Curious About Souk Style
Photos: [above] Crazy Bear Group
[below] Villa 12 Four Seasons Resort Marrakech.
[bottom] The Filaments by Suna Interior Design
Bring a little faraway magic into your home – let North Africa and the West collide in for a relaxed interior with a touch of oriental mystery
Moroccan interiors are interlaced with an Arabian rhythm that brings a sense of harmony to the home. Get it right and you’ll have a captivating and relaxed look, get it wrong and it’ll look more ‘shabby souk’ than chic.
Great interiors appeal to the five senses making Moroccan interiors extremely alluring. History, culture, cuisine and decorative architecture merge into a kaleidoscope of smells, sounds, patterns, colours and artisan styling that make it a designers dream. Having braved the derbs (alleyways) and souks some years ago myself, sipped mint tea, held a snake (not by choice) in the Djemaa el-Fina Square, visited a tannery (by accident – I’m veggie), and fallen in love with the Yves Saint Lauren gardens (jardinmajorelle.com), I can relate to the look entirely.
Souk style embodies an eclectic mix of Moorish arches, stucco plaster, kilim rugs, floor cushions, lanterns, candles, incense and lush greenery. It is tastefully personified by designer Maryanne Loum-Martin at her home and boutique stay ‘Jnane Tamsna’ (Big Garden), just outside Marrakech. She and her husband fell in love with Morocco some twenty years ago; her the expert interior stylist, him the creator of the lush landscaped gardens, and both wanted to share it’s magic with others. Jnane Tamsna offers elegant architecture, discreet hospitality and a sense of tranquillity to discerning travellers. They also own Villa 12, a private luxury residence within the Four Seasons Complex. Another absolute gem you must check out – it’s listed as one of the worlds top villas by Conde Nast (see photos below).
What we are trying to achieve back home is a refined version that’s caught my imagination lately, like The Filaments (pictured bottom) – a slightly pared down fusion of Arabian influence and beautifully crafted materials set against a chalky western palette for a contemporary look that’s a little softer.
What’s especially lovely about Moroccan design is in a world of fast paced technology, there is still a place for handcrafted decoration. There are a few things to note however, although precisely symmetrical patterns are key to the look, you can’t have everything perfectly straight in the room. The layout needs to feel organic and spontaneous, informal and relaxed. The charm comes from a careful mix of geometric patterns and neutral textures, with a warmth in a variety of materials including dark wood, copper, bronze and leather, topped off with beautiful pottery and quality antiques. Avoid souvenir type trinkets as these will cheapen the look.
If chalky walls are too plain for you there are decorators who specialise in polished plaster (tadelakt) for an authentic Moroccan texture. Alternatively, try geometric wallpapers in oyster, pale grey/greens or silvery whites to add detail. Have a look at ‘Walled’ by Fired Earth and ‘Origin’,’Jewel’, ‘Origami’ and ‘Darcy’ by Graham & Brown.
There’s also a wealth of fabrics and soft-furnishings with quatrefoil type designs around at the moment. Quatrefoil design incorporates four leaves, partially covered circles and the eight point star that particularly embody Moroccan style.
Oh and look out for a statement Berber rug too – an essential component. I particularly like the Marmouche Rug with its taupe symbols taken from the area in which it was made from Rugs & Poufs, or Souk and Kasbah rugs from Westelm.
Fired Earth have a Marrakech collection of artisan tiles, my favs are Ourika, Asni and Timnel, which would make a great splashback for your tagine. Trellis is prefect for a Riad inspired hallway floor, but Arabesque Sous would make an inspired cloakroom with a copper basin and bronze tap. Furniture should be wooden and decorative, bone inlaid or metallic, while sofas and chairs should be arranged informally, inviting you to throw yourself onto fusion inspired and tasseled cushions. I’m thinking Leilo Pom Pom, Faro, Diamonds and Fusion Textured – all John Lewis.
Oriental inspired lighting is really important; try hanging one large beautiful nickel Moroccan lantern or cluster smaller ones together, suspended at various heights in the corner of the room. Enjoy the beautiful contrast of perforated metal against chalky walls by day and an enchanting cascade of patterns by night. Take a look at the collection at Moroccan Bazaar, with pendents from £45 along with poufs, furniture, cushions and tagines (their ‘Tear’ Nickel Pendent is stunning, though definitely an investment piece at £500).
You can take the look a step further with Mashrabiyas – wooden lattice screens carved with geometric designs, used on windows of traditional Arabic architecture since the 14th Century. They offer privacy from the street as well as relief from the intense sun. This makes them perfect as room dividers, window shutters or simply as decorative wall art. The canopy at Menera Airport, Marrakech is a good example of a modern interpretation.
Accessorise with a leather pouf or two in gold, monochrome or white and a smattering of quality ornaments; think hammered metal bowls like Hex by Tom Dixon, or Joy by Alessi, Berber jars, lots of floor cushions, candles and an engraved tin tray – to serve mint tea of course. (Silver Tray £23.50. Mint Tea £4.50 from Maroque).