Nicola Holden Designs – Contemporary Interior Designer, London.

I have been promising to share with you some of the design highlights of my trip to Morocco back in April, and today is the day!

I have long wanted to visit Morocco as it conjured up visions of beautiful architecture, bright colours, mosaics, rugs, and inlaid furniture just about everywhere you looked. I find visiting new places so inspiring, and I come back fired-up with fresh ideas. I relish the opportunity to meet people from different cultures, to taste their food and try to get just the smallest glimpse into their way of life. And, if I’m honest, I was also seeking a bit of Africa and a bit of sunshine – the levels of those in my blood were in need of a top-up!

And, of course Morocco didn’t disappoint, although a lot of the beauty was hidden behind the pink walls of the city that you see from the road. But, with a LOT of walking, and a good sense of adventure, we allowed ourselves to get lost amidst the alleyways that make up the old part of the city, and stumbled on some beautiful sights.

One of the first things I needed to do in Marrakech was to source a rug for a client of mine, and it wasn’t long before I found myself in the souks, and in a huge carpet emporium, being shown their wares. After a bit of too small, too dark, etc I settled on a design that I was sure my client would love.

Souk

Rug shopping

With business done and dusted it was time to seek out a few architectural gems.

The riad we were staying in was right in the heart of the ancient walled Medina, and most of our time in Marrakech was spent exploring this area. Bab Agnaou is one of the two original entrances to the kasbah (citadel) – pretty spectacular for a gate that was used by the commoners!

Bab Agnaou

A short walk away was the Bahia Palace, originally built in 1867. The palace is adorned with beautiful painted cedarwood ceilings, carved stucco, zillij mosaics, stained-glass windows – and some wonderfully unusual doors! (Zillij refers to the ancient technique of hand-cutting ceramic tiles, and dates back over 1000 years.)

Bahia Palace 1

Bahia Palace 2

As we left we passed this colourful tiled street scene that I couldn’t help but photograph.

Tiles and bicycle

The following day started with a visit to the jaw-droppingly beautiful Ban Youssef Medersa. Originally a koranic school, this building comes complete with lashings of intricately spectacular, classic Moroccan décor. Practically no surface is left undecorated. I could have spent hours in this wonderful building, soaking up every single design detail.

Ben Youssef Medersa 1

Ben Youssef Medersa 2

Ben Youssef Medersa 3

The restaurant we chose for dinner that evening was adorned with Moroccan lamps that cast beautiful shadows over the walls, conjuring an atmosphere of Arabian Nights.

Casting shadows

One of our final stops in Marrakech was the Majorelle Garden, created in the 1920’s by French painter Jacques Majorelle, and subsequently owned by fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. The garden is a wonderful haven of tranquillity in this frenetic city, with bamboo groves, an extensive cactus garden and lily-covered pools. The Art Deco pavilion in the centre of the garden is painted a striking cobalt blue, which brilliantly offsets the multi-coloured bougainvillea, and the bright oranges, lemon yellows and apple greens of the pergolas and pots.

Majorelle Garden

And then it was time to pick up our hire car and head out over the Atlas Mountains and into the Moroccan pre-Sahara for inspiration of a completely different type. Here it was all about the colours and shapes of nature.

Atlas Mountains

Moroccan pre-Sahara

And yes we did spot one or two birds along the way! smiley

Blue Rock Thrush

Have you been to Morocco? What was your favourite spot? I’m already drawing up a list of places to go next time!

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”
Anonymous

Images © Nicola Holden.

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I can’t believe we’re already into July. Where is this year going?

I seem to have hit a bit of a personal stumbling block with my blog. Ever since I upgraded my branding, things haven’t been quite right, and being a perfectionist, but not having the time available to dedicate to sorting things out, I’ve been struggling to pull out my finger and produce more posts. And now you, my readers, are demanding more material.

So, before time marches on too much more, I thought I would share with you some of the exciting companies I have recently stumbled across – during Clerkenwell Design Week and the May Design Series back in May (shh – don’t remind me that was 6 weeks ago)!!

CLERKENWELL DESIGN WEEK

The company that everybody has been talking about is A Rum Fellow, who launched their Maya Collection at Clerkenwell Design Week. This beautiful range of tapestry designs are created by simultaneously combining hand weaving and embroidery, and are produced by the Maya tribeswomen of Guatemala. It takes a month just to produce a slim metre of this fabric!! But the results are simply stunning – a kaleidoscope of colour and complex pattern.

A Rum Fellow 1

A Rum Fellow 2

Next up is Austrian lighting company Kaia with their Lum pendant. I have long been wanting to buy a star-shaped pendant for my home, and this is a gorgeously contemporary take on it, albeit made up of pyramidal shapes rather than an actual star. Another item to add to my ever expanding wish list!

Kaia

Wandering through the damp confines of the House of Detention I stumbled upon this collection of bright fabrics and wallpaper from Kit Miles. Being a big fan of Timerous Beasties and Badgers of Bohemia, Kit’s wallpaper designs totally appeal to my design aesthetic, and I love the vibrant geometrics of his fabrics too.

Kit Miles

At the other end of the colour spectrum, but still equally gorgeous, are these fabrics from Studio 23. Produced by weavers from a remote village in eastern Nepal, this fabric is made from the Himalayan Giant Nettle (known as Allo).

Studio 23

At CTO Lighting’s stand I came across these opulent triangular Maya Wall Tiles, made from brass, semi brass, dark brass and bronze tiles. What a stunning addition to any home!

CTO Lighting

Urbanara do a great range of affordable homewares, and were showcasing their latest collection at Clerkenwell. I have been on the look-out for an Ikat cushion to add to a client’s Periwinkle blue chair, and this could be just the ticket.

Urbanara

If you’re a regular reader of my blog then you’ll know I’m always on the look-out for African inspired products, and this year’s show didn’t disappoint. I discovered Toghal textiles, whose fabric designs are a contemporary take on some traditional African designs. I love what they have done here!

Toghal

As well as the addition of bright cushions to liven up your home, how about adding this wire stool / side table – produced through a collaboration between & Then Design and young designer Chris Oswin. Its colour and shape will add a bright, contemporary twist to your scheme.

& Then Design

This lighting from Italian company Prandina caught my eye too. If only I had a stairwell to drop it down through – sigh. Maybe in my next house…

Prandina

How can one not love the geometric simplicity of these gorgeous prints from Lovely Pigeon? This screenprint with foil blocking celebrates the geometry of Anstruther harbour, near to where the artist lives in an old net loft.

Lovely Pigeon

MAY DESIGN SERIES

From the May Design Series, held at the Excel Centre, the stand-out company for me was Australian company Art Hide. Using premium first grade Argentinian cowhides, an ethical supply chain and Art Hide’s trademark laser burning technique, the company produces a stunning range of leather products, from traditional natural rugs, to striking dyed and laser etched wall art pieces, and beautiful accessories for lifestyle and home.

Art Hide

And returning to the UK, how about this beautiful steam bent wood basket from Tom Raffield. Made using local, sustainably sourced English oak, and finished like a fine piece of furniture, this simple wood basket is an example of English craftsmanship at its best.

Tom Raffield

Danish company Ebb & Flow has a tradition of combining old with modern, celebrating unique enduring design. Using classically beautiful shapes and cut patterns, this lead crystal pendant has a dazzling simple elegance.

Ebb & Flow

Freshly back from Morocco, my eyes lit up to see the Amiens tile collection from Grestec – the revival of a traditional tile from the ancient Mediterranean and Middle East. This form creates an imaginative, playful finish that giving a feeling of movement.

Grestec

If you’re feeling wealthy, then how about this 18-carat gold and copper kitchen tap from Dornbracht? With the increasing trend for warm tones and earthy, natural materials, this tap fits the bill perfectly!

Dornbracht

And finally I will leave you with these elegant glazed steel basins from another German company Alape. I just love the simplicity of their shape, and the gracefulness of their dimensions – so thin and sleek.

Alape

So there you have it – my global pics from this year’s May shows. Better late than never!

“Everything we have in our homes has been designed. The quality of thought, materials and manufacture defines how satisfying an experience we get from interacting with them. But other issues, such as usefulness, usability and sustainability must also be considered in their creation to ensure that they fully enhance our experience of life in the broader sense.”
Sebastian Conran

Image credits from respective companies.

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