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Nikos Karaflos
The Imagineer

MBO Dexamenes KV

Words Steph WadeImages Ana Santl

Since he was a child, Nikos Karaflos, the Greek native leading Dexamenes Seaside Hotel in Western Peloponnese, has found creative purpose and refuge in his hometown of Kourouta.

Karaflos balances his creative, playful side with his more technical side through the identity of “Imagineer,” a self-titled portmanteau that combines imagination and engineering. The long-term result of these two different styles of thinking is Dexamenes, a former wine production factory positioned on the edge of a beach that Karaflos and his family converted into an arresting and unusual seaside hotel.

His love for the arts shines through the cultural programming of the venue, which is inspired by the hotel’s former history: think immersive performance art shows engaging site-specific sculptures, art exhibitions and festivals, artist-designed wine tastings, and curated dinners inside the hotel’s signature silo tanks. Karaflos is as passionate about culture as he is about history, biodiversity, and science. We speak to the Original about some of the things close to his heart: parenting, nature, history, art, and the links between religion and rituals.

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Kourouta beach where forest and sea meet.

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Bounded memories in a handmade guestbook of natural paper at Dexamenes.

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Local grape varieties such as Roditis, Avgoustiatis, and Black Corinth Currants thrive on the hotel grounds.

How would you describe yourself and the work that you do right now?

I call myself an “Imagineer,” as in, combining imagination and engineering. I always want to keep my spirit creative, but I also have an engineering background, which is technical and dry. It helps me to structure my thoughts though, and helps to make my creative ideas more real and applicable.

An interesting portmanteau given your disparate background—from studying engineering and computer science, to working in the architecture field with Greek firm K Studio, and now to hospitality—how do these different industries coalesce in your understanding of the world?

It gave me the knowledge that everything has to be as holistic and diverse as possible. Holistic in the sense that I try to do everything with a 360-degree approach, and diverse in that there needs to be different input from different people, across different fields. So, for example, at Dexamenes, all the experiences we offer are enriched by one another: art, wine, the historical background of the site, the local culture, and connection to nature. These are sort of pillars that I live by, and that the hotel’s concept is based on.

“In the end, creativity and innovation are the things that change the world.”

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Zymosis a fruit & sound installation "imagineered" by Karaflos.

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Was there any religious or spiritual element to your childhood? Where did you grow up?

I grew up in a village near Kourouta, in the Peloponnese region. It was a simple and slow life. I remember appreciating the qualities of time and space, especially after traveling to more urban environments. I was raised in a small town where people are pretty serious Greek Orthodox Christians. I didn’t personally label myself as one, but what came out of that time was a love for rituals. There are always different rituals happening—like fasting, gifting, and feasting on certain days—and as the region was, and still is, mainly agricultural, the harvest calendar is greatly synchronized with the religious calendar. So for example, if you want to harvest grapes, you have to do it after the feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus (Metamorfosi Sotiros) on the 6th of August (laughing).

What is it about the Peloponnese peninsula that speaks to your life’s philosophy?

It’s full; it has everything. The beaches are like those you see on the islands, but the mainland is very beautiful. I love the biodiversity of the different environments, from sea to mountain. Then there is its history, with Olympia being the birthplace of the Olympic Games. If I describe it in one word it is “complete.”

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Graffiti art in the background by artist Silver.Formz

Walk us through your morning routine and beyond; what does a typical day look like for you?

I have two kids, so mornings are spent eating breakfast with them and my wife. That’s my favorite part of the day. After they’re dropped off at school, I head to the hotel. We have a meeting at midday everyday with the department heads to brief on the coming events of the day, week, or month. Afternoons are for all the creative stuff: cultural events, exhibitions, or collaborations with galleries or institutions. During the summer, I love to go sunset swimming, and then afterwards, dinner is usually at the hotel or at home with my family.

Why did you choose this venue, a former wine factory, to be the site of your hotel?

Because it has history and a story to tell. A huge industrial wine tank right on the water’s edge? That is so interesting to me. And because it relates to the trade era of our country’s past. Since the liberation of the Greek kingdom back in the 1830s, this region used to produce huge quantities of blackcurrants that were exported to Europe—more than 80% of the entire country’s economic output came from these dark little raisins. Everything was based around the production of these currants, even cultural activities: they had fiestas to celebrate the harvest. As you can imagine, when the demand fell a crisis broke out, so they built wineries like ours to convert the grapes into wine and export wine instead.

“I try to educate my kids, to learn about nature, plants, seasons, and biodiversity. And I try to ensure my business has a good impact on society and the environment. That's what motivates me.”

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Are you a big wine guy personally?

Despite what you might expect, I actually don’t like to drink wine by itself! But I do like food and wine pairings. My favorite wine is a local dessert wine, Chortais; naturally produced using sun-cured grapes that mature in oak barrels for at least 8 years before bottling.

What is a typical dish or ingredient from the region, besides currants?

Tomatoes and watermelons, and then strawberries in the spring. We have so many tomatoes that grow here, so many of our recipes include tomatoes. On the menu you’ll see eggs with tomatoes, tomato spreads and sauces, tomato soups. It’s never ending. They’re so sweet and ripe.

What is something significant in your life that gives you purpose?

My family and my love for creation: I love daring to do new stuff. In the end, creativity and innovation are the things that change the world. I try to educate my kids to think this way too, and to learn about nature, plants, seasons, and biodiversity. And I try to ensure my business has a good impact on society and the environment. That's what motivates me.

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Food for thought Karaflos explores the intersection of fermented foods & sound through his art project “Zymosis”.

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Featured Hotels


Dexamenes Seaside Hotel

Kourouta, Peloponnese, Greece

Featured Hotels


Dexamenes Seaside Hotel

Greece, Kourouta, Peloponnese
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