Evolving from a multitude of influences over centuries, Moorish design is surprisingly versatile, offering countless opportunities to create a unique contemporary interior that exudes character and originality.
Moorish architecture and interior design were born in medieval North Africa, Spain and Portugal, which were once a single empire called Al-Andalus, ruled by the Almoravids, an Islamic dynasty based in Morocco.
From the 11th century, Muslim, Christian and Jewish architects and craftsmen collaborated to create a unique architecture that combined Islamic and European influences, with soaring arched windows and doors and ornate decorative elements. Carved wooden ceilings and doors and intricate mosaic tiling are well known in traditional Moorish interiors zellij are paired with beautiful brass lamps inlaid with colored glass or pierced with intricate patterns. Delicate silk textiles are offset with handwoven wool rugs to create rich layers of color and texture amid patterned floors and walls painted in deep, saturated hues.
“The Moroccan, Middle Eastern flavor is something that immediately creates glamour. It gives the room a mysterious sex appeal,” said Martyn Lawrence Bullard, a Los Angeles-based interior designer, writer, and star of the TV show Million Dollar Decorators.
“I will often add these accents to my interiors, be it a traditional interior or a modern one. Somehow the style fits so well,” he said. “Whether it’s adding a pierced lantern that shines those beautiful reflections across a floor or ceiling, or taking a Moorish design and stenciling it onto a ceiling or wall, or even onto a piece of furniture, there’s something about the romance that really adds depth.”
Maryam Montague, an American humanitarian, moved to Morocco with her husband, architect Chris Redecke, over a decade ago.
The couple built and decorated a Moorish-style boutique hotel, Peacock Pavilions, on the outskirts of Marrakech, creating a contemporary aesthetic rooted in traditional Moroccan design and furnishings.
Ms Montague was so in love with the local decor that she wrote a book, Marrakech by Design, published in 2012, which explores the history of Moroccan style and offers tips on how elements can be seamlessly integrated into a modern home.
“I was really determined to get a better understanding of all the fundamentals of Moroccan design, which relates to Islamic design – which I was very familiar with, having an Iranian mother – but also interesting overlays of Berber design, Amazigh design, French additions and Spanish additions,” she said. “That makes this really unusual, fun recipe for decorating your home.”
Elements of Moorish interior design can be seamlessly integrated into a maximalist or minimalist setting, she said, and paired with everything from Indian to Japanese to Scandinavian influences to add a personal touch to centuries-old traditions.