I am fortunate enough to have had a beautiful mother who taught me the graces of life. She was born in a pink mansion house, built possibly at the end of the nineteenth century in a district called Vaporia, or ‘the ships’, in Hermoupolis, Syros. She left me this house which has decorative elements similar to those you will read about below.
Kois Optics is an optical store on the main commercial street of Hermoupolis, the scenic capital of the island of Syros. Established by Stavros Kois in 1985, the store is located on the ground floor of a historic mansion, which is one of the dozens of historic monuments of the city.
A majestic fresco found on the lofty ceiling in this mansion became the inspiration for a line of exclusive products. It began with a series of limited sunglasses that Stavros launched in 2005, marking the store’s 30th anniversary. However, it was in 2016 that Kois Optics introduced, under the name “Orofografia” (Greek for ceiling drawing), several exclusive collectible products created with Greek designers and artisans.
We are happy to include in A Magic Cabinet, Kois Optics’ impressive silk scarf which magnificently showcases the entirety of the ceiling fresco. It is designed and produced in collaboration with the Greek brand Mantility and created in Soufli, a town in northern Greece famous for its silk industry and quality textiles.
The “Orofografia” range also includes an imaginative variety of sunglasses and jewellery, silk scrunchies, handmade bags and a decorated shawl woven on the traditional Greek loom.
The inspiration for creating this line of products came to Stavros through Catherine Deneuve, forty years ago, when she visited the mansion and suggested the possible creation of a line of products in collaboration with Hermès. It was in 2016 that this idea was reshaped into the “Orofografia” collection, created in Greece by Greek designers instead of French ones.
The Kois Mansion is a three-storey building erected in around 1860, which adopted the neo-classical architectural style that was then dominant in Europe. It was built by Nikolaos Leonardos Karaviotis, a master builder from the island of Andros, and commissioned by Christos Nikolaidis, a wealthy merchant with origins from Evia. The building’s facade is adorned with an impressive pediment and the interior boasts an elaborate marble staircase and numerous exquisite frescoes.
The famous ceiling fresco illustrates eight of the Gods of the Hellenic Pantheon. Painted in vibrant colours it depicts Zeus, Hermes, Themis, Apollo, Demeter, Athena, Poseidon and Artemis who embellish the centre of the fresco. At its four corners are the four most celebrated heroes of the Greek revolution: Rigas Fereos, Georgios Karaiskakis, Theodoros Kolokotronis and Konstantinos Kanaris. The composition is framed by an ornamented frieze typical of the Ionic order.
Stavros Kois’s desire behind the creation of the “Orofografia” series was to celebrate the historic building and keep alive its memory. For Stavros, it is important to share the memory and history of the building to make us remember how life in a mansion was, two centuries ago, when Hermoupolis was the financial and commercial capital of Greece.
As his aim is to highlight Syros’s cultural heritage, part of the proceeds of the “Orofografia” collection are given to the Syros Institute whose aim is to include Hermoupolis in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.