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 perfect Moroccan interior design.

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.

Moroccan Interior Design Elements

Moroccan interiors are a reflection of the country’s diverse and rich culture. A Moroccan interior should have a sense of the history and cultural traditions as well as the motifs, shapes and designs of the beautiful country. Intricate carvings, arched doorways and colourful fabrics are plentiful in Moroccan homes, and they are features that can be easily introduced into a contemporary interior anywhere in the world.

Arches

The Moroccan look has been greatly influenced by Moorish architecture, which can be found throughout the Arab regions and into North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula. Some of the most common characteristics of this look include the arches, domes, courtyards and decorative tiles that combine to create a beautiful and intriguing space.

Colours

Not all of these elements must be present in an interior to create a Moroccan look. For a more modern approach, introduce the so-called horseshoe or keyhole arches into the interior whilst keeping an all-white colour palette, or for a more rustic or playful interior use the stunning Moroccan decorative tiles on the floor, walls or as detailing to create a striking and ethnic look.

The colour schemes in Moroccan interiors most often reflect the shades and tones of either the desert or the ocean, meaning that brilliant reds, oranges and yellows as well as blues dominate the Moroccan interior, often against a more neutral, or colour-washed background. Colour can be introduced on the walls, or for a more subtle look, bring colour to the room in the fabrics, upholstery and accessories.

Metals

Metalwork is a vital element in a traditional Moroccan interior, with a wide variety of beautiful, decorative pieces available to accessorize the home. Metal mirrors, vases, lanterns, kettles and trays are just a few of the wonderful - and traditionally hand-crafted - metal items that adorn the Moroccan interior. A cluster of metal vases make a beautiful Moroccan-inspired feature, and a delicate metal serving tray displayed on the coffee table brings a distinctly Moroccan edge to any style of table.

Mosaics

Mosaic is another stunning element of Moroccan design - this is particularly useful material for the kitchen or bathroom, bringing delicate detail, colour and pattern to surfaces that must also be high-performing. Mosaic can be introduced on the floor, walls, or as a decorative surface on a coffee table, sideboard or wall panel.

Moroccan Furniture

Look to add some texture, pattern or detail with each of the items in a Moroccan interior. Combine delicately carved wood - on the seat bases, chests, coffee table or side tables - with items that have beautiful Moroccan metalwork, such as a mirror, lamp or other accessories. Whilst being highly decorated, each piece in the Moroccan interior should have a very relaxed and informal feel. Choose furniture that is low to the ground, and with a clean, simple lines, so that the decorative surfaces can take centre stage.  

Materials should be close to nature - with dark, natural woods combining with exposed brick or whitewashed walls, stone and metal, with colour and pattern being introduced in the textiles and fabrics that are found throughout the room.

A room divider is a typical item in Moroccan interiors, traditionally made in wood with an open, carved surface that brings pattern to the room, casting interesting shadows onto the interior. This type of open, decoratively carved wooden panel can also be used as a window covering, acting as a shutter and as another patterned surface within the interior.

Moroccan Seating

The seating in a Moroccan room will be low, relaxed and informal, so look to recreate this in your own interior. Create a seating area - as opposed to a more traditional sofa - by designing a bespoke piece that spreads over a large space, with deep seats that are kept low to the ground. A bespoke seating area could fill an alcove, or could run along two walls to create a large and sprawling seat for lounging and socialising.

If not creating a bespoke design, there are many pieces that sit easily in a Moroccan interior. Make sure to choose a sofa or armchairs that have large, generous seats, with a very low backrest and either low or no armrests, as this will replicate the relaxed and informal feel of Moroccan seating. A chaise longue is a wonderful piece to add to a Moroccan room, as it has the right sense of opulence and luxury, with a curving silhouette and rich upholstery it is the perfect fit. Another piece to consider in the Moroccan interior is the daybed - look for a design that incorporates the detailed carving, or metalwork that will add to the decadence and beauty of the room.

For an authentic Moroccan look, the seating should be strewn with cushions in highly embellished fabrics and rich colours. Accompanying the seating should be a selection of floor cushions, poufs or stools, upholstered in matching or contrasting Moroccan fabrics.

Source: MyCraftWork

Moroccan Lighting

The moroccan lantern is a cornerstone of a Moroccan inspired interior. These intricate and beautiful lanterns are made in metal such as brass or copper, and when lit cast stunning shadows on their surroundings. Hang these lanterns individually throughout a room, or hang them in groups to create a unique and striking feature in a corner, or above a table.

Alternatively, there are other styles of lantern that have a similar shape, with a frame made in metal, however in place of the metalwork panels, coloured glass panels more light and colour to the space for a more contemporary look. Sconces that have the same intricate metalwork or that combine metal and coloured glass, create an atmospheric and dramatic space, whilst echoing the traditional design of the Moroccan lantern.  

A sculptural, curved or teardrop shaped pendant will also work well, so long as the materials and colours are in keeping with the rest of the interior.

Moroccan Rugs and Fabrics

Fabrics and textiles are key to creating an authentic Moroccan interior. Upholster the seating, cushions and poufs in lively patterns and prints. Select unusual, jewel-like colours such as emerald, amethyst, jade, ruby and turquoise, as well as gold and silver in abundance.

Throws, drapes, room dividers and even a beautiful tented ceiling can be added to create a warm, inviting and relaxing space. Choose light, gauzy textiles or fine silks to allow light into and around the room, avoiding making the room feel heavy or dark.

Morocco is well-known for their beautiful, luxurious rugs that bring warmth, tactility and texture to the room. Moroccans have been designing and making some of the world’s finest rugs for many centuries, so to add something special to your room, source a vintage or antique Moroccan rug, that will bring a touch of authenticity to the room.

Moroccan rug designs focus on abstract and geometric patterns, and come in a wonderful range of colours - from those that are bright and vivid to those that have a more neutral palette - meaning that there is a Moroccan-inspired rug to suit every type of interior.

Moroccan Accessories

Accessorise a Moroccan-inspired room with pieces that continue the patterns, colours and shapes of the room. The room itself has an abundance of interest and intrigue, so simply create an warm and welcoming atmosphere with the glow of candles burning in beautiful lanterns that are dotted around the room; display an interesting collection of coloured glass jugs, bowls and glasses on the sideboard; and bring life and a tropical energy to the room with an exotic palm.

To exaggerate the Moroccan feel, and to make sure that the interior plays with each of the five senses, add a decorative bowl filled with beautiful fruits, and choose scented candles in sandalwood, Amber wood, Moroccan spice, fig and vanilla…


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