Inspired by a Moroccan Artist’s Colony

My workdays are full of logic, science, and project management. The bit of art during the day is about the communications we create to influence people. So by nightfall, I’m looking for balance in visual arts. One reason I went to Marrakech in 2014 was to get surrounded by beauty, to get inspired to create visual things I hadn’t thought of doing before.

An inspiring place was the Al Maqam artist’s colony in Tahanaout, about a half hour drive outside Marrakech on the way to the Atlas Mountains. A New York Times article tells you more about the place. 

A lot of doors and windows caught my eye there, and the NYT article mentions that the founder of the colony bought old doors and windows at Morocco flea markets and gradually built the compound room by room.

Al Maqam Artist Colony Stone Window Wood Carved Door

Al Maqam Artist Colony

Old Moroccan Wood Door

Maybe that’s how we’re going to decorate the India pied-à-terre, bit by bit from pieces from here and there. 

Here’s more photos from the artist’s colony, decorated as you might expect — creative, eclectic, lots of interesting proportions, playing with balance, and curious collections of objects. I spent too much time there looking at the place through my iPhone, I think now, but at least I captured these.

Clearly I had a fascination with their doors. But my doors at home in the American Midwest don’t look like this, so it was like get an eye-full of these fantastic doors while you can:

A Moroccan Door

Do  you see stencil patterns there? I do!

Lots of color and style in a little courtyard seating area:

Moroccan Artist Colony Courtyard Seating

It’s just a simple bench. But the shabby paint job, the fabric on the too-big cushion, all a perfect boho combo:

Boho Bench Morocco

The kitchen and all its collections:

Moroccan Artist Colony Kitchen

I liked this collection of frames, maybe collected over time but all coordinated. So don’t get too super matchy-matchy, mis-match a bit:

Morocco Picture Frames

Frames like these don’t have to cost a lot. I’ve found frames very similar to these at Target and HomeGoods.

Yes. These are what you might think they are. We asked:


They were in a corner of a dining room. Told you. Eclectic. Creative.

Stylists, designers, bloggers and instagrammers all over the U.S. are doing this mix-matched textile boho-licious look with piles of pillows. Perhaps this place is an original for this:

Pile of Moroccan Pillows

There was no time spent on creating a “just enough carelessness” look. (I know how photo shoots and styling can be!) That’s just how the pillows were.

Here I back up a bit. There’s the shabby simple bench, a carved door used as a table (!!!), and the full effect of all the pillows and patterns:

Moroccan Seating

And the always-present wine glasses. Of which I had too much on an empty stomach before lunch and photos got fuzzy after awhile.

Just a pile of posts against a wall. I liked the composition. Or maybe this was because of the wine. Whatever. Enjoy:

Posts in Moroccan Artists Colony

I have a pile of wood posts leaning against our house in the backyard right now, and I assure you, it definitely doesn’t have any artistic effect. So I say appreciate this — it’s not easy to make a pile of posts look attractive!

A little eclectic composition of things:

Garden Composition in Moroccan Artist Colony

I’d like to create this effect with some old things just lying around my living room. But in my hands, they might look like things that I was too lazy to move down to the basement, so there they sit.

Pots. Wall. Window grates. Each by themselves, no big deal. But together, a stunning combo, I think:

Moroccan Style

All these pieces added up to an inspiring creative space. It’s a big place – we got a tour through many indoor and outdoor rooms and this is just a glimpse. What stands out to me are the contrasts, the textures, the collections, the colors. You can take bits and pieces of ideas and weave them into your own space.

Because there’s too much to capture in photos, here is a video with the founder. It shows scenes of the compound and art through to the end, and you get a good idea of the place:

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It’s Happening! Making the India pied-à-terre Habitable

I’m writing from Chennai, India, where we’ll be for the next two weeks working on our apartment here. It’s gritty right now. As construction always is. It’s like cleaning — things get way worse before they look great. And in the apartment, the mess is on a massive scale, with dust and wood splinters and paint splatters and an occasional electrical cord and saw strewn about on the floor. Yeah, watch for the saws when you’re walking on the floor in your bare feet. In India, you’re always walking in homes in bare feet. And I work in safety as a profession! I tried to keep up with keeping the environment safer, but it’s really hard to keep up with 8-10 men making a massive mess. Here’s a peek:

I apologize for committing the cardinal video sin of holding my phone vertical. It’s what makes most sense though!

In keeping with the grittiness of the apartment right now, here’s some gritty scenes during our runs for supplies, paint, hardware and occasional food …

This is a scene down the street and around the corner from our apartment, maybe 5 minutes away:

Street Scene in Chennai, India

We passed that serene goat scene while bearing brackets to brace the bathroom counters, which will be made of Burmese teak. Of course everyone is freaking out about using wood in the bathroom. Boats are built of wood. I’m sure it will be fine when properly treated.

Pretty shapes and colors found during a foray for wood skirting contractors:

Chennai India

Grille in Chennai India

Buying wood skirting can be treacherous to your pocketbook. One contractor wanted to charge 3x the rate of another contractor that we originally visited. But we couldn’t remember the original contractor at the time. Thankfully we found paperwork and we found the original contractor. And not only were they a fraction of the other guy’s cost, they came up with a linear foot estimate when they measured our apartment that was 2/3 the estimate of the more expensive contractor!

Across the street there was a “stick no bills” sign, so they were stuck over here:

Poster Remnants in Chennai India

Street numbers change, and you will often see “old” and “new” numbers:

Chennai India Street Numbers

A painter’s ladder in our apartment. And more of that blue, because these are the guys painting it:

Painters Ladder in Chennai India

There won’t be much blue in our apartment — for now it is all bright white. More coming soon about paint, because I’m all about the paint!


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Moroccan Pattern Mixes

If you like global style, you’ve probably seen many photos of the sights of Morocco on Pinterest, Flickr, traveler blogs or the famous My Marrakesh blog. Of course there are the big sights that everyone photographs. But each person might photograph things differently at these places. Different things catch our eyes. What caught my eye were the mixes of patterns. Small scenes. Little snippets. Now that I look back over photos, those are my favorites. Instead of an entire door, I want to drink in the detail of part of the door. Because it’s easy to whiz by and not take a moment to stop and appreciate the close-ups while there. Here are some Moroccan pattern mixes …

This was captured my first night in Marrakech:

Marrakech Door in Souks

That first night I bravely forged ahead into the souks by myself and quickly got lost. After walking what felt like 20 miles, I eventually found our riad again. I wasn’t sure where to go, but I knew when I was going in the wrong direction. Finally after asking people and a guy on a bike watching out for me (and never asking me for any money), I found the Jemaa el Fna and the familiar lane to our riad. Whew! After that I made sure to notice more “visual bread crumbs” instead of gaping at the tile patterns and all the stuff hanging around.

This next one was photographed by Melanie Royals of Royal Design Studio, who hosted our Paint and Play trip. It’s layers of patterns from a Moroccan pierced metal lantern and a wood screen in Le Tanjia restaurant:

Moroccan Lantern and Screen Patterns

These are painted doors in our riad, Maison du Tresor, and tiled floor. The door and floor work well together:

Maison du Tresor Painted Door and Tile

This tile and carved marble is at Bahia Palace. I have a lot more photos from the palace to share in a future post:

Bahia Palace Patterns

A mix of patterns at the Saadian Tombs:

Saadian Tombs Patterns

I love this motif at the entrance to Dar Moha restaurant. I want a stencil of this!

Dar Moha

Do these pics all look fuzzy to you? They look fuzzy to me. For someone who’s so visual, my eyes are really bad! So I’m not sure if they really are blurry or I’m having a bad eye day like some people have bad hair days.

Between the chair, the chest and the rug, this is a lively pattern mix in Mustapha Blaoui’s shop. I’d be very happy if my house looked like this:

Patterns in Mustapha Blaoui

Spotted on a wall in the souks. Love this:

Scene on Marrakech Souk Wall

More Marrakech pics and posts coming soon!

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Marrakech Souk Shopping

I can’t remember the last time I shopped in a mall, like you know, the Great American Shopping Mall. Where everything is so shiny and new and machine manufactured and perfect. I’d far rather be where I’ve been the last few days – walking a souk like the Marrakech souks. Have a look …

Marrakech Souks

Marrakech Souk Jewelry

Marrakech Souk Lanterns

Bone Platter in Marrakech Souk

At first in places like this, your eye won’t know where to focus. It’s dripping with stuff. But go in and take a look and you will find fascinating things, like the platter above:

Souk Shopping in Marrakech

The lady who is attached to this arm bought a bunch of these enormous tassels:

Tassels in Marrakech Souk

And of course, the impossibly stacked spices:

Marrakech Spices

For the occasion, I wore what I call the “souk necklace.” I made it to look like something you’d find in the souks of Damascus (when it was safe) or Delhi or Jordan. Instead, I found the pieces of this necklace at Michaels and Etsy, and I strung them all together, and all together they make me think of a souk souvenir:

DIY Souk Necklace

I don’t know that there will be a lot of nomadic decorating going on though – I think I am here looking for something else other than a “shop till you drop” experience. What I am looking for I am not really sure. But I do believe that what you can learn about yourself when you travel is far more valuable than the stuff you can buy.

Although I did find this really cool brass faucet and it would look great in one of the India pied-a-terre’s bathrooms, whenever we get around to finishing the place. It’s exactly the look I’m going for – the Can’t Find It At Home Depot look.

Brass Faucet in Marrakech

I did not get the faucet though because what do I know about plumbing? And especially, plumbing in India. Absolutely nothing. Other than water flows through it. We are already the owners of four toilets for a place that has two bathrooms! But that is another story for another day …

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