Apsara Designs



Road to Marrakech

01 March 2014

Escape into the exotic and epic tale of this much storied, 1000 year old trading post... with a medina now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the medieval city of Marrakech holds an enduring appeal.

what to see - APSARA Favourites

Cobalt blue is the new black...Visit Jardins Majorelle, a twelve-acre artist's landscape and botanical garden designed by the French artist Jacques Majorelle in the 1920s and 1930s. Although Majorelle's orientalist watercolors are largely forgotten today, this landscape is his creative masterpiece. The special shade of bold cobalt blue used extensively is named after him, Majorelle Blue. Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé bought Jardins Majorelle in the 80s and it is now one of the most popular attractions in Marrakech. Must-see: the Museum in the grounds for the '1001 Nights' themed dome showcasing the antique jewellery.


ROYAL MANSOUR: Simply Stunning! A hotel built at the behest of Morocco's King Mohammed VI with an undisclosed, but evidently immense, budget. Tucked within the city walls, the 3.5-hectare site has been contrived as a sort of medina-within-the-medina, an estate of 53 two-storey riads, each individually decorated and serviced via a network of subterranean tunnels. In addition to at least one bedroom, a sitting room and a patio, many of the riads have dining rooms, for those who decline to dine in the three restaurants. La Grande Table Française, already held to be the best French restaurant in Africa, the only marginally less fancy Grande Table Marocaine and the all-day-dining La Table are overseen by chef Yannick Alléno [from the three-Michelin-star restaurant at Le Meurice in Paris]. What truly sets this hotel apart, however, are not its fragrant Moorish gardens, heavenly outdoor pool, superb spa and hammams, or gorgeous bars. Rather, it's the craftsmanship. More than 1,500 Moroccan artisans were employed to craft the exquisite zelij (the geometric mosaic tiling that distinguishes Marrakech's important historic sites), produce the screens of lacy white metal latticework which make the spa look so pretty, carve the countless panels of cedar fretwork moucharabieh and create the stucco known as gebs (even on the stairwells). The attention to detail continues with the marquetry, stained glass and beaten bronze,  and the intricate silver embroidery on the staff uniforms. As a monumental work of art, the Royal Mansour is on a par with the best Marrakech has to offer, which is quite an achievement. The Hot List 2011 Condé Nast Traveller . Must-do: lunch at La Table or cocktails in the intricately designed bar...

where to shop - APSARA Favourites

A sensory experience with a blend of Arab culture and French influence: wander through the vibrant souk and soak up the atmosphere of smoking food stalls and snake charmers at the bustling Djemaa el Fna. The  vintage Berber Handira wedding blankets in ivory with silver sequins are stunning [morrocanmaryam.com has a great selection]. Bab el Kemis to find antiques and Art Deco gems from the 1960s. MINISTRO DEL GUSTO Derb Azouz 22, el Mouassine (00 212 524 426 455). This gallery is owned by fashion-editor-turned-furniture-designer Alessandra Lippini and her partner, Fabrizio Bizzarri. It has become a key shopping destination in Marrakech. Go for the gorgeous wooden furniture, bas-relief panels and local objets d'art. Lippini often works by special commission from interior designers [by appointments.]

33 Rue Majorelle - a concept store opposite Jardin Majorelle offers a union of contemporary design and Morocco’s artisanal craftsmanship. Preserving traditional craftsmanship: French designer, Ludovic Petit, with label Lup31, moved to Morocco ten years ago. He makes his glassware in Casablanca, the only place to source handblown glass, and through his support of a workshop the art of handblown glass continues in Morocco.

Venture beyond the medina walls of the Red City to explore the Gueliz district known for its contemporary boutiques with a focus on interior design.YAHYA - renowned for refined versions of traditional perforated metalwork - light fixtures, wall hangings, backlit mirrors - that combine traditional Moroccan artisan hand-crafted filigree work with a clean, contemporary edge.


AFTER DARK: Dar Yacout, a classic medina restaurant designed by the legendary Bill Willis.

AFTER HOURS: Bo Zin or Pacha

Marrakech Film Festival 2012

Marrakech Film Festival 2012: a tribute to Hindi Cinema. The blend of Bollywood and Mumbai with Morocco offered a moveable feast for the senses. The opening gala was hosted at the Taj Palace Marrakech, a dramatic backdrop to the Bollywood stars who walked the red carpet...alongside appropriately the creator of trademark glossy red-sole, razor-sharp stilettos and red-carpet fantasy footwear...Christian Louboutin! Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan [the Brad Pitt of Bollywood!], Catherine Deneuve and Marisa Berenson gave the undisputed stamp of stardom to the event! I had a blast... x apsara

Moroccan Interiors: Architechtural Digest

The Aesthete: Looking at the legacy of interior designer Bill Willis, whose intoxicating work in Morocco is the subject of a new monograph. Article by Mitchell Owens - May 2012

Americans with a creative bent sometimes thrive best far from their native land, finding true freedom of expression only after abandoning the land of the free. One such adventuresome expat was Bill Willis (1937–2009), the lanky, cranky, often pharmacologically fueled interior designer to Morocco’s fête set for nearly 40 years. Born in Tennessee, educated at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and briefly a resident of Rome—he once operated an antiques shop near the Spanish Steps—Willis found a foothold in North Africa in the mid-1960s and never left. “My discovery of the Islamic world has been an astounding experience,” Willis toldArchitectural Digest in 1989, during the heyday of his reign as the king of latter-day Orientalism, a pan-Arabic hodgepodge whose hallucinatory special effects provided a perfect background for living the louche life. When Willis wasn’t snorting cocaine (“the only drug I really like,” he once noted) with the Rolling Stones, munching hashish cookies with the writer William Burroughs, or dropping acid with the lingerie designer Fernando Sanchez somewhere in the Moroccan desert, he created rooms so romantically over the top that they recall tales told by Scheherazade. Constants in his design vocabulary included flamboyant tiles, billowing domes, majestic fireplaces, and the softly polished waterproof plaster known as tadelakt, typically used in public bathhouses.Those artisanal leitmotifs are evident in the lushly illustrated new book Bill Willis (Éditions Jardin Majorelle), authored by American design writer and editor Marian McEvoy. It is the first monograph devoted to Willis’s limited yet influential oeuvre and is sold exclusively by the shop at the Jardin Majorelle.

The domed main salon that Willis designed for Dar Zuylen, Marie-Hélène, and Guy de Rothschild’s castlelike residence in Marrakech. Photo: Nicolas Mathéus




Road to Marrakech
Sat, 01 Mar, 2014
London Calling...
Thu, 20 Jun, 2013