Monday, October 7, 2013

Moroccan Design

Part 1

Architecture and Décor - an exotic mix

My house is in Hay el Fath which means the opening or beginning- the beginning of the city and the beginning is always a good place to start.

Moroccan décor is a mix of functional and decorative – there are gates-in Arabic  babs -I love that word! -shuttered windows, openings  and secluded spots. Recurring  shapes, colour and texture all form part of the exotic mix.

 It is always useful to learn the names of the babs as they are meeting points, easy places  to ask the taxi driver to drop you off so that is how I learned the names of many of the babs in Rabat and along the way discovered how interesting they are.  Some are plain and functional ,  just an opening in the wall of the old city – their shape emphasized  by the Moroccan red or sienna wash to the wall and others are ornate and decorative with carving or mosaic tile work. Many have a distinctive unusual shape which appears over and over in other architectural features and furnishings. Babs are awe-inspiring by their size or magnificence or simplicity Sometimes babs have doors but not always.

                                Bab in Fes

Doors are another feature of Moroccan architecture- outer doors  may  have interesting  metalwork- brass door knobs perhaps in the shape of the  hand of Fatima- a symbol of protection- sometimes elaborate hinges  and decoration too. !  Sadly poor people in the Medina sometimes sell their ancient wooden doors which end up being shipped to a loft apartment in New York, a house in LA or some other far flung place in the world

                                                           Hand of Fatima door knocker

Conversely doors may be nothing more than a very plain metal which disguises what lies beyond- a building may appear quite basic – even run down- but behind the plain metal door are beautiful carved plaster ceilings and mosaic and tiled walls- more like a palace than an ordinary home!  I cannot count the number of times I have been taken by complete surprise. In the Medina you can enter through a very  nondescript door to a wonderful old riad with central open air courtyard with columns and antique coloured glass. This is a world rarely seen by tourists.

                                            A riad in Fes beautifully restored and now converted 
                                            to a small hotel -traditional stained glass door- 
                                            stunning with the sun shining through
Some fabulous colourful doors.


Traditional paint work

Lock up shops are everywhere in Morocco and usually have plain metal doors and locks but the Moroccan desire for decoration often gives way to swirls and twirls to the metal struts that strengthen the doors- the same with security grills for windows – put in place to stop your children falling out of an open window and thieves from coming in- they can be quite basic but more often they are elaborate decorative creations which are custom made by metal smiths. They look stunning with a simple curtain billowing in the breeze.

typical swirl designs on window security grills

 carved stonework and elaborate security grill
                                                                                    Marjelle Gardens, Marrakech 
                                                                      bab shaped windows

Colour may be splashed on the door or intricately painted . Here is a beautiful old painted door in the Oudaya gardens in Rabat- I have used this to create my etsy shop banner! 

Ancient painted door in the Oudaya Gardens , Rabat

Here is the same type of traditional paintwork on a small handmade octagonal side table I have – handmade entirely and hand painted by local artisans- note the arches at the bottom- a bit like the babs!

                                              arches like the babs!

Mosaic tiled entrances may add colour or carved stonework with geometric and arabesque designs texture.  Artisans busy customizing homes-no two are ever alike and even if they are built that way their owners  are quick to ensure they become unique.

                                                         carved stonework and mosaic tiles

Because of the artisan  and bespoke nature of most Moroccan interior design it is rare for outsiders to truly experience Moroccan décor. Often the garish colours and tourist products – many designed purely for tourists!-overwhelm the visitor and they do not see the beautiful detail behind closed doors in everyday homes. Carved plaster ceilings and intricate mosaic tile work are for instance fairly common place and not just reserved for palaces and fancy hotels.

Arches appear everywhere- in houses and gardens to form private secluded seating areas and to give a glimpse of what lies beyond. Their shapes are interesting too. Even  I have arches in my house!

                                                             Arches with carved plaster work

                                             an elaborate shaped  plasterwork arch makes an 
                                             interesting focal point

The hint of something beautiful beyond is a recurring theme in Morocco whether it is the beautiful exotic gardens such as the Jardin de Marjelle in Marrekech which has some of the most clever and beautifully thought out vistas and stunning use of colour as a backdrop for the exotic plants.

     Building in the Marjelle Gardens

In textiles- which is my great love- you may see a beautifully embroidered edging to a cuff of a djellaba – a traditional coat- with maybe reveal a hint of the even more ornate dress sleeve underneath but in a flash and a movement of the arm it is gone. In the wonderful Moroccan cuisine you experience it with the crisp flaky pastry of the Bastilla which encases the surprising sweet chicken and almond nut mix inside

Moroccan décor is both exotic, subtle and mesmerizing - you rarely experience it all on one viewing but have to return again and again to see and experience everything.


nancy said...

Beautiful architecture and finishes. The doors are a work of art. Thanks for sharing.

RobinsFlight said...

Just fascinating! I love the intricacy of all the architecture, and the idea of not reserving that type of beauty just for the wealthy or the tourists, but including it in your every day lives.

FabricGreetings said...

Oh Wow! What a wonderful visual tour of things I will never see in person.
Also interesting where your shop banner came from. I thought it was a piece of dinnerware!

April MooreMagnets said...

So beautiful! I love this!!

Lynn said...

Stunning designs and craftsmanship. I also like the idea of a plain door leading to something beautiful within.