Mention Morocco, and our thoughts instantly go to arched entryways, gorgeous African sunsets, colorful tilework, opulent gardens, fine handicrafts, and the heavily perfumed air wafting through its souks (aka open-air markets). Just a stone's throw from Spain and Portugal, the North-African Kingdom of Morocco borders Algeria to the east and counts the rolling sands of the Sahara Desert and the rocky terrain of the Atlas Mountains as part of its ethnologically diverse landscape.
Its unique geography has also made it an important crossroads of age-old religions and cultures: Morocco's indigenous Berber people, along with its Arab, Jewish, African, and Mediterranean roots all converge to inspire its exceptional aesthetics—and the country's design and home decor contributions extend far beyond the handmade leather poufs we all know and love. Here, the TKTKTKTKT designer TKTKTKDESIGNER explains how to fully embrace Moroccan design and decor and steep your own space in casbah style.
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Moroccan style is, at once, relaxed and luxurious, with more than a touch of dramatic exoticism. It also pairs well with the laid-back luxury of the bohemian chic style, and the austerity of Scandinavian, midcentury modern, and minimalist styles, too.
The Moroccan design style is characterized by low-slung furniture, arched doorways, jewel tones, tactile fabrics, wild patterns, a grand sense of opulence, and gorgeous courtyard gardens.
Look to these 15 designer-approved decor and design tenets to bring Moroccan style into your own home and garden.
Use Impactful Colors
Morocco's most beloved hues are pulled directly from its diverse geography. Reds, yellows, oranges, and gold come from the country's African sunsets and Saharan sands, and silver, sapphire, and emerald are odes to the sky and sea. Most riads (walled homes with enclosed central gardens) feature neutral-hued walls that act as blank canvases and bold colors are imparted via upholstery, textiles, and decorative accessories. Accent alcoves and trim with metallic silver or gold paint and highlight unexpected areas, like the back panels of bookcases.
Keep It Comfy
Moroccans are known for their kindness, generosity, and welcoming nature, often inviting complete strangers into their homes to join them for mint tea and sweets. This hospitality is reflected in comfortable, low-to-the-floor wooden furniture—often hand-carved and inlaid with bone or mother-of-pearl—that keeps visitors cool and comfortable, fosters intimate conversation, and eases the passing of food and drinks. Utilize relaxed, versatile, and moveable pieces, such as handmade hassocks (ottomans), leather poufs, thick floor cushions, and folding tea tables.
Colorful silk and velvet fabrics often swag riad ceilings, forming luxurious, dreamlike canopies over seating areas and four-poster beds. Intricately-carved jali (latticed privacy screens) separate rooms, and ceilings feature elaborate carved-wood coffers and hand-painted arabesque motifs. Recreate Morocco's opulent aesthetic by outfitting, say, a high-ceilinged living area with a monumental, low-lying coffee table and standout pieces that start conversations, such as an Arabic majlis (floor sofa), a paintable, freestanding metal privacy screen, or a series of strategically-placed arched mirrors.
Channel Moroccan Architecture
Morocco's distinctive architecture is instantly recognizable: Keyhole-arched doorways, tile mosaics, Islamic domes, and spiky minarets dot the TK landscape. Even interiors feature ornately-carved double doors and muqarnas (hand-carved vaulted ceilings). Channel Moroccan style with hand-painted hexagonal side tables, a metal-studded wood headboard, a bookcase in the shape of a Moorish arch, textured, paintable vinyl wallpaper in baroque patterns, and rustic, carved-wood chests and console tables that evoke the country's masterful wood crafts.
Hang A Lantern
Hand-hammered, perforated, and glass-paned lanterns are quintessentially Moroccan—they hang on walls and sit on tabletops and floors, radiating ambient light onto walls and ceilings, casting celestial shadows, and promoting deep relaxation. Find vintage and authentic examples at 1stDibs, Chairish, and Moroccan Lighting: Suspend several lanterns over a kitchen island or dining table, flank a fireplace with a duo of jewel-tone sconces, or set interesting groupings of candle-lit lanterns down on tables and in corners of rooms and outdoor areas.
Play With Tile
Floral and geometric repeats (think: triangles, squares, diamonds, stars, crosses, and baroque patterns) adorn Morocco's intricate zellige (terracotta) tile mosaics. Use zellige tile on walls, shower stalls, backsplashes, alcoves, fireplace surrounds, and floors, but unexpected applications—above, and surrounding cased openings, archways, and doors—are as equally showstopping. If zellige costs too much, source ceramic, marble, glass, and quartz tile in specialty shapes (penny round, diamond, geometric, arabesque, fish scale) or typical shapes in exceptional layouts (parquet, herringbone, basketweave, pinwheel).
Source Fair-Trade Decor
Buying knocked-off, Moroccan-inspired home decor doesn't support artisans (often women) in need—and they aren't the high-quality goods you'll get in Morocco proper. Fair-trade organizations, wholesalers, importers, and smaller boutiques with directly-sourced Moroccan decor help Moroccan craftspeople earn competitive rates for their wares. Find fair-trade products like woven-raffia storage baskets, modern Moroccan lighting, and Berber rugs at Loom & Field, Anou, Casablanca Market, Dounia Home, Souk & Soul, M.Maryam, Pure Atlas, and St. Frank.
Pile On Textiles
If souk style is what you seek, then feel free to pile on handmade Moroccan textiles with detailed embroidery, blazing colors, geometric patterns, and fun passementeries (tassels, pom-poms, metallic threads, fringe, and sequins). Incorporate sabra-silk pillows and batania (aka pom-pom blankets), or frame an intricately-woven Beni Ouarain shawl or sabra textile as a largescale artwork. Turn a hand-loomed handira, or Berber wedding blanket, into an ornate bedspread, wall hanging, or rug. And if you know a good upholsterer, you can easily transform a chair or ottoman with a vintage kilim.
Hand-forged and damascened (inlaid) copper, iron, and brass trays and decorative accessories, too, figure heavily in Moroccan furniture and interiors, as do nail-studded walls and doors, and wrought-iron and brass hardware, grillwork, partitions, and gates. Get the look for less: Replace boring hardware with solid-brass escutcheon plates, knobs and pulls, radiator grills, and bronze door knockers and hinges. Or, recreate a wrought-iron window grill with frosted peel-and-stick privacy film (yes, it's attractive) in an array of Moroccan-inspired patterns.
Rules of proper pattern-mixing do not apply when it comes to Moroccan-inspired decor, and wildly mismatched, even clashing, patterns are common. But if you're a stickler for guidelines, then start by mixing one largescale and one medium-sized print with a smallscale pattern—and go nuts with the solids.
Morocco's dreamy, romantic ambiance adds to its incredible mystique: Flickering candles, softly lit rooms, fragrant flowers, and the aromas of fresh spices wafting through the air are a veritable feast for senses. Light and diffuse richly-perfumed candles, incense, and essential oils, in traditional Moroccan scents such as tobacco, pomegranate, ginger, clove, orange blossom, amber, cinnamon, rose, sandalwood, patchouli, and cedar.
Forge An Outdoor Oasis
Gardens hold great importance in Morocco: They impart a calmness, beauty, and transcendental escape that belies a strong "heaven-on-earth" sentiment. Traditional Moroccan plots include shade trees, flowering plants, and a water feature (think: mosaiced fountains and skinny, tiled pools). Channel the serenity of Yves Saint Laurent's exotic Jardin Majorelle (above) to inspire your own outdoor oasis with simple water features like a birdbath or a large, low-set bowlful of waterlilies. Accessorize with floor cushions, poufs, handwoven textiles, and Tamegroute pottery, and hang clusters of candlelit lanterns from tree limbs.
Design A Considered Nook
Inspired, highly-decorated alcoves are also a Moroccan tradition: Carve out a niche in your own abode with a large space or well-considered nook that serves a designated purpose. Include one over the top element, such as a breakfast nook with a tentlike canopy or a sitting area defined by Moroccan poufs and low-slung furniture. Careful, though. A too-literal interpretation of the Moroccan theme can easily venture into cheesy territory—and you'll still need to establish cohesion.
Morocco is perhaps best known for its outstanding sheep's wool rugs made by its indigenous Berber people and you'll typically see thickly-piled rugs layered over and underneath flat-weave versions (and vice versa). Place two Berber carpets alongside one another—a neutral black-and-white Beni Ourain with its primitive freeform geometrics, for instance—next to a colorful, asymmetrically-patterned rag-style Boucherouite rug or horizontally-striped Zemmour. Or, layer several flat-woven kilims over a wall-to-wall sisal or jute rug to duly channel Moroccan laissez-faire.
Canopies and swagged fabrics adorn Moroccan ceilings, nooks, and seating areas. Recreate the drama and exoticism typical of decked-out casbahs and Saharan camping adventures by framing and decorating beds with gauzy mosquito netting, heavy velvet, or cotton-voile curtain panels. Striking window treatments can range from sheer to opaque, depending on desired privacy, and should just dust the floor, while cording, strings of beads, tassels, and even Moroccan jewelry can act as novel accents and tiebacks.