There’s an unassuming door at 142-144 rue Bab Doukkala in the Marrakech medina:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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!
I’m not 100% sure, but it looks like this fabric could have been a blanket, now upholstering a chair:
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:
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:
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:
TIP: LOOK UP AND HANG SOMETHING INTERESTING UP THERE
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:
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):
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):
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: