The Turkish traveler Evliyia Celebi describes the mansions of the Greek quarter in 17th century Kastoria as being: "grand seraglios of a strange and curious nature. All the houses on the shores of the lake possess boatsheds and enclosed balconies. The seraglios are mansions with ports, and with one floor above the other in the Constantinople style."
The lavishly decorated houses in Kastoria, which were built by wealthy merchants from the late 17th into the 19th century, have layouts which evolved from simple rectangles into a cross enclosed within a square, without undergoing any change in the arrangement or function of the rooms.
The ground floor contains the auxiliary and storage spaces, the mezzanine a central area with a staircase and the winter rooms. The, usually two, best rooms on the upper storey are arranged around a central reception area ('doxatos') with 'krevates' and 'kioskia', special raised daises with wooden railings.
The ground floor and mezzanine are built of stone and have only a few openings (air shafts, small windows), while the upper storey and the covered balconies are made of lighter material (varnished 'tsatmas', half timbering filled with various types of rubble, and plastered), particularly the section overlooking the lake or the inner courtyard, and illuminated by a double row of windows.