Interior Design: How to do Moroccan Style

by theartofbespoke in Designer style at home

The Marrakech look is notoriously tricky to pull off. Interior designer Meryanne Loum-Martin offers her tips on how to do it properly.

Ever since Patrick Lichfield took that famous photograph of Talitha Getty on a Marrakech rooftop in 1969, souk style has represented the ultimate in bohemian chic. Get it right and your home appears relaxed, yet vibrant and exotic. Mess it up, though, and it looks like you came back from your holidays with a suitcase full of souvenir tat.

This is the kind of interior design style that most of us need a little help with. After all, how far do you go with it? Is one pouffe or kilim enough, or is it better to embrace the look wholesale, from lanterns to carpets to cupboards? And, if you don’t have a trip to Marrakesh on the cards, where do you buy the stuff, anyway?

‘Morocco has been a crossroads of cultures and styles for centuries. And the Marrakech style offers the possibility of eclecticism.’

Meryanne Loum-Martin, a Paris lawyer turned hotel owner and interior designer, is an expert in Moroccan style. Together with her husband, she owns Jnane Tamsna, a Marrakech boutique hotel. She designed the interiors, her husband the garden. And clearly they did something right. The hotel regularly crops up in photoshoots – Kate Moss recently shot a Longchamp campaign on its roof.

‘Morocco has been a crossroads of cultures and styles for centuries,’ says Loum-Martin. ‘And the Marrakech style offers the possibility of eclecticism. You can mix rugs, candles and pillows, while in terms of furnishings you can have art deco, furniture inlaid with mother of pearl, or very simple pieces with oriental shapes. It’s extremely diverse, which is what I like about it.’

And you don’t need to live in a hot climate for it to work. Having recently launched a line of fabrics, furniture and homewares under the name Inspired by Marrakech, Loum-Martin now regularly sends pieces to chilly cities like London and Geneva, as well as Palm Beach, St Barts and Provence. ‘I produce things that are timeless,’ she says, ‘and could work in any part of the world.’

But if you want to bring a little souk chic into your own home, there are a few rules worth following. ‘If you want to do something Moroccan style, there should be a leading thread, especially if you’re abroad,’ she says. ‘There should be a sense of non-conformity. You can’t put everything straight in the room – it has to be more flowing and spontaneous.’

Perhaps surprisingly, colour isn’t an essential part of the equation. ‘It’s more about the shapes and freedom,’ she says. ‘I could do a room in London that’s all white, or one that’s more colourful.’

And purchasing good-quality things is key. ‘It can be tempting to go to the souk and buy painted furniture,’ she says, ‘but it’s cheap and folkloric. And you’ll see rugs that have little pieces of shiny metal. Avoid them, along with anything that looks like a trinket.’

This is a look that really kicked off in the Sixties – though it existed before then – when rich hippies moved to Marrakech. These people were hippies in that they refused to accept the conformities of the bourgeoisie, but because they came from affluent backgrounds, their style was opulent, mixing lots of high-quality pieces. ‘The decorator Bill Willis really brought the look into fashion,’ says Loum-Martin ‘And today we can draw lessons from his style by mixing very high-quality antiques with beautiful pottery. Lighting, too, is very important – low lamps and lots of candles at night. And maybe one beautiful Moroccan lantern hanging in a corner.’

Low seating is another integral part of Moroccan interior design, as are lots of pillows. Though Loum-Martin thinks these can be from the same fabric, or that you can mix patterns as you wish. ‘What’s important is freedom and flow,’ she says. ‘What you can’t have is two rigid sofas facing each other. There needs to be that sense that you can walk into the room and throw yourself onto the pillows. It needs to be comfortable to walk barefoot on the rug.’

Because the vital thing about Moroccan style, says Loum-Martin, and the reason it has such enduring appeal, is that it engages each of the five senses. Sight is clearly the rich colours and textures. ‘Then you have the sense of touch – the softness of the rug – and smell, which is the scented candles,’ she says. ‘I have two scented candles in my range. One is pepper and spices; the other is a mix of herb gardens and jasmine. If this is infused in a room, you’re already transported somewhere else.’ The third sense, hearing, is all about music. ‘This can be very diverse. And as for taste, it’s very easy to have just a tray with lots of tangerines and fruit. It looks beautiful and tastes great.’

Décor that appeals to all the senses – it’s something worth bearing in mind, whatever look you’re planning for your home.


Resources for Moroccan design:

Inspired By Marrakech Meryanne’s Moroccan interior-design business. Commission your own pieces or choose from her range of china, fabrics, lighting, fabrics, furniture and home accessories.

Bohemia This Edinburgh-based boutique stocks a range of Moroccan-style pouffes, kilims and hammam towels, all of which are available online.

Fired Earth Great for Moroccan-style tiles.

Maroque A one-stop shop for Moroccan lanterns, lamps and furniture.

Rockett St George Stocks Moroccan-inspired lights and cushions.

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