The Colors of Marrakech
“To visit Morocco is still like turning the pages of some illuminated Persian manuscript all embroidered with bright shapes and subtle lines.”
Morocco has been described as an amalgamation of Europe, Africa and Arabia. The coalescence of cultural influences, the rich and vibrant creative energy, and the devotion of its inhabitants to handcraft, is woven into every aspect of living. This essence has made Marrakech a magnet for artists and designers, many of whom come to visit and never leave.
It’s a culture with a deep reverence for beauty and an understanding that art should exist at the forefront of life, which validates creatives and reminds them that their work is crucial. It’s no surprise that one often sees the influence of Morocco trickle out into the wider world of art, design, cuisine, and literature. It certainly influenced our co-founder and CEO, Will Massie, while he was traveling there with his wife and daughter. He returned home inspired to create something that reflected the Moroccan lifestyle. That inspiration is manifest in our newest creation, the Yves Table, a piece that captures a sense of passion for the pure enjoyment of living.
Below we gathered some musings from Will about his journey.
Many designers have said that Morocco taught them an appreciation of color, what would you say that Morocco taught you?
“Well having heard that, I’d have to agree about color. The city of Marrakech is called the Red City (El Hamra) for the walls that glow in the afternoon sun. The red clay for the buildings comes from the west of the city and it dries to a salmon pink. Marrakech’s souks are piled high with colorful heaps of carpets, clothes, leatherwear, metalwork and many other crafts. The colors of dyes and pigments for clothing and paint are so vibrant because they are using natural pigments. Poppy petals are used as a natural pigment in dying things red. What’s really striking is the color palette of the caftans and djellabas that shimmer in the gorgeous daylight. There’s a gorgeous blue light to the city at night from the glowing pink colors.“
What did you love most about Morocco in terms of the culture?
“It’s a makers’ culture and the art of hand craftsmanship goes back centuries. They embrace traditional and simple tools and eschew machinery. It’s all about what one can do with their hands.”
What place was your favorite or most memorable?
“Kasbah Tamadot in the Atlas mountains, an area inhabited by the friendly Berbers. It’s really one of the most beautiful places in the world.”
If you were advising someone who is planning a trip to Morocco, what advice would you give them?
“Pick Marrakech, Fez or Tangier and stay there a while rather than trying to see everything. There’s just so much to see. Hiring a private guide and driver is important. I’d avoid the Agafay desert and enjoy the camel experience in the city.“
Why do you think so many artists and designers have been drawn to living there?
“The pace of life is easy and slow. It’s truly a paradise and is a fraction of what it costs to live in the Mediterranean. The architectural stock of historic riads is beyond belief.”
I know that you have long admired the work of interior designer Bill Willis, who settled in Marrakech. What is it about his work that inspires you?
“He created these very elegant theatrical rooms that have a gorgeous sense of scale, proportion, fantasy and privilege. He resurrected forgotten decorative and architectural work like Zelige and interpreted them in a fresh and contemporary context. He loved to mix old and new things and would often use a European color scheme with traditional Moroccan furniture. I admire how he stayed distinctively Southern and American in manner despite living in such an exotic place.”
Did you find the landscape and vegetation there to be beautiful?
“Marrakech is an extraordinarily green city with botanical gardens, oasis of Palmeraie and secret riads. The houses and walls of the city are very severe on the outside but inside the riads are lush and verdant. In almost every Moroccan garden there is a spring. Water seems to carry an almost magical power in the gardens and the play of light on the tile is gorgeous. I fell in love with all of the cacti and succulent plants at the Jardin Majorelle.“
What did you collect on your journey and bring home to remind you of your time there?
“Pierced Moroccan brass lanterns for the garden. The lanterns have some really gorgeous hand engraved chasing. I also brought back many bottles of Argan oil.”
Aside from the Yves Table, what collection can you imagine in a Riad in Marrakech?
“Our duVal Sectional with Moorish or Persian Star backs. The Beaufort with Turkish Backs would feel right at home too. I’d naturally choose our Marrakech Blue that’s closer to the Yves Klein blue than the blue of the Jardin Majorelle. It’s a deeper vibrant indigo than the traditional Majorelle blue.”
If you can think of one word to describe the city of Marrakech, what would it be?