Book Review ~ Marrakesh by Design by Maryam Montague

June 14th, 2012

It’s not often that I read an interior design book cover to cover. I had been waiting for some time for Marrakesh by Design, published last month and written by Maryam Montague, an American expat and hotel-owner living in Morocco. She writes the well-regarded blog My Marrakesh, and her home was featured in the April issue of Elle Decor magazine.

There is a certain flair to Moroccan design—something I haven’t observed in other Arab countries. Of course, there are beautiful items from all over the Middle East and North Africa, but when I see iconic objects like painted tea glasses, a fanciful teapot, pierced lantern, door knocker, tagine, colorful pouf, or pointy slippers, I think that’s Moroccan, and I have a clear association with the country.

Meanwhile, many design elements highlighted in the book are not unique to Morocco but are Islamic and Arabian—familiar all around the region. As the author states, Morocco has design influence from the Arabs, Berbers, Turks, Spanish, French and other African countries.

This eclectic blend is featured in the book’s captivating photographs of real homes in Morocco. The author, who took most of the photos herself, showcases a wide range of living spaces—from simple to bohemian, from grand to humble, and from traditional to surprisingly contemporary and whimsical.

Going way beyond adding a pouf or lantern to your living room, this book is divided into three parts. The first part “Discovering Moroccan Style” explores the architecture, colors, finishes and patterns of the country. Here the author goes into the artisanal and craft traditions of Morocco. I especially enjoyed the chapters on patterns and color.

The second part “Living Moroccan Style” provides examples of how to incorporate this style into bedrooms, salons, bathrooms, entries, gardens, and my favorite—kitchens. The last part of the book offers tips for buying carpets, pottery and all those distinctive Moroccan items. Finally, the book ends with lists of sources online and around the world for gathering these goodies.

The information is surprisingly detailed, like that on the art of zellij (mosaic tile), as well as the layout of the traditional Moroccan home and the meaning behind various motifs. Throughout the book are “Bring it Home” sidebars with hands-on projects for all types of living spaces. These practical ideas are interspersed with cultural information on such things as Moroccan greetings, superstitions, and even how to make Moroccan mint tea—all good stuff for lovers of Morocco.

As for me, the book has been a bit of a revelation. I have been collecting Arabian bric-a-brac for the past twenty years. But after I while, I stopped seeing my own things; they began to look like clutter. I drew inspiration from Maryam’s photos, which gave me fresh eyes to see my own home, my collections and the potential therein.

Granted, I will not be stenciling my ceiling, re-tiling my bathroom, or making a fountain out of a flower pot. However, I just might add a pierced lantern above my dining table, buy a Berber carpet, rearrange my Hand of Fatima collection, and plant some jasmine by my door.

Marrakesh by Design is for anyone who adores all things Moroccan or Arabian. Even if you are (like me) more of a daydreamer than a decorator, the photos alone are worth this book’s place on your coffee table—crafted, of course, out of an antique window.

To know more, here’s a 1-minute video introduction to Marrakesh by Design.


Question: What are your thoughts on Moroccan design or this book?

  1. Jeannie Neely
    June 15th, 2012 at 18:43 | #1

    Great review Holly, I’ve heard about this book and wanted to see it, now I think I will seek it out. Our middle eastern carpets and poofas are now mixing with the old overstuffed chairs of my French grandmother’s and Sri Lankan and Indian furniture. It seems that the history of the family is in every room. The M. E. certainly changed our home for the better with color and design.

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      June 16th, 2012 at 10:10 | #2

      Oh, Jeannie, your home sounds lovely. How nice that you picked up some things from your stay in Dubai. I’m sure they will make great stories and memories. Yes, I think you’ll enjoy this book.

  2. June 21st, 2012 at 21:16 | #3

    Oh if I have the money and the space! So beautiful. Thank you!

  3. Lainey
    July 20th, 2012 at 07:37 | #4

    You are so interesting, Holly.
    Every time I read some of your writing or something you are interested in, it just makes me miss you. You are one of a kind. So special.
    I miss you, friend.
    And all your many interests.

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      July 20th, 2012 at 23:23 | #5

      HI Lainey, Thanks for your kind and thoughtful comment. You made my day. I miss you, too. As I’ve said before, Dubai is not the same without you.

  4. February 19th, 2014 at 02:12 | #6

    Nice book!
    We are in love with this Maroccan designs… We have been to Marocco to study all these designs for our studies to manufacture new tile designs. It has been a great inspiration for all of us. We keep this mystic designs in our hearts and hope many people will fall in love with the joy of using so many colours in their interior decoration…

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      February 19th, 2014 at 08:39 | #7

      Hi Floorz, Yes, I can’t resist Moroccan design either. Thanks for reading & stopping by

  5. April 15th, 2014 at 12:20 | #8

    Dear Holly,

    We have bought your book and it is right here in our showroom. So all our clients tha pass by can read it and collect some inspiration!

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      May 18th, 2014 at 09:19 | #9

      Hello, this lovely book was not written by me. I simply reviewed it. 🙂

Comments are closed.