Lately I have been dreaming of “La Dolce Vita” and all things Italian as we plan our 20th anniversary trip to the Amalfi Coast next month. I have been a huge fan of Missioni as long as I can remember. Their energetic colorful patterns are instantly recognizable on everything from their fabulous fashions to their stunning line of textiles and carpets. I loved getting a glimpse of third generation Margherita Missioni’s home via Architectural Digest in the bucolic town of Varese. It is a sophisticated, yet playful mix of so many design elements I love….color, pattern, murals, original art, modern furnishings mixed with vintage finds, a sense of humor, and most importantly deeply personal aesthetic reflecting the family that inhabits the space.
The final post of the Rayner’s Haute Bohemian oasis in Palm Beach reveals their beautiful gardens and magical Moroccan pool tent. There was a delightful surprise around every bend in the serpentine path of their lush tropical gardens. As I mentioned in Part One, we entered their property through an intricately adorned Turkish Pool Pavillion designed by Peter Marino. Once we passed through the Pavillion and a beautifully manicured lawn adored with parasols, painted elephants, and chaises, we entered the “jungle” leading towards the main house detailed in Part Two.
Yesterday, I shared one of the most original homes I have ever experienced. Click HERE to read the first part of the background of this bohemian gem. The main house of Kathy and the late Billy Rayner’s Palm Beach compound is a modest one bedroom home. Tiny guesthouses posing as”potting sheds” are scattered throughout the property connected by serpentine paths in the lush tropical landscape. I think the best interiors are always constantly evolving. These interiors perfectly reflect that concept showcasing items accumulated from their travels through North Africa and the Near East.
Once in a blue moon, I experience a house that makes me weak in the knees. It is the kind of emotional response that one has to a great work of art or experiencing a heavenly moment in nature. I was fortunate enough to visit this beauty last winter on an architectural tour in Palm Beach. What started as a non-descript ranch was transformed into an exotic compound in a tropical garden by architectural genius Peter Marino. I had first read about this property in the book Palm Beach Chic by Jennifer Ash Rudick. I was instantly enchanted by the home of Kathy and the late Billy Rayner. Images do not do this magical oasis justice…Enjoy the tour!
We have been devoted fans of Trina Turk long before her visit to Charlotte in 2012 as our guest of honor for the Mint Museum Auxiliary’s Fall EnrichMint Forum. Ever since that visit where Trina and her husband Jonathan Skow (aka Mr. Turk) charmed everyone with their fashions and passion for architecture and and design, we have hoped they would open a boutique here in the Queen City. To our delight, that wish is coming true this summer and we have the pleasure of collaborating with them to design their new boutique. See below for the inspiration behind the design….and come visit the boutique opening August 1st at Southpark.
I had the very good fortune to live out this proverb this week! I was delighted to get a sneak peek of the Chinese Lantern Festival installation at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden . After an afternoon of total downpours, the rain finally subsided giving us a stunning sunset and glorious evening to view these amazing works of art in the garden. While I was expecting some over-scaled lanterns (which I love) scattered throughout the beautiful garden, I was awestruck by the amazing creations that greeted us. Made of silk, paper and glass, each handmade work came to life as the sky turned from dusk to nightfall. Special thanks to our gracious hosts for such a special evening!
There are certain individuals that you can tell by their fashion choices that you will absolutely adore how they decorate their home. PR maven Christina Juarez is one of those fashionistas that I always look forward to see what she is wearing at design industry events. Her aesthetic is always impossibly chic perfectly adorned with accessorizes that seem like she has acquired on her travels around the world. I could not wait to see her home featured in this month’s Elle Decor. I love her fearless use of color and pattern along with her incredible art choices and total originality.
Antigone I, 1958, by Ethel Schwabacher. © Estate of Ethel Schwabacher
In celebration of the 80th Anniversary of the Mint Museum, the museum is presenting works of extraordinary women from around the world. The women artists being celebrated have broken boundaries with their creativity and innovation. These rebellious risk takers are finally being recognized with a blockbuster exhibition. When the curators at the Mint first mentioned the possibility of this exhibition years ago, we were in the process of searching for acquisitions for the Mint Museum Auxiliary which was started by a group of trailblazing women in the 1950s, the same time period in which Abstract Expressionism started. We were elated to acquire Grace Hartigan’s Scotland that year, and now the circle is complete with this group of Hardigan’s peers (and more of her own paintings) coming to the Mint Museum this week.
Scotland, 1960, by Grace Hartigan, Gift of the Mint Museum Auxiliary
Women of Abstract Expressionism is the first major museum exhibition to focus on the groundbreaking women artists affiliated with the Abstract Expressionist movement during its seminal years, between 1945 and 1960. Organized by the Denver Art Museum , this important project brings together approximately 50 major works of art by twelve of the key women involved with the movement on both the East and West Coasts. The large-scale, colorful, and energy-filled canvases in the show, lent by major museums, private collectors, and artist estates, are certain to thrill and inspire museum visitors. Women of Abstract Expressionism includes canvases by such well-known artists as Helen Frankenthaler, Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Joan Mitchell, and Grace Hartigan, as well as works by their colleagues Perle Fine, Jay DeFeo, Sonia Getchoff, Deborah Remington, Ethel Schwabacher, Mary Abbott, and Judith Godwin, whose work is currently gaining renewed appreciation. The exhibition focuses on the expressive freedom of direct gesture and innovative artistic process that was at the core of the movement, while exploring each artist’s highly personal response to particular memories and experiences. The Mint Museum is one of just two additional venues for this not-to-be-missed show, which makes a significant contribution to art historical scholarship and constitutes a rare opportunity for visitors to see so many key works of modern art together in one place.
This exhibition is presented to the community by Wells Fargo Private Bank. Additional generous support provided by Duke Energy, Electrolux, the Mint Museum Auxiliary, and Davidson College.
Attention shifts from “the paint-splattered man” to the trailblazing female AbEx artists in a new show at the Denver Art Museum.
In the 1950s, artist Sonia Gechtoff had a breakthrough moment at an exhibition that included paintings by Clyfford Still. Encountering Still’s Abstract Expressionist technique flipped a switch inside her. “I was so excited that it took me awhile to get it straightened out in my head,” recalls the 89-year-old New Yorker, who up until that point had been a realist painter. “There was so much freedom and openness. It was thrilling that you could discover something personal directly on the canvas, without adhering to a recognizable subject.” Gechtoff adopted the gestural style, and over the past six decades, her work has been exhibited internationally and acquired by major collections.
Sonia Gechtoff felt welcomed by galleries in San Francisco, where she began her career in the early 1950s, but she says the New York art scene seemed closed off to women. Gechtoff is among the 12 oft-overlooked artists currently getting their due in the Denver Art Museum’s “Women of Abstract Expressionism” (photo courtesy of Sonia Gechtoff).
Yet she and other women of the AbEx movement aren’t household names like their male counterparts Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman, although many of them were equally involved in the art world of the time. The Denver Art Museum’s exhibition “Women of Abstract Expressionism,” on view until September 25, seeks to bring these female artists out of the shadows once and for all.
“Historically, this movement has always been about the paint-splattered man,” declares Gwen Chanzit, DAM’s curator of modern art. “In museums and textbooks, the story has been limited, and so many big, first-rate paintings have been left out.” A number of AbEx women earned critical acclaim when they were active and had their work featured in high-profile exhibitions, such as the famed 1951 Ninth Street Show. They experimented vigorously, developed their own styles and produced significant bodies of work. But the recognition they received still paled beside that accorded their male peers. Sexism is one reason these women were overlooked, but family and household responsibilities also led to inconsistent careers, and societal pressure even drove some to destroy their canvases.
Hudson River Day Line, 1955, by Joan Mitchell. © Estate of Joan Mitchell
The exhibition focuses on 12 key women artists, displaying multiple works by each. In addition to Gechtoff, they include Mary Abbott, Jay DeFeo, Perle Fine, Helen Frankenthaler,Judith Godwin, Grace Hartigan, Elaine de Kooning, Lee Krasner, Joan Mitchell, Deborah Remington and Ethel Schwabacher. Only a handful of them — notably, Frankenthaler and Mitchell — are widely known.
Abstract Expressionist painting was characterized by direct, exuberant gestures — strikingly rich, textural brushstrokes that took advantage of every inch of the canvases, which were generally large. The movement, which was influenced by the fluidity of European Surrealism, gave birth to a uniquely American art form that was influential around the world.
“Unlike, say, a Cubist painting, you cannot teach someone how to make a painting like this,” Chanzit says. “These paintings are deeply personal responses to things that moved these individuals — an event, a place, literature, poetry and the like.”
Mary Abbott, shown here ca. 1950, continues to work every day in her Hamptons studio at age 95. Photo courtesy McCormick Gallery, Chicago
All Green, 1954, by Mary Abbott. © Mary Abbott
Bullfight, 1959, by Elaine de Kooning, © Elaine de Kooning Trust
The Seasons, 1957, by Lee Krasner. Photo by Sheldon C. Collins. © 2015 Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
De Kooning’s Bullfight (1959) grew out of her experience of that violent Spanish tradition, while Krasner’s The Seasons (1957) is clearly a celebration of the botanical world. Although the women adhered to the same artistic principles, each one’s style was distinct.
The Beginning, 1960, by Sonia Getchoff,© Sonia Getchoff
Epic, 1959, by Judith Godwin, Photo by Lee Stalsworth,© Judith Godwin
Gechtoff’s The Beginning (1960), which was inspired by angels depicted in an Italian fresco, includes many colors applied with a profusion of smallish brushstrokes, while in Godwin’s Martha Graham — Lamentation (1956), the brushstrokes evoke the bold choreography of Graham, her friend, to whom the work is a tribute.
Within a movement that, as Chanzit observes in the exhibition catalogue, was defined by the “heroic machismospirit,” the women’s approach was perhaps more personal than that of their male counterparts. Many of the women were painting in response to nature, she writes, in contrast to Pollock, who famously declared, “I am nature.” Strikingly few of the paintings in the exhibition are untitled, suggesting the artists’ openness and willingness to provide viewers with hints to their subjects and their thinking. Frankenthaler was once asked why she titled her works, and she responded, “Because a title has to have a meaning,” Chanzit notes.
Frankenthaler, seen in her New York studio in 1951, is one of the few well-known female Abstract Expressionists. Photo by Cora Kelley Ward, © 2016 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation
While Abstract Expressionism valued freedom, this did not imply a liberated view of gender roles and equality. “As women, we were basically told to go home,” recalls Godwin, who is in her mid-80s and still painting in New York. She studied with the influential German painter Hans Hofmann(as did Frankenthaler) and showed in major galleries in New York. “I stuck around and so did other women,” she says.
Gechtoff began her career in the early ’50s in San Francisco, where the Beat movement encouraged openness and experimentation. She recalls being welcomed into the art galleries on Fillmore Street, including the respected Six Gallery. A few years later, she moved to Manhattan and was shocked to find that the New York art scene “seemed truly closed off to women.” She remembers male artists looking her up and down at parties. “The hostility bothered me so much that I removed myself from the community more than I should have, and I regret that,” she says.
For Krasner, who was married to Pollock, and de Kooning, who was married to Willem de Kooning, their husbands’ fame gave them a certain status in the artistic community, but it also had drawbacks. Krasner, whose work has gained wider appreciation in recent years, lived in her husband’s shadow. “In some cases, the women pushed the men out in front of them,” Chanzit says, “because that’s just how it was back then.”
Although some AbEx artists have garnered more esteem than others, the movement itself has been hailed as a triumph of American painting, and it has been studied continuously since its heyday. For Gechtoff, the AbEx approach is as compelling now as it was when she first viewed Still’s paintings. “It’s an adventure,” she muses, “that’s never ending.”
The New Gallery of Modern Art is celebrating their fifth anniversary this evening with a champagne reception, exhibition, and book signing by the one and only Hunt Slonem. I literally fell down the rabbit hole with his latest book on his beloved bunnies. Hopping from page to page in the book, the bunnies each have their own persona with delightful names such as Serge, Tatiana, Goldie, Harvey and Ted. His fascination with these creatures began at a Chinese restaurant when he discovered he was born in the Year of the Rabbit. He identified with the compassionate nature of the creatures, and uses them as subjects for his morning “warm-ups,” an exercise that was inspired by abstract expressionist Hans Hoffman. Hoffman would begin each day by doing a series of small paintings. Hoffman painted abstractions, Slonem paint rabbits. He often repeats imagery in this series, as he finds the act to be similar to spiritual meditation. Slonem believes that “repetition is very important” and begins each day painting, treating each moment as one of profound meditation and channeling of God or a higher consciousness. To date, his bunny paintings remain a part of his morning ritual, as well as a pivotal theme in his artwork.
Slonem’s work has been compared to the likes of Willem DeKooning, Franz Kline and Brice Marden. In his essay Quantum Lepus, curator Bruce Helander writes,” The humble pleasure offered by these minimal but accurate portrayals of a hare to a harem is that they are lovely to look at. The initial development and completion of a characteristic Slonem bunny is really quite basic, and is the secret to their spontaneity and ultimate success; his instinctive painting can be connected to the lyrical brushstrokes of de Kooning and the black and white compositions of Franz Kline, or the soft, connective, geometric lines of Brice Marden.”
The artists’ love of creatures is not limited just to bunnies. He often works with a bird or two perched on his shoulder. Exotic birds also greatly inspire the artist’s work; he has a personal aviary, in which he keeps anywhere from 30 to 100 birds of various species at his Brooklyn-based studio.
Hunt Slonem was born in Kittery, Maine in 1951; the eldest of four children. His father was a navy officer, while his mother was a homemaker who spent much of her time doing volunteer work. As a result of his father’s military career, Slonem spent much of his childhood on different military bases; living in Hawaii, Virginia, Louisiana, Connecticut, California and Washington. After completing school, which included living in Nicaragua as an exchange student at the age of 16, Slonem began his undergraduate studies at Vanderbilt University. He then spent six months of his sophomore year at the University of the Americas in San Andres Colula, Puebla, Mexico, eventually graduating with a Bachelors of Art in Painting and Art History from Tulane University in New Orleans.
During his collegiate years, Slonem attended the prestigious Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine, where he was exposed to influential artists from the New York area including Alex Katz, Alice Neel, Richard Estes, Jack Levine, Louise Nevelson and Al Held. This exposure played a pivotal role in Slonem’s artistic career, as it aided in his decision to move to New York in 1973. Three years after his arrival, Slonem received a painting grant from the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation in Montreal, Canada and began painting extensively. However, it was his time spent in Nicaragua that Slonem credits with most influencing and inspiring his work. The country’s tropical landscape has informed not only Slonem’s process, but also his need to be surrounded by the nature he paints. As Slonem’s career progressed, he became an active participant in Manhattan’s burgeoning art scene, lauded not only for his artistic talent, but for his vibrant fashion sense. He was introduced to and befriended prominent figures within the artistic community including Sylvia Miles, Truman Capote, Liza Minelli, Monique van Vooren and Andy Warhol.
Slonem’s work is deeply rooted in the act of painting. His jarring color choices, spontaneous mark making and scratched hatch marks are the result of his ongoing fascination with the manipulation and implementation of paint. His paintings are layered with thick brushstrokes of vivid color, often cut into a cross-hatched pattern that adds texture to the overall surface of the painting. This surface patterning combines with the rich colors and recognizable subject matter to create paintings that are physically and aesthetically rich.
Slonem’s work can be found in the permanent collections of 250 museums, galleries, institutions and corporations worldwide. In 2015, Slonem moved to a new 35,000 square foot studio in Sunset Park, Brooklyn where he continues to work. He lives in Manhattan, but travels frequently to his other homes in Louisiana, upstate New York and Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he is undertaking the transformation of the historic 150,000 square foot Watres Armory into a multidisciplinary showcase for his own work, as well as for his extensive collections of art and antique furniture.
And if you cannot create your own wall of original bunnies seen above, you can always consider using his “Bunny Wallpaper” through Groundworks for Lee Jofa.
The creative force also has an innate talent and passion for refurbishing homes. Considering this part of his art form, Slonem has rescued, refurbished and meticulously restored a number of estates including the historic Cordts Mansion in Upstate New York and his two Southern mansions in Louisiana; Albania and Lakeside. Enhancing them with his transcendent, light infused décor, Slonem paired vintage furniture with contemporary art, including many of his own works in addition to pieces by Alex Katz and Andy Warhol. Beyond its majestic beauty, The Lakeside Plantation captured Slonem’s fascination for history. Listed in the National Register of History Places in Louisiana, it was once owned by Marquis de La Fayette whose close relationship with lifelong friends such as Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Monroe, John Adams, and Robert Livingston played a pivotal role in the Louisiana Purchase. In a show of gratitude, the United States gave La Fayette the land, which is now known as Lakeside Plantation. When Slonem was young, he learned that Picasso collected chateaus, and since then always dreamed of doing something similar. Having reached that goal with these historic homes, Slonem would like for them to become part of his legacy, one day serving as study centers that can educate and inspire new generations of artists.
Slonem’s homes were the subject of an extraordinary 300 page, photography-based volume, When Art Meets Design (Assouline, 2014) A truly magical showcase of Slonem’s ability to create spectacular spaces, the book features vivid and expansive interior photography that reveals how he combines antiques, fabrics and artworks.
Marrakech is a shopper’s paradise. Being surrounded by objects that are made by hand and not machine changes the way one looks at an object. Meeting the craftsmen and artisans fabricating these items was one of the highlights of our trip. Centuries of expertise and tradition are passed from generation to generation. The tile, baskets, metalwork, leather, embroidery, rug making, brass, pottery, and textiles show the hand of each individual that created them. Using simple tools and noble materials, the works that these craftsman create are extraordinary.
SOUKS literally means “what a mess” and a what a fun mess it is! The maze of tight alleyways sells every possible handcrafted item one can imagine. Having a guide is essential to ensure you are getting the best price and quality. Every hotel has a list of trusted guides to suggest. The main route is a sun dappled alley selling various wares. As one travels deeper into the souks, they are loosely organized according to what is sold…babouches, rugs, jewelry, metalwork, wool, spices, black magic, leather, ceramics, and clothing. Haggling is a part of the culture. Be prepared to spend a long time discussing prices.
KHALID ART GALLERY is an institution in Marrakech. Located on Dar el Basha in a traditional Riad, the Art Gallery (perhaps more accurately defined as a shop) is bursting with some of the most sought after Moroccan art, antiques, and exquisite artisanal products that Marrakech has to offer. It is easy to see why it has become so popular with the international jet set.
MAISON DU CAFTAN The ultimate place to purchase or design the perfect caftan, Moroccan jacket or djellaba. Order early in the week and have your custom clothes delivered to your doorstep in a matter of days.
MUSTAPHA BLAOUI is where all the riad interior designers knock elbows, picking through M. Blaoui’s collection of Moroccan ceramics, lanterns, rugs, and dowry chests…otherwise known as the “Cave of Mustapha.”
In addition to shopping the souks, we explored other areas of Marrakech at the recommendation of several designer friends. The Gueliz, or the “New City,” showcases the modern side of the city outside of the medina. Art galleries, restaurants, and boutiques line wide landscaped boulevards of this neighborhood.
LALLA is the brainchild of the uber cool and glamorous Laetitita Trouillet. The French stylist made her way to Marrakech from London’s Portobello Market in search of the fabulous finds in the famed souks. After cornering the market in shopping expertise and sourcing for the likes of Sarah Jessica Parker, Gwyneth Paltrow and numerous fashion editors, she turned her talents to designing and producing chic and trendy bags using local materials and craftsmen.
AKBAR DELIGHTS Perhaps the most upmarket boutique in Marrakech, Akbar Delights is pristine in its choice of imported luxury fabrics from Kasmir and India and locally made garments, footwear and accessories. It is another surprise find for most people, but the glittering array of scarves, babouche, jewelry and assorted other clothing and accessories will not disappoint.
33 RUE MARJORELLE Founded in 2010, this thoroughly modern trio of spaces—a boutique specializing in housewares and clothing, a snack bar, and a salon offering furniture, art, and a place to repose—is dedicated to the union of contemporary design and Morocco’s famed craftsmanship. Though the shop represents over 60 designers, mostly from Morocco, co-owner Yehia Abdelnour is quick to turn the focus to the local maâlems, or master craftsmen, who make the majority of what’s on view. Asked what inspired the shop’s tight edit of furniture, linens, apparel, and objets, he cites Morocco’s “abundance of skilled artisans, the vibrant and bold colors, the rich hues, the geometric ornaments, and the handcrafted textures.” And at the risk of sounding unduly brash, he asserts, “There’s no other shop quite like this in Marrakech. In all Morocco.”
BOUTIQUE MAJORELLE The on-site boutique offers a wide range of unique clothing and products, designed exclusively for the Jardin Majorelle, and which reflect ancestral Moroccan savoir-faire. They are inspired by the flora and colors of the garden, the richness of its Berber museum collections, and the work of Yves Saint Laurent that affirmed his profound passion for Morocco.The boutique features a silk and cotton clothing line, produced at the Jardin Majorelle’s own workshop, embroidered leather cushions and leather goods, artisanal soaps, and a panoply of traditional handmade preserves…Silver jewelry, silk scarves, and hand-woven textiles are presented alongside an exclusive collection of jewelry designed by Loulou de la Falaise, Yves Saint Laurent’s former studio director responsible for accessories.
ARTC One of our favorite afternoons was spent at the atelier of ArtC upon the recommendation of Laetitia Trouillet. A ballet dancer turned fashion designer, Artsi Ifrach creates one of kind wearable works of art. “I create all my pieces with a total freedom from the state of mind I have at the moment. Being respectful of the past and the culture to bring something warmer. Vintage fabrics can match past and present. Colours and prints are my landscapes. Napoleon said, ‘There is a fine line between the ridiculous and the sublime.’ I search this line every time in every piece. I am thinking what we would like to have, that we do not have yet. The strongest part we all have is our individuality. That is what I am doing with one-of-a-kind pieces, as we all are.”
LA GALERIE DES TANNEURS A fashionista’s dream! La Galerie des Tanneurs selects the finest materials to make wallets, coats, handbags, shoes, luggage, trousers or skirts all soft to the touch. The curious can even venture into the adjoining leather workshop where in the rules of art, items are entirely hand-made. Nearly eighty artisans working in workshops in the city to offer the best of their skills in record time. Each item is likely to be made, customized, within 48 hours in the leather and the color of one’s choice.
POPHAM DESIGNS Caitlin and Samuel Dowe-Sandes, the American founders, work with Moroccan mellums, or tile artisans, who produce the tiles in an energy-efficient hydraulic press. Cement tiles are part of the heritage and cultural/artistic identity of Morocco. They bring a modern design sensibility to the tradition of Moroccan cement tiles. Shortly after arriving in Marrakech, the couple bought a 250-year-old home in the medina, or ancient walled city, and set to renovating it. Drawn to the geometric black-and-white cement tiles of the home’s courtyard, they soon found themselves sketching their own designs. With these tile designs, they found a balance between their own modern aesthetic and the home’s traditional architecture. An appreciation for the flexibility and practicality of cement tiles as well as the medium’s design possibilities led the Dowe-Sandes to found Popham Design.The designs take their aesthetic cue from life in Morocco and the things that inspire them – the curve of an arch, a delicate carved wooden ceiling, the branch of an almond tree, the shadow cast by the wheel of a donkey cart. The patterns are designed to be flexible so that the same tiles can be arranged in numerous layouts.
MICHELE BACONNIER Designer Michèle Baconnier is known for her re-designs of that quintessential Moroccan slipper, the babouche. Her store also sells women’s and children’s clothing, jewelry, household accessories, such as gorgeous blankets and throws. A passionate traveller and a creative designer, she combines both passions to produce an abundance of colorful, delightful designs.
RIAD ELISA An oasis of tranquility and serenity in the heart of the Medina of Marrakesh. The elegantly predominant white with touches of color creates a charming yet chic style which subtly embraces relaxation. Meet up at the Riad Elisa Marrakesh main Patio before enjoying a delicious dinner at Max Restaurant, on your way to indulge at Elisa Spa, coming back from sipping a refreshing cocktail at the Roof Top terrace or simply sit down at the Salon and enjoy reading a book surrounded by traditionally hand embroidered silk textiles which together with the soft rumor of the fountain and the sumptuous scent of the local flowers transport you to the authentic Morocco. Decorated by the prestigious Interior Designer Tomás Alía, this hidden gem is one of Marrakesh best kept secrets. A bucolic retreat for those who are looking for a unique and luxurious Morocco.
EL FENN With 28 individually styled rooms and suites, tree-filled courtyards, a 7000 square foot roof terrace and a family of resident tortoises, El Fenn is the perfect retreat from which to enjoy Africa’s most exotic city. In 2002 Vanessa Branson and Howell James were looking for a holiday home and walked into the almost ruined courtyard of one of Marrakech’s formerly great private homes. Nearing dusk and with the sound of the muezzin’s call to prayer echoing in the air, they instantly fell in love with the atmospheric house. At the time, only a handful of Marrakech’s riads had been converted to small hotels and Vanessa and Howell knew they wanted to create a home from home retreat that combined great food and service with the spirit of the building’s past and a contemporary decorative twist. During a two-year renovation, local craftsman used traditional techniques to breathe new life into the building. Polished lime plastering was used in a rainbow of colours to create walls, baths and bed frames, original tiling was renovated and carved cedar ceilings restored. Retro furniture sourced from local flea markets was combined with one-off bespoke pieces to create a unique interior.
MANDARIN ORIENTAL MARRAKECH Interior designers Patrick Giles and Dorothee Boissier mix Arabic, Berber and Andalusian styles often in bold contrasts of black and white to create some of the most glamorous interiors in Marrakech. The resort itself is situated on 50 acres of landscaped gardens with views of the Atlas Mountains and proximity to the golf courses. The spa offers treatments derived from various disciplines, Berber, Thai and Chinese Traditional Medicine included. You can steam in the hammam, be wrapped in rose petals or massaged with Morocco’s own Argan oil.
PEACOCK PAVILIONS Peacock Pavilions is a handmade, artisanal boutique hotel in an olive grove on the outskirts of Marrakech. Part of the M.Montague offerings, Peacock Pavilions was designed and built by Americanauthor, blogger and designer, Maryam Montague, and her American husband, Chris Redecke. The hotel, like the rest of M.Montague brand, supports Project Soar, a non-profit organization established the couple to empower local Moroccan girls through art and sports, as well as health and English language education. Maryam, her husband, and two children continue to live at Peacock Pavilions where they share their own slice of a Marrakesh oasis with resident peacocks Maurice, Persephone and Gigi, five cats, one mischievous yellow lab, and any guests lucky enough to be stopping through.
ROYAL MANSOUR MARRAKECH The hotel was born out of a vision to create a spectacular masterpiece exceeding the demands of today’s discerning traveler, while reflecting the true essence of Moroccan tradition. The magnificent main reception building with its fabulous lobby, the bar, the different lounges, the beautiful library, as well as the three renowned restaurants, entice guests in. Inspired by North Africa, Spain as well as Portugal’s traditional Moorish architecture, the Royal Mansour Marrakech hotel design showcases symmetry entwined with classical forms. As for the interior, it is a pure celebration of the diversity and virtuosity of master craftsmen from the Kingdom, with lace embedded plaster, carved ceilings, floors and walls, where Tadelakt and Zelliges take turns in the spotlight. The spa offers guests a spiritual journey, leaving behind the hustle and bustle of the city and daily stresses as they enter into a world of tranquillity and peace. The outdoor hot air gives way to a comfortable coolness within this vast wellness area. The purity of white, punctuated by the colourful floral bouquets and the serenity of the surroundings, are only interrupted by the melodious birdsongs and the soothing sounds of the water fountains. At the heart of this enchanting universe is an impressive fairy-tale white wrought iron atrium, evoking an elaborate birds’ cage.
LA MAMOUNIA Our grand finale to our trip included a brief stay at La Mamounia. Not only has this legendary hotel hosted everyone from royalty to rock stars, it was also renovated by favorite designer Jacques Garcia in 2009. Designed in 1922 by architects Prost and Marchisio, La Mamounia combined the Moroccan architectural tradition with Art Deco design and decoration. The hotel originally had 100 rooms, but was expanded in 1946, 1950 and 1953, and now includes nearly 200 rooms. Inspired by centuries of history, Garcia created a mythical setting evocative of a Moroccan palace. In lieu of the original Art Deco style, the designer used oriental influeneces, zelliges, mosaics, woodwork, wrought iron, stained glass and marble. Click here to read more about this iconic hotel.