INSIDE MARRAKESH Enchanting Homes and Gardens By Meryanne Loum-Martin is just the vacation we need this holiday season. The author is an international tastemaker, designer, and hotel owner who has designed porcelain dinnerware for Meissen, and an outdoor furniture collection. The Marrakesh local since the age of 30 (a Parisian of Senegalese and West Indian descent) is without a doubt well connected to give us this tour of of stunning properties of some of the world’s leading design connoisseurs, which include Yves Saint Laurent’s and Pierre Berge’s- Dar El-Hanch (House of the Snake) and Villa Oasis.
Any book on Moroccan design would be incomplete without a hearty nod to Bill Willis, designer to the Marrakesh fête set for nearly forty years. The book begins with the story of how he found his way from the US to Marrakesh- at the invitation of Jay Paul Getty Jr and his wife- who asked Willis to follow them to Marrakesh on their honeymoon. Loum-Martin shares images of Willis’ home, Dar Noujoum, as well as projects that we would not otherwise have the opportunity to see.
Willis’ tremendous talent met the means of a Belgian couple who purchased the above palace in 2005, toward the end of his life (he died in 2009). The scale and opulent detailing is a testament to the genius of Bill Willis. The house includes an ancient cistern in the form of a long pool that is surrounded by majestic columns and flanked with an iconic Bill Willis fireplace at one end (and more magnificent fireplaces throughout the house as well).
One of the commercial projects that Willis worked on was Dar Yacout, considered to be Marrakesh’s premier house of cuisine serving traditional cuisine of the region. Famous designer Bill Willis converted this his magnificent property from private residence to restaurant with reinterpreted traditional design elements, magnificent fireplaces and halls, and and daring mixtures of old and new tile work. Dar Yacout is the only place in Marrakesh still open to the public where one can view the work of this legendary designer.
Having said that, there’s MORE in the way of enchanting homes and gardens of Marrakesh- namely, the innovative design of Jacqueline Foissa, Charles Boccara, Elie Mouyal, and Quentin Wilbaux. The author provides a helpful glossary to explain the architectural elements, techniques and design language unique to Marrakesh used throughout the book.
This splendid courtyard is in the home of the author’s friend the Marquess Franco Santasilia Di Torpino and his wife, Raffaella. Designed to meld elements of India with a Moorish revival style, this house boasts salons, pools, archways, gardens.
This is their open-air dining room! Zoom in to see the Indian hand-printed cotton table cloths and ruby red crystal. And, believe it or not but it gets better- Franco is an accomplished (and published) chef with two cookbooks available on amazon, unfortunately not in English. I would wager a bet that nobody refuses a dinner invitation to this home.
Dar Seven is the riad (a traditional house built around an interior courtyard inside) of Princess Letizia Ruspoli. Designed with Jerome Vermelin, this chic riad has a vibrant Italian feel to it, naturally. (This look reminds me of Anouska Hempel’s design.)
When this book inspires you to hop a plane to Marrakesh, you might consider a stay at Jnane Tamsna, the hotel developed by the author and her husband Gary Martin. Comprised of five houses and a serene nine acre garden, this property is best described as a guesthouse that has the soul of a home with the amenities of a fine hotel. Her utilization of mirrors and hanging greens to give the dining room an indoor/outdoor feel.