On a Greek Island, a Couple Find Fresh Creative Possibilities
Though he’s known for creating hotel and restaurant interiors, including those for the popular Brooklyn spots Elsa and Fausto, Oliver Haslegrave works like a set designer, pulling from disparate sources to create intricate, dramatic spaces that tell stories all their own. For the erstwhile West Hollywood cocktail bar Bibo Ergo Sum, for instance, he and his team at Home Studios, the Brooklyn-based design firm he founded in 2009, looked to the Memphis Group, the Vienna Secession and the 1960s films “The Graduate” and “2001: A Space Odyssey,” before installing a black ceiling, curved leather booths and tubular light fixtures.
Haslegrave studied cinema in college; later, he was a book editor. Still, many of his other sources of inspiration — pictures by the British photographer Jamie Hawkesworth, sets that Isamu Noguchi designed for a pair of 1940s works by the choreographer Martha Graham — he learned about from his wife, Cristiana Sadigianis. Prior to launching the organic olive oil label Oracle with Haslegrave in 2019, Sadigianis worked for nearly two decades as a producer, first for the photographer Philip-Lorca diCorcia and later for clients including Nike and Sotheby’s. It was a job that exposed her to new places and experiences: She can still remember the first time she encountered Casa Luis Barragán in Mexico City, or the taste of black artichokes with blood oranges and prawns at Ca Na Toneta, a restaurant in the Majorcan village of Caimari.
After Haslegrave, 42, and Sadigianis, 43, became a couple in 2012, they started traveling together. But no matter where they go, they always return to Greece. Though Sadigianis grew up in New Jersey, she spent summers on her grandparents’ Greek farms — her mother’s parents were in Delphi and her father’s in Corinth — helping to shell almonds and crush grapes for wine. Today, she maintains an olive orchard in Laconia, in the southern Peloponnese, which produces pesticide-free Koroneiki olives that are processed early in the fall harvest season to ensure the resulting oil is on the greener side and thus richer in healthy polyphenols.
Last summer, with Home Studios operating remotely during the pandemic, the couple rented a 1920 stone farmhouse on Andros, in the Cyclades. Settling in wasn’t without its challenges — there are no post offices, or even addresses, on the island — but the languorous lifestyle there soon led them both in new directions. On a whim, Haslegrave borrowed their landlord’s hand tools, procured some timber from the island’s hardware store and set up a makeshift workshop beneath a 300-year-old olive tree. He then began to construct a series of chairs with Greek inflections — one of them, with a high back and asymmetrical rails reminiscent of gnarled wood, was a reimagining of the sort seen in the country’s tavernas, while another had legs that undulated like ocean waves. These served as prototypes for Aprovato, a six-piece collection in maple, oak, mahogany, cherry and walnut that Haslegrave will sell under his own name starting this month.
Sadigianis, meanwhile, decided to expand Oracle’s offerings, and will soon release a body oil. Both sets of her grandparents kept giant clay vats of olive oil, which they would use not only in the kitchen but also, she says, “to anoint themselves.” Sadigianis didn’t want her latest product to smell only of olives, though — highly moisturizing and anti-inflammatory as they may be — so she partnered with a local botanist and a chemist. Limiting themselves to endemic plants, they concocted a blend that incorporates both raw and fermented olive oil (the latter has smaller molecules thought to allow for deeper penetration into the skin) and includes oils from pomegranate and sea fennel, in addition to bergamot, geranium and wild mountain tea from Crete.
Eventually, the pair hope to collaborate on an inn, possibly on Andros, that Haslegrave would design and Sadigianis would run. They’re imagining a warm, minimal place “where the line between a large house and a small hotel gets a little blurred,” says Haslegrave, “and where the possibility of creating the environment down to the last detail seems achievable.”