The White Houses of Crete by Marit Stray

This article, by Marit Stray first appeared in the April 1999 issue of KK-Magasinet.

A Norwegian language version of this article is also available.

The houses at Makrigialos

The whitewashed houses with their blue shutters look as if they have been there forever, but they were nearly in ruins just a few years back. Originally they were built as storage houses for the fruit and olive oil which were shipped out to Sitia. Gunnar Strømsholm has been in charge of their restoration.

"Had I not been a stubborn Norwegian from the west coast of Norway, these idyllic holiday homes would not be here today. Greek bureaucracy demands treasures of patience" says Gunnar.

Gunnar contacted two architects in Heraklion, one Greek and one Italian. They both knew the old building traditions which they have reconstructed as closely and carefully as possible. The first drafts were made in 1994 and two years later the works started. The work was completed and the first guests arrived in late 1997. The village priest blessed the houses in the traditional manner.

The houses are extremely comfortable, with every modern utility necessary for today's lifestyle. They are air-conditioned and have dishwashers, washing machines and luxury bathrooms. The interiors are furnished with beautiful antiques from Crete, and modern furniture and textiles.

"I wanted to create something authentic", says Gunnar. "Most of the antiques have been bought in antique or second hand shops on the island. A good friend of mine in Heraklion helped with the list of furniture I needed, and the hunt for pieces started all over the island. I now know every square meter of these houses, every detail. It was very difficult for me to let go and let strangers move in as I have put such a lot of my soul into making these houses what they are today. I am very proud of what I have achieved."

Gunnar Strømsholm

Gunnar Strømsholm comes from Kristiansund, Norway, but has lived most of his life abroad. "I have had an enormous need to explore since I was a child!" Today Gunnar spends his time between his houses in Crete and Key West (Florida USA).