From Drab to Fab: Extreme Hotel Makeover for Art Reality Show


I'm gripping the moped seat with all my strength, praying to God that I keep my life while Eva drives us all over the city searching for building materials and plants. The roads are not smooth by any means, and there is no possible way to understand the rules of the road.

Every narrow street feels like a one-way, and the stop signs – if there are any – are camouflaged into the buildings, bushes, and flowers. Every intersection becomes a game of chicken with the other scooters and ATVs. Eva has spent most of her life on the island of Spetses, so I resign myself to trusting her expertise, knowing my life is in her hands, while I think of solutions for our film set.

Unexpected Hotel Modifications 

The Lianos Hotel - View of the pool

The owner of the Lianos Hotel removed the bamboo rooftops from all the shaded areas to construct a "fence," designating our part of the hotel as "private." He sequestered the back half of the hotel to other guests so he could rent out those rooms despite telling us we'd have the entire hotel to ourselves. This meant we had the part that was fenced off to ourselves. As we looked at the roofless porches, we knew we needed to do something to create shade for the contestants while they painted.

The hotel had good bones, a lovely pool, multiple balconies, and a gorgeous view, but it lacked any plants or flowers. The rooms were bare of any décor, with only one white sheet on the beds and nothing on the walls. Not a single decorative item, bathmat, soap dish, or even a rug in sight. We paid Panayiotis, the owner of the hotel, early as requested because he said he needed the money to repaint the hotel before we came. Did he repaint? No, he did not. The paint was chipping and discolored throughout the hotel. Knowing we would not win that battle, we chose to remain friendly for the sake of the show.

The poolside lounge chairs and furniture were in a dismal state, with faded Coca-Cola emblems on dirty cushions. Some of the lounge chairs didn't even have cushions. The pool furniture looked like it was at least 20 years old, threatening to ruin nearly every shot of the pool area. Concerned, I asked Panayiotis, "What can we do about the pool furniture?"

Rapid Renovations and Creative Solutions

He stroked his chin thoughtfully, acting like he was getting a good idea. "You know, I can fix this for you. I'll buy brand new cushions for the pool chairs, but they'll cost about 100 euros each. If you pay for half, I can have the new cushions here by the end of the day." He smiled, quite proud of his slick proposal.

600 euros later, we helped Panayiotis refurbish his poolside. We knew our investment into the property would benefit him greatly, leaving him with a fully redecorated hotel for future guests, but we had no other choice.

Landscaping and Decorating Efforts

Delivery truck of home decor, flowers, plants, and trees to spruce up hotel

Eva and I pulled up to a nursery brimming with lots of plants and small trees in pots. We selected around 20 plants and trees that were lush and beautiful to add some life and color to the stark areas where we would film. Eva organized their delivery to the hotel, and we zipped off to a grocery store that had a home décor section in the basement.

To my pleasant surprise, the store had a shocking number of cute and charming items with an island-boho style. We bought nearly everything available to spruce up the rooms – bedspreads, rugs, baskets, decorative bowls, bathroom necessities, and numerous large throws. We would use the throw blankets as drop cloths and furniture covers to keep everything from getting paint on it.

We organized yet another sizable delivery. I knew the word was spreading throughout Spetses on what we were doing, especially because every human on the island knew Eva. At the hardware store, we scoured for materials to cover the porches now missing their roofs. They could arrange for a contractor to build something for us, but it would take weeks for materials to arrive on the island. Our only immediate option was a silver-colored tarp sold by the meter. We must've bought their entire supply, hoping it would work and vowing to keep the ugly silver tarp completely off camera.

Creating a Tropical Paradise

I was absolutely shocked at what we accomplished. In just a few hours, with about ten of us working tirelessly, we landscaped and redecorated all the rooms and outdoor spaces and even reroofed the porches all before lunchtime. I don't know how we managed, but the hotel and pool area now looked like a tropical paradise, and the rooms were gorgeous.

However, the shade was still an issue. As I saw the morning shade disappear by 11am and not return til 7pm, I knew we had a serious problem. The porch area we had covered with the tarp was too small to fit all 13 contestants to paint. It was only big enough to hold eliminations.

Preparing for the Artist's Arrival

But solving the shade issue would have to be accomplished another day. My muscles ached, and I was drained from the heat. Now, with the artists arriving on the island, we shifted our focus to feeding them and getting them situated in their rooms. They will only have one day to adjust, and then filming will begin.

My excitement and anticipation grew as I thought about how this hotel would become an artist's haven for the next six weeks. All of the artists gathering together, creating art non-stop in such a beautiful place, filled me with relief and satisfaction. Our efforts to transform the hotel were worth every sweaty moment, pulling it all together. It would not have happened without Eva, and hanging her art on every wall of the rooms made a huge transformative difference. Art truly has the power to change the entire atmosphere of a space.

The Transformative Power of Art

Lianos Hotel's newly redecorated rooms

This is when what we are doing with this season of "The Outstanding Artist" punched me in the gut. Like our transformation of the hotel, a reality show about art and the beautiful journey of an artist has the power to transform anyone who watches. Witnessing the stories of these artists, their growth, and their ability to adapt and overcome is absolutely transformative.

When I first walked into this hotel, despite its good heart and solid foundation, it still looked sad, desolate, and bleak. It needed beauty. It needed color. It needed soft pillows, textured rugs, and plants with fruit, flowers, and life. These touches brought out the hotel's full potential, giving it majesty and radiance.

Embracing Change and Challenges

I sensed what was coming for these artists. Their confidence would blossom, and they would face their fears, difficulties, and great discouragement, only to look beyond it. Through these challenges, they would find the lessons, see the big picture, and know deeply why they are an artist – to be convinced that this is their true calling, their true destiny. They would become powerfully invested in the artist's journey and have the courage and love to share their vulnerabilities with others. This show would be powerful and profound, awakening deep things within the souls of its viewers.

I knew that whatever heartaches and discouragements I would face would be worth it. I had to be open to transformation as well. I had to allow my heart to change, soften, and lighten. I, too, had to have courage in my vulnerabilities. I would have to rise up to the challenges and overcome the setbacks.

We can only achieve something great through humility and the willingness to change.

Share your thoughts in the comments below! 


  • Silke

    Art in fact has changed my whole life. Through art and its challenges I learned a lot about the psyche and about myself. I found out what was wrong with the relationship I was living in, that it was toxic and holding me back, making me ill. Art gave me the power to end it. Art gave me the power to overcome it and move on. And art will give me the power to become who I was meant to be. And the Mastery Programme will speed that process up!
    Elli Milan Art replied:
    wow!! TRUTH! love this! I can see you are strong person with integrity and honesty and a lot of self awareness. All the best!

  • Mary Soh

    What an awesome heart-warming response that brought transformation and change in a jiffy….cos’ the art of love was in action!

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