Passion Points: Style
Half American and half Iranian, Maryam Montague was born in Egypt and has lived in Senegal, Nepal, Tunisia, Namibia, New York, Washington D.C., Paris and Bologna (in many places she was based because of her humanitarian aid work). But it was Morocco, in particular Marrakech, that stopped this citizen of the world in her tracks: “Then came Morocco with all of its gorgeous madness,” she says. “All of its colors, all of its patterns, all of its textures.”
In addition to raising a family in Marrakech, Montague and her husband built and run Peacock Pavilions, (Kilometer 13, Route de Ourzazate, 1, peacockpavilions.com) a small hotel just outside the city. Marrakesh by Design, her book about the Moroccan aesthetic with tips on creating your own riad-inspired look, will be released in May 2012. Here the style maven shares with Indagare her favorite Marrakech secrets.
What originally brought you to Marrakech?
I work in international humanitarian aid, and I was posted to Morocco. I quickly fell in love with the country and my family and I decided to make it our home for the foreseeable future. When we moved to Marrakech, I started my blog, so although I live in Morocco, I still feel very connected to people all around the world.
How did Peacock Pavilions come about?
I’m an enthusiastic stylist/decorator and I met my match when I married an architect/builder. Together, we were able to design, build and decorate Peacock Pavilions with a main pavilion and two guest pavilions, all located in a private olive grove. It feels much less like a hotel and much more like a friend’s stylish and eclectic space.
What should no first-time visitor to Marrakech miss?
The Ben Youssef Medersa, an old Koranic school, which is made up of incredible mosaic tiles, sculpted plaster and carved woodwork. The Moroccan craftsmanship is nothing short of awe-inspiring.
What is your favorite Marrakech “secret”?
Flower Power Café is an organic café that serves freshly-made salads, sandwiches, and baked treats. Best of all, it’s located in an enormous and beautiful plant nursery. Whenever I’m there, I feel like I’m in a little jungle oasis.
What is your favorite Marrakech ritual?
I’m convinced that the Moroccan hammam is the world’s best beauty treatment. After a steam and a scrub, my skin glows and feels brand new.
What is the best item you’ve picked up in Marrakech souk?
Moroccan textiles. From old hand-woven blankets, to sequined wedding throws, to vintage embroidered caftans – I love them all and they are all so easy to pack.
Marrakech was molded by many different cultures. Which culture do you think had the most aesthetic influence?
Because of its strategic location on African and European trade routes, Morocco has been frequently fought over. Arabs, Europeans, and Turks, to name just a few, have invaded the country and they all left their market. This resulted in an aesthetic that is blend of design influences, including Islamic, Spanish and French. The Islamic influence, in particular, is the source of much loveliness, including the use of tiles, fountains, and geometric and floral patterns.
How would you define Marrakech style and design?
Moroccan design is defined by strong architectural shapes, saturated colors, and complex patterns. The Marrakech spin freshens and modernizes this aesthetic, making it more useable and accessible. I hope people will come and see for themselves.
What inspired you to write Marrakesh by Design?
Morocco is an amazing design and shopping destination. And Marrakesh by Design is the first English language book on Moroccan design by someone who actually lives here. I wanted to share the beauty I see on a daily basis but for the book to have more than just pretty pictures—I wanted it to be really useful and informative. There are chapters devoted to the basic building blocks of Moroccan design, including Moroccan finishes, color and pattern. As the focus is on creating Moroccan inspired-spaces, there are chapters on living and dining rooms, bedrooms, kitchens and baths, and outdoor living spaces and gardens. The “Bringing it Home” sections offer concrete suggestions on how to turn Moroccan design ideas into reality, while a chapter on resources and expertise allows readers to access Moroccan goods and services no matter where they live.
To read more about Montague’s Marrakech, visit her blog: mymarrakesh.com.
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