous architectural construction projects in their portfolio, commercial and residential with different budgets, large and small. Thisseas Fractopoulos specializes on Energy Certification Documents, which are now required to get permits to rent or develop property in Greece.
Living the Greek Reality
When I was in my twenties I inherited an unfinished commercial property. I decided to develop it myself instead of giving part of it to a developer and letting them handle it, as many people in Greece do. This project taught me a lot, for example, I learned how to earthquake proof an older building, navigate changing building regulations, etc. While I was involved in this project I got engaged to my husband who is American and found myself going back and forth between the two countries and eventually settling in New York. This experience made me realize how stressful and time consuming it can be managing a property from outside Greece.
The idea for my business really crystalized one summer when I took two days out of my vacation in Greece to have part of the building painted and the painter never showed up. At that moment I wished I had someone that I could trust, who had my key and would ensure that the work was finished the way I wanted it from beginning to end. I realized that there must be other people with the same issues. While I go to Greece often and speak the language, I know many people who don’t go as often or don’t speak Greek and these situations are much harder for them. That’s why we created this company; we felt that there was a group of people who was underserved and who would find this service useful or even invaluable.
How Our Office Works
At our company ‘At Home In Greece’ I am the contact person in the United States so our clients don’t have to travel. They can come to our office in New York to have the initial consultation where we talk about their needs. For example if there is an existing property that needs to be managed such as an apartment in Athens, or a summer house in the Islands. With a simple floor plan we can talk about the clients’ needs by doing sketches of basic design ideas that the client has. If the clients don’t have a floor plan or a document from the Building Department, we can create an initial floor plan and my partner in Greece can track the B.D. documents down. Every project is different. From this initial consultation the next step could be having our people in Athens make small cosmetic changes like painting or it could be getting documents from the local building department or filing papers for a permit. If the project is more involved the next step is to produce architectural drawings for construction or three dimensional drawings to help the client see their vision.
The office works. Clients feel they can trust us because we are one team on both sides of the Atlantic. Christina is my counterpart and she is the only one to hold the key to the client’s property. All the workers are part of our team and accountable to our office here in New York. We have a network of construction professionals in Greece that we have worked with for many years who build our projects. This close and long lasting experience together enables us to more accurately calculate the time and cost of a new project. The fact that the team is made up of responsible professionals who have worked together for a long time allows us to deliver high quality projects that meet our exacting standards.