When did Morocco first have an impact on you?
I first visited Tangier when I was 18. I was immediately bewitched by the mood of the city, the beauty of the streets and the magical, fairy-tale architecture beloved as a child through reading Sinbad and other such fanciful adventures. Soon after, I visited the Alhambra palace in Spain, an architectural wonder that is greatly influenced by Moorish design and culture. At that point, understanding that the style translates outside of its own country, I became fascinated with the decorative features and evolutions from this culture and began many return visits to explore and expand my knowledge of the country and its decorative arts. From Marrakesh to Fez, Casablanca to the Atlas Mountains, I always found something new, with distinct style and passion.
What are your favourite experiences of the country?
I have many memorable experiences from my trips to the country, most especially my first visit to Yves St. Laurent and Pierre Berge’s magical home in Marrakesh, the famed villa and the magical Marjorelle gardens. Pierre Berge was still alive at that time and I had the privilege of a private tour of the house and gardens. I am still revelling in the décor and collections all these years later, the beauty of the rooms and the almost fantasy-like decorations that Jacques Grange had overseen for the interiors.
Next to this visit, I must say going up into the Atlas Mountains and spending time with the Berber tribes’ people was very inspiring. To watch them weave rugs and textiles, and make baskets and jewellery was amazing. They have been practising their craft for centuries in their villages and camps, and passing the skills on to each generation, which is really special as this is becoming a lost art form in many cultures.
What inspirations have you drawn from Moroccan design and architecture?
My greatest inspirations from Morocco have been translated into the design of many of my products. The love of their geometric patterns and undulating designs, from tiles to carved ceilings, plasterwork to textiles, have all inspired my own collections, however, often with a more modern scale and in different colour hues, to create my own fabrics and rugs, tiles, furniture and decorative objects. I love the shapes seen in Moroccan architecture and I have translated these into some of my projects, working arched door portals and mashrabiya screen work into cabinetry and furnishings. I have especially used this style in my commercial work. From hotels such as the Sands Hotel & Spa and the Hotel Californian to the Red O Restaurant (all located in California) Ω where I created the main bar inspired by the Royal Mansour in Marrakesh, and the dining room is designed with tilework inspired from Alhambra and Fez.
Martyn’s style notes…
Zellige tiles I adore the glazed colours of the zellige tilework seen all over Morocco. Between the mix of colourways and the intricate designs, zellige is a beautiful material and one which translates well. I have used zellige on the floors of hotels, decorative wall panels in spas and gardens, backsplashes in bathrooms and fountains, and even my own kitchen walls are clad in a green and white version. The tilework is fully customisable for modern or more traditional interiors, and with its beautiful glazes and size versatility it is an excellent design choice for anything exotic or colour drenched.
Moorish allure I always find Moorish architecture and Moroccan style to be very alluring; they have a sense of the exotic that is both layered and sensual.
Crafted culture I believe Morocco has a beautiful culture that has nurtured craftsmanship, passing skills down for centuries within families and still delivering fine quality drenched in a sense of history.
Global appeal The global appeal of Moroccan style is definitely attributed to a love of exotic flavours and the beauty of the workmanship, accompanied by the romance that is translated through Moroccan designs, fabrics and architectural styles. I love adding a touch of Moroccan style to my interiors; it may be just a side table or an entire painted ceiling, and adds a worldly sophistication and romance to my interiors.
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