INTO THE WOOD
With intricately carved timber doors, earthy tones and mud-dyed fabrics featured throughout, a tranquil countryside retreat near Marrakech respectfully references the local culture.
With intricately carved timber doors, earthy tones and mud-dyed fabrics featured throughout, a peaceful countryside retreat near Marrakech respectfully references the local culture
Pierre Pirajean and Héléna Paraboschi live in France, but spend at least one week a month in Morocco — the couple own the restaurants Le Grand Café de la Poste and Bô-Zin, both in Marrakech. To escape the bustle of the city they built a house in the quiet countryside 30 minutes’ drive from Marrakech, in a spot where there had previously only been a few palm and olive trees. “We wanted to extend the location’s soothing tranquillity into the interior of the house and into the garden,” says Paraboschi. “We love being outdoors and wanted to be able to have lunch outside in the winter, which is possible here thanks to the mild climate.” Belgian architect Christophe Siméon, together with the Moroccan architect Hakim Benjelloun, drafted the physical layout of the house and garden. Siméon, who has been living in Morocco for 15 years, specialises in the renovation of old riads and dars, many of which are rented. He is inspired by such local African cultures as the Berbers in the mountains and the Dogon, who live between cliffff walls in Mali, and their use of natural materials like mud and wood. “Siméon consistently replaced the sometimes exuberant colours of Africa with subdued hues, such as brown and beige,” says Paraboschi. ››
‹‹ The architect’s vision is reflected in the dar — a one-storey house — in the large, simple entrance with a Dogon-style door made of tamarind wood. In the bedroom there is a bedspread with a tribal print, a classic homespun Berber rug and an Egyptian camel saddle stool. There are further allusions to Dogon culture in the serene bathroom. “The clean lines and narrow niches are common to the mud huts the Dogon live in,” says Paraboschi. A beautiful bow door made of cedar wood connects the bedroom to the enclosed patio and fireplace. Again, Siméon has applied influences from Berber culture here, with a large rattan sofa and mattress covers in natural colours. The cushions are characteristically Malinese and Senegalese. “The material is bogolan, a traditional mud-dyed canvas,” explains Paraboschi. “The symbolic motifs in earthy tones are supposed to protect you from evil spirits.” The garden is divided into several spaces, including a dining area and a large terrace. The entrance to the dining space is impressive: the corridor leads to immense Dogon-style doors. “A carpenter from nearby Ouarzazate made the doors by hand,” recalls Paraboschi. “He spent months on the hand-carving, regularly returning to Ouarzazate to choose the best tamarind trees.” The dining space with a fireplace is generously proportioned but was simply furnished in a typically African style by Siméon. “We often eat here with family and friends who like visiting,” says Paraboschi with a smile. “Even in the winter you can enjoy lunch out here — in other seasons breakfast and dinner too.” Residents and guests overlook the pond with water plants, where fish and frogs flourish. The sculptures in the pond are made of Indonesian wood. “Their animal-like shapes remind me of antelope,” says Paraboschi. The pond is surrounded by lush greenery, including imposing palms. There is a set of steel garden furniture — designed by Studio Hopscotch in London, run by the couple’s interior designer daughter, Clemence Pirajean, and then constructed by a local craftsman — and a Berber-style canvas canopy on the large terrace. “We enjoy the beautiful panorama of the pool, the olive groves, and in particular the Atlas Mountains,” says Clemence. In the spring and summer the homeowners also like spending time in the colourful vegetable garden and fruit orchard, which contains a variety of plants including banana, lime and fig trees; its maintenance requires five full-time gardeners. It’s hard to imagine there used to be nothing more than a couple of slender palm and olive trees where this harmonious haven is now situated. Life is equally pleasant indoors and out. “We put our heart and soul into building this paradise out of nothing,” says Paraboschi proudly. The couple — who recently opened a restaurant in Dubai based on the formula of their former Parisian restaurant, La Cantine du Faubourg, and will soon be expanding to Ibiza — likes to stay here as much as possible, even though they often lack the time to do so. “This house is really our second home,” concludes Paraboschi. “We’re always a little sad to leave — but happy, too, knowing we can always come back.”
this page: in the kitchen, the dining table and bench seats are made from teak strips; lamp by Spanish brand CONCHA BAY. opposite page: in the entrance, lamps from MUSTAPHA BLAOUI in Marrakech; in the background, Boxing Girl bronze sculpture by homeowner PIERRE PIRAJEAN.
this page: in another view of the entrance, mirror made from Indonesian wood, typical Berber chair. opposite page: in the bedroom, Beni Ourain Berber wool rug; Egyptian camel saddle stool from MUSTAPHA BLAOUI; bronze sculptures, Dancers, by PIERRE PIRAJEAN. Details, last pages.