24 May Design inspiration by Martin Raffone of MaisonLAB in Marrakech
By Mandy Sinclair
Earlier this year, Riad 72 was delighted to stop by New York interior designer Martin Raffone’s little boutique featuring a range of homewares including textiles, pottery, wooden items and more on Rue Tarik Bnou Ziad and aptly called it maisonLAB by Martin Raffone. Fresh pops of colour, a graffitied wall inspired by the Amazigh alphabet and a slogan locally crafted x designed for now, this boutique is a great addition to a neighbourhood that is bubbling with new ideas.
We had a chance to sit down with him following his shop opening on 30 April 2016 and chat to him about design, Marrakech and what’s new.
Why an interior design shop in Gueliz rather than in the medina where most tourists stay?
I love the energy in Gueliz. There is a mood there/a feeling of edginess under the surface that is exciting and speaks to my NY roots. I love the feeling of community there. Again, it’s the contrast of the modern in this ancient country. Gueliz feels on the edge of modernity and with a foot in the past…all the art deco and 50/60’s building are so cool. Tourists that are seeking design will always travel to find what is new and different. We have had an amazing stream of people from all over the world come into the store. And, I want to bring good modern design to the folks that live in Marrakech, not just to the tourists in the medina.
How would you describe your design aesthetic?
My aesthetic is certainly modern, a combination of natural materials both rich and rustic; sophisticated forms and textures; subtle and dramatic colors. A smart mix of warm and comfortable modernism, sophisticated simplicity and a richly defined materials palette.
What are some of the standouts in the shop at the moment?
Hot colours are very in right now, I’ve incorporated them into several items in the shop. They are great for the summer months. I am also loving Moroccan walnut, a truly gorgeous wood in shades of brown and grey – look for it in cutting boards, furniture and accessories. And, since it’s spring I am loving all things green – cut flowers, grasses, plants. I’m bringing the outdoors inside.
What do you think surprises people most upon entering your shop?
My shop has a very particular viewpoint, and that is something that comes from my life in New York and my travels. It is something that is certainly unique to me, but more so, unique to Marrakech. I think my customers are surprised that something that feels so modern and urban and also feels a part of what makes Marrakech so compelling.
What is your design process?
My process always begins with something that exists – a client’s wishes or desires, an existing architectural space, the light and mood of a place, the beauty of something old or the excitement of something completely new and modern. From there I work to develop solutions to the requirements or desires of the client with an innovative mix of materials, colours and textures, furniture and lighting. Always with an eye towards the architecture and location of the place.
What makes designing in Marrakech so special?
Marrakech has a very unique quality, it is so very ancient and at the same time has a feeling of something new. Things are always being created here, there is a vibrancy in this, and energy. An artisan may be making something as it has been done for hundreds of years, but the fact is that person is making it in the 21st century, in the context of life in modern city. That contrast, to me, is very inspiring.
What interior design tips to you offer to someone wanting to add a Moroccan touch to an apartment in a city like London or New York?
I think it is always important to make your design decisions in the context of where you are living. Trying to recreate a Moroccan riad in NY or London would be very jarring, but adding touches that come from the feeling or character of a place is always a good thing. For example, the rough and organic character of many of the buildings in Marrakech (particularly in the medina) is something that someone could try to incorporate into their NY or London apartment: rough textured walls or floors could be beautiful with furniture that speaks more to the urban context of those cities. Mixing and contrasting things is always beautiful. A gorgeous antique Moroccan rug in an urban apartment brings a bit of the feeling of Morocco home. This is what I am doing in my shop, creating modern furniture and accessories that have the feeling of Morocco.
Top Marrakech tips
Must-see in Marrakech
The new Secret Garden in the medina is my favorite new place. You walk from the crowded and hectic medina into this amazing open garden, beautifully planted and serene space…heaven!
Must-eat in Marrakech
Mechoui Alley – I love to go every so often to this little alley off the Jemaa el Fna and eat this delicious roasted lamb. I love that it is for both locals and tourists alike.
Best spot for people-watching
The Café de France in the square is an excellent spot to sit with a coffee and literally watch the world go by. The sheer volume of foot traffic and activity is fabulous. Donkey carts, taxis, tourists from around the globe, hawkers, performers…it’s all there in the square and this is a place to sit and enjoy.
Brunch at the Mamounia pool-side. Amazing food, gorgeous spot and great people watching. A real treat!
Visit maisonLAB at 44 Rue Tarik Bnou Ziad (behind Carre Eden) in Gueliz or online at maisonlab.com.