Global Style Tips from the Famous Trésor des Nomades Shop in Marrakech

There’s an unassuming door at 142-144 rue Bab Doukkala in the Marrakech medina:

Mustapha Blaoui Entrance via Dar Zaman

photo courtesy of Dar Zaman

Like many Moroccan doors, it gives no clue of what it guards. You are unaware of the visual feast that will hit you once you step through it. But only two steps in and you already see something like this:

Entrance to Mustapha Blaoui Shop

I’m sure the scene is ever-changing but that’s what greeted our group when we arrived in early November 2014. Step around the corner and the full impact is unleashed on you:

Mustapha Blaoui Shop in Marrakech

That’s only one small corner of a maze of many rooms. Proprietor Mustapha Blaoui has filled nearly every inch of Trésor des Nomades with  inspiration  and imagination. Your senses are hit with patterns, shapes, colors, textures and a mish-mash of cultures and things antique and modern, all mixed together.

I could have lingered there for days. If I could have hidden in a cabinet and been locked in there overnight to play with all the things without risk of being arrested, I might have. Instead I squeezed in a purchase of Mali mud cloth, then snapped photos like a crazy tourist, experiencing much of the store through an iPhone screen. All to share with you here. I will have to go back some day, sans phone — but who are we kidding I’d probably do the same thing, try to capture the whole store in my phone again. Don’t even try. The place is so big and fantastic, just enjoy it for what it is and don’t try to wrap your arms around it all!

But what my phone brought back are creative global style tips we can use in our homes …

TIP: Add textiles to chairs

My suitcases often come home from overseas trips filled with fabrics. Textiles are affordable and more importantly, lightweight and easy to pack in carry-on or check-in luggage. Perhaps you have only a strip of a treasured textile, which is common with handmade textiles found while traveling. It’s okay, work with it and use it to upholster down the middle of a chair:

Strip of Textile on Upholstered Chair in Mustapha Blaoui Shop

If you have a large enough textile, upholster an entire piece with it. Be brave — here you see chairs in the Mustapha Blaoui shop covered with brightly-colored “cactus silk” fabrics you find in Marrakech. I most often see this cactus silk as scarves and shawls but if the fabric is strong enough (or you give it a stronger backing), there’s no reason to not use it on furniture:

Cactus Silk Covered Chairs at Mustapha Blaoui Shop

Here are mud cloth covered chairs. I used the mud cloth I bought at Mustapha Blaoui to recover a mid century modern chair — to be revealed soon!

 Mud Cloth Covered Chair at Mustapha Blaoui Store

Mud Cloth Upholstery at Mustapha Blaoui in Marrakech

Mud Cloth Upholstery

I’m not 100% sure, but it looks like this fabric could have been a blanket, now upholstering a chair:

Upholstered Chair at Les Tresor du Nomades in Marrakech

TIP: Be wild with patterns

We all have our tolerances for mixing patterns. In Morocco the tolerance is pretty high. Be brave and push yourself a bit further. You see some pattern mixes in the above photos. Here’s a little tip to make pattern mixing work for you. This little corner is jam-packed with pattern in the carpet, the chair, the cabinet. What makes the patterns work together is the common colors in the red, natural colors and black. The chair, rug and cabinet each have natural and black in them. The rug adds some extra color in the red:

Patterns at Mustapha Blaoui Store

TIP: Think in multiples, lots and LOTS of multiples

Usually we will pick one little specimen of something we like. We put it on a shelf with all our other onesie-twosies. But imagine the drama of a collection of many! Things like baskets can be nested one inside the other to make it easier to pack them in luggage. You can even squeeze clothes and toiletries in them to make room in your bags. These little beaded heads were small enough to bring a bunch home. Small things have greater visual impact when there’s many of them. You may even be able to negotiate a better discount when buying many:

Beaded Heads and Woven Baskets at Les Tresor de Nomades Mustapha Blaoui

There are three different mud cloths on this sofa. Imagine if the back, seat and pillows were made of the same mud cloth. It would be a sea of sameness. But now mixing the patterns big and small, and white and black backgrounds, see what I mean about working with multiples. Plus imagine this scene with only one head. Wouldn’t it be lonely? It needs others, many others:

Mud Cloth and Beaded Heads in Mustapha Blaoui Shop in Marrakech


Don’t forget your ceilings. One way to make them interesting is to hang unique lighting. We saw many examples of unique lights at Mustapha Blaoui:

Moroccan Pierced Metal Lanterns

Squeeze even more impact out of your lighting by hanging big mirrors which reflects the lights and makes them show up in multiples (another way to carry out the “multiples” tip):

Colorful Lighting at Tresor de Nomades in Marrakech

Sequin Light in Mustapha Blaoui Store

My pierced metal Moroccan lantern I found in Marrakech is curvy like these. It’s hanging in my Indian-Moroccan closet nook (also to be revealed soon, I’ve fallen behind on blogging):

Pierced Metal Moroccan Lanterns at Mustapha Blaoui Shop

A lot of people asked “How are you going to get a lamp home?” Choose an oblong or rectangular shape lamp instead of a round one. My lamp is shaped like the curvy oblong ones above and I had no problem fitting it in a regular size suitcase with plenty of room left over. It was even heavily bubble-wrapped.


Overall what I liked about the global mix in Trésor des Nomades was the brave pairing of colors, textures, patterns and shapes. Mix curves with straight lines. Put metal against wood. Pair textiles with beads. Contrast in the textures and shapes makes little interesting scenes to look at. As a parting shot, I often like the quieter things not the flashy things. I appreciated this curvy metal candleholder against the carved wood behind it:

Morocco Patterns and Shapes


Color Story: Olive

If you are not careful, olive can lean toward drab and depressing pretty easily. I admit I like it that way. It’s more interesting to look at. Maybe not as much to live with though? In the same way, I believe movies are more interesting when the ending isn’t neatly wrapped up and happy, but in real life do we really want anything but neat wrapped up endings that make us smile?

Anyway, back to olive. First, to make olive brighter and happier, pair it with white, teal, purple, coral or its lightweight cousin, chartreuse.

This entryway is a good example of how to do that, where the walls are painted Benjamin Moore Wasabi (the olive) and Vintage Wine (the purple) and it’s all lightened up by the trim panted in neutral Hush:

Benjamin Moore Olive and Purple Wall Paint Colors

Here it’s also with purple but veers moodier in this Marrakech home featured in Architectural Digest:

Marrakech Home with Olive Walls via Architectural Digest

Of course you are steps away from a courtyard and the Moroccan sunshine, so darker and moodier is okay here. Actually I realize the Moroccan sunshine is the same as our sunshine, wherever we are, but doesn’t sunshine feel different when you visit a place far away?!

Here you can see how well olive works with teal:

Olive Mohair Sweater

This touch of olive on an old chest is perfect with the cactus and eclectic collection here, and against white walls and floor it does not feel heavy. Seen at Envers du Decor:

Olive Chest Envers du Decor

This is a super sophisticated use of olive on the headboard in Jane Aldridge’s home – she is the mom of Jane of Sea of Shoes blog fame:

Olive Headboard in Jane Aldridge Home

Via Brooklyn Tweed Flickr, if you are like me and like to create, images of balls of yarns can make you twitch. Because they can’t stay like this, something must be done with them — something olive and ombré:

Olive Yarns via Brooklyn Tweed

 Sibella Court knows how to do shabby and moody really well, and here she does it with some olive. And actually these colors are in the yarn colors above so here’s how they play out in a room:

Olive Tones via Sibella Court

Here a sagey-olive is used in a well-traveled bathroom designed by Sandra Espinet:

Well-Traveled Bathroom Designed by Sandra Espinet

Finally, olive from Jean Paul Gaultier done up in different textures:

Jean Paul Gaultier and Olive

If you want to see more olive, visit my Pinterest Board full of this color:

Follow Nomadic Decorator’s board Color – Olive on Pinterest.


“Off the Wall” Painting

So here’s another post pretty quickly, to push down the last post that shows my living room! Why? I’ve always felt weird posting my home on the internet. I don’t know how other bloggers do it. I’d rather show small glimpses than full rooms. Hence, the lack of a House Tour tab here. (I’ve also noticed people saying “hence” a lot lately. Is it a word trend?)

Because I’m more comfortable showing small snippets of my house, here’s a few projects around the house that I’ve done lately as a contributor to Paint + Pattern blogzine. If you haven’t seen Paint + Pattern yet, it’s all about painting with stencils in lots of creative ways! I tend to paint patterns on “off the wall” things: fabrics, furniture, scrapbook paper, wood and MDF boards, even paper mache boxes.

Painting on Ready-to-Wear Shawls

Here’s a tribal stencil pattern that I painted on shawls found at World Market. You can get all the how-to details at Paint + Pattern:

Stenciled Shawls

Painting on Paper Mache Boxes

Here’s some grrrrrrrrrrrreat animal print storage boxes. They were plain brown paper mache boxes from the craft store, then stenciled with … hold on … fuzzy flocking! I told you some things over at Paint + Pattern get really creative. Find out how to stencil with flocking at the tutorial post:

Stenciling with Flocking

Oh, to make the boxes look more like travel trunks on safari, I added little leather handles and metal corners which you can find in scrapbooking supplies from Tim Holtz.

Painting on Porcelain Mugs

With paint pens made to paint on ceramic and porcelain, I drew outlines in stencils on some mugs to make a morning cuppa creativity:

Painting Coffee Mugs

After painting the mugs, you put them in the oven and bake them to permanently set the paint. I’ve been throwing these mugs in the dishwasher and they still look good as new!

Painting on MDF Boards

Here’s an oldie but goodie from Paint + Pattern — these are actually 12″ x 36″ MDF boards sold as inexpensive $5 shelves at home improvement stores like Menards and Home Depot! I covered them with scrapbook paper, then stenciled on the scrapbook paper. The MDF bookshelves became wall art:

Exotic Stenciled Wall Art


So if you’re curious about stenciling but you can’t paint walls or don’t want to, there’s many other things you can paint with stencils! Follow along over at Paint + Pattern to see some ideas.

And now I’ve shown you smaller glimpses of our living room and sunroom, a peek at our wintery gardens and even the inside of my oven! And yes I furiously cleaned it before photographing it to put online! But it’s far more comfortable to put a picture of the inside of our oven online (it’s a KitchenAid Architect series oven, about 10 years old) than to show my entire kitchen. Maybe some day …


Seeking Vertical Wall Sconces

I have a weird thing where I don’t like lamps. Which is a problem if you don’t want to live in the dark! We have two interesting lamps in our living room and it was actually my husband’s idea to turn them into lamps. I wasn’t sure about the idea at first but I love them now — they’re unique and perfect for our global style. They’re made from carved wooden rice god and rice goddess we found in Chiang Mai, Thailand years ago:

Rice Goddess Lamp

These lamps are among the few sources of light in this 14′ x 24′ living room. The gold reading lamp above has been moved elsewhere in the house. So with only two light bulbs in this room now, the constant dimness is driving me crazy. It also makes the room feel smaller because the corners are dark and drab shadowy gray. We have 8′ ceilings which are low for a chandelier and I don’t like recessed ceiling lights.

So what’s left? Walls! I’m seeking four wall sconces to flank the two bigger windows at opposite ends of this room:

Living Room Wall Sconces

Where to add wall sconces

It’s so dark in this room at night, pictures turn out grainy and yellow!

Because of the vertical-ness of the drapes, I feel like it would look weird to have a round or square shaped sconce, which might look like small blobs squatting on the walls. So I looked for sconces with long vertical elements to them.

Here’s the unrealistic choice because at $599 and needing four sconces plus cost of an electrician, this one from Shades of Light isn’t going to happen:

Shades of Light Quatrefoil Sconce

But if you like this look, you could mount a sconce on a wood panel that you make. You can buy carved wood panels. Or you can stencil raised patterns onto wood with embossing medium, then paint the panels. I am thinking about doing that!

I found these Alsace and Lorraine Architectural Railing Sconces at Restoration Hardware which brings the cost down to just above $300 each (sometimes they’re on sale), then inexpensive wood panels could be installed behind the sconces:

Alsace and Lorraine Architectural Railing Sconces at RH

But like most things at RH, the Lorraine sconce looks over-sized and  too big a scale for the space I have available.

From Circa Lighting, there is this Cawdor Stanchion Wall Sconce:

Circa Lighting Wall Sconce

The Strie Wall Sconce from Circa Lighting is a simpler shape and would bring a vertical element without drawing too much attention to itself:

Strie Wall Sconce at Circa Lighting

Another option from Circa Lighting is this Dauphine Sconce (obviously you see by now I’m looking for burnished gold or raw iron color):

Dauphine Wall Sconce at Circa Lighting

This Serpentine Wall Sconce from Shades of Light is another vertical option and at $90 each, it’s a steal:

Shades of Light Serpentine Wall Sconce

But with four sconces in the room, I’d rather have less curlicue-ness. Maybe something more like this Bryant Sconce from Circa Lighting:

Bryant Sconce from Circa Lighting

A similar sconce is the Vivianne from triple7recycled on Etsy, a great price at $85:

Vivianne Sconce from triple7recycled Etsy shop

A few tips if you’re also seeking wall sconces

You may not need the sconces to be extremely bright, especially if they will be hanging too far from where you sit to serve as task lighting. In our case, the sconces will brighten the corners to lighten the room overall, and make it feel bigger. And maybe I will squint less often.

If you have a certain style in mind, check out different stores for different prices until you find something that fits your budget. As you saw above, you will often find the same/similar look at very different prices. Also keep an eye on the lampshade material. Belgian linen or silk will cost more than paper. Look for what fits your budget.

I usually do mock-ups to scale in Photoshop for purchases like this. Because sometimes when placed in a room, things don’t look as good as they did in your mind. Sometimes they’re too big, or too small, or just not right. It’s better to find that out in Photoshop than after ordering and shipping the products. Maybe the sconce I think I like the least actually looks the best. You never know. Off to Photoshop I go …

Super Fun Jumpin’ Jack Pillows

Whenever we leave winter behind, I want fun, light-hearted things around. Spring is light, like a spring in your step. And that’s how these fun pillows from One Kings Lane feel. Maybe it’s the frivolous fringe and twirly tassels. And the high contrast of black and white (which is a current trend!) plus a punch of orange and pinks.

One Kings Lane Pillows

Don’t they feel like they’re doing jumping jacks? They’re light and bright, even with black in them. And go ahead, mix Greek key patterns with tribal. Using similar colors is what lets you get away with crazier pattern mixes. As you see here, the Greek key in hot pink picks up on the color in the other pillows. They all have tassels too, which makes the pillows feel like they’ll all get along together.

Switching up pillows is an easy way to change a whole room’s look for the new season.

Source: Pillow 1 | 2 | 3 | 4


Secret Ingredient for a Well-Traveled Room

These rooms all have a common element, but one that’s a bit uncommon. Can you guess what it is?

Moroccan Inlaid Table

Inlaid Side Tables via House Beautiful Tables from E Kenoz

Inlaid Accent Table

Moroccan Inlaid Side Tables

Interior designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard (my favorite designer who I met last year!) often uses this design element in rooms:

Childrens Room Designed by Martyn Lawrence Bullard

Inlaid Table Martyn Lawrence Bullard Designed Room

Cher Indian Fantasy Home

By now you’ve probably figured it out.

All these rooms have little inlaid tables, like accent tables or side tables, that you can get from Morocco, Turkey, Syria, Egypt or India. You can get them new, vintage or antique. They’re often meticulously made with mother of pearl or bone.

These tables are a sure bet to add that well-traveled look, like “yeah we’ve been somewhere, and we’ve seen some things.” Because you don’t get exposed to the idea and find a table at a regular ol’ Midwestern mall, that’s for sure. I grew up with the JC Penney and Sears catalogs (yeah that just really dated me) and I can tell you, nothing like this was in those catalogs!

So where do you find these tables? I’ll share a few ideas with you at high, medium and low price points. And you can also DIY the inlaid table look.

From Ballard Designs, the Marrakech Side Table regular $399, on sale for $299:

Ballard Designs Marrakech Side Table

Marrakech Side Table from Ballard Designs Bone Inlay

eKenoz has a range of prices for inlaid tables, from $275 t0 quite a few around $499-550 with the priciest at $1,100 right now. Here’s a sample of their big range of styles:

eKenoz Moroccan Syrian Turkish Inlaid Tables

Wisteria carries some styles, like this graphic art deco-ish version with bone inlay:

Wisteria Bone Hexa Side Table

You can sometimes find pricier high-quality versions at One Kings Lane and 1stdibs.

There are some gorgeous tables at Akbik, and their prices reflect their handmade nature. When I’m shopping for furniture, I often look at versions that are above my price range to see what makes good quality and design, then once seeing that, try to find the best possible that I can afford. Here are breathtaking tables at Akbik:

Mother of Pearl Inlaid Tables from Akbik

So if you like the “global well-traveled” style, I hope this unveiled a secret that would instantly make your room look a touch exotic.

#FF Faves on Instagram

What is it about Instagram? Both Pinterest and Instagram are about pictures, but it’s so much easier to discover new people and connect with them on Instagram. So for Follow Friday, I thought I’d share a few instagrammers where I wish there was a love button not just a like button.

Every day, I almost buy a kilim from kayakilims. Most days I can’t. Because the rugs can sell within a few minutes of posting! I’m even reluctant to share this source with you. But over 5,000 people have already found her, so oh well, stiff competition already out there:

Kayakilim on Instagram

Kilim from KayaKilim

She lives in Turkey, her enthusiasm for rugs shines through every instagram, and sometimes she shares personal stories like when she and her husband met, when he said he was staying with friends but he was really flying to Azerbaijan to meet her, and he had a kilim on his shoulder for her. And how every kilim has a story because women will make the kilims for when they get married. It takes a long time to make them and there’s much conversation and gossip told over the kilim as it’s woven. If only kilims could talk! Now kilims are her livelihood and you can tell she loves it. It makes you want to buy a kilim to have some of that joy.

There are a lot of stylists popular on Instagram because they excel at designing vignettes for photos. One of my favorites is Paige Morse:

Paige Morse Textured Textiles on Instagram

How about that texture! That color! The brass detail. She has an eye for textiles and mixing styles from around the world, and of course that is my style obsession too. She also has a tiny house which must be a fun playground for styling pretty scenes like this:

Paige Morse Stylist on Instagram

She is a master at mixing patterns!

Authentic_Interiors is another stylist, I believe in Australia, who arranges lots of natural materials like bleached coral, cowrie shells, weathered wood and whites and neutral colors. Her photos are a sweep of fresh air on my screen and although I’m not a beach person, they make me want to go to the beach:

Authentic_Interiors on Instagram

I appreciate the contrasts in her vignettes. She teases out the richness in neutrals:

Vignette on Instagram by Authentic_Interiors

Sheherazade Home, a furniture store in NYC, shares pattern-full eye candy like no other. Like this 19th century mirror from Spain:

Sheherazade Home Antique Mirror from Spain

And how about this boho chic combo. It makes me want to be braver about mixing patterns:

Sheherazade Home Pattern Mix

So that’s a few follows for Friday! Head on over to Instagram and these four will make you forget the outside world for awhile. More coming on future Fridays.