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Moroccan Interior Design: History, Style & Elements

Instructor: Amy Jackson

Amy has a BFA in Interior Design as well as 19 years teaching experience and a doctorate in education.

Do movies like 'Casablanca' or 'Road to Marrakesh' evoke romance and mystery for you? The allure of the Morocco shown in these movies leads many to recreate its design in their homes. Here are some ways to add a little Moroccan mystery to your home.

What makes Moroccan Interior Design Unique?

Morocco is a small nation on the northwest coast of Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Two of its largest cities are Marrakesh and Casablanca. Over the centuries Morocco has been settled by people of numerous cultures and religions, each one contributing to the unique atmosphere of the country. Berbers, Arabs, Romans, Spaniards, Portuguese, French, and people from sub-Saharan African countries have made Morocco home. The interior design of Morocco combines many of these diverse elements to create a distinctive design style.

Contributions to Moroccan Design

Berbers, the indigenous or native people of Morocco, have lived there for over 4,000 years. Nomadic tribes moved with their grazing herds of sheep. Berbers spun the wool from those sheep and wove kilims, or rugs. Bright colors created with plant dyes were common, and designs varied by tribe. Some Berbers also mined for silver ore and were quite skilled at working silver. Christianity and Judaism were the primary religions until the Arab invasion in the 7th century, which led to mass conversions. At this point, the designs used in kilims and silver started to reflect Islamic cultural influences.

Moors, people of Arab descent, brought Islamic art traditions to Morocco with the 7th century invasions. One Islamic influence was marquetry, or the art of making wood inlay designs, which adorns many Moroccan wooden pieces of furniture.

Moroccan Wall Hanging
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Ancient Roman influence inspired ceramics and tile making, an important part of Moroccan design beginning in the 8th century. Inspired by Roman mosaics, brightly colored tiles were assembled into a variety of functional as well as decorative pieces. The designs reflect the various cultures that have occupied Morocco. Straight lines and hard edges are Berber influences, while the rounded patterns are Islamic.

Spain, Portugal, and France all claimed Moroccan territory at one time or another, each adding a little more variety to Moroccan art and culture. French is the language of government and business, and many traditional Moroccan towns have French-style neighborhoods. Music, wood carving, and metalworking have been influenced by Spain and Portugal. Musical influences were brought from sub-Saharan Africa by enslaved people who were transported through the ports of Morocco during the era of the slave trade.

Moroccan Archway
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The architectural details in Moroccan interiors reflect the cultural influences of its people. Curved archways, doors and the keyhole archway design, of Islamic cultural heritage, take center stage. Interiors are brightly colored, either through colorful fabrics set against neutral walls or with a combination of colorful walls and colorful fabrics. Colors such as ocean blues, reds, oranges, greens, bright pinks and vivid purples are common.

How to Create a Moroccan-Inspired Interior

Moroccan furniture has plush upholstery. Overstuffed pillows and floor cushions in bright colors reflect the nomadic heritage of the Berbers. Wooden pieces, such as tables, chests, and seat bases, are intricately carved or inlaid with with marquetry.

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