It might have started in Vogue last year, but now I’m seeing lots of fashion magazine coverage of expats in Tangier. The New York Times T Magazine has profiled a group of eccentrics in their overstuffed domiciles, in darkened rooms that appear designed to soothe a daily hangover.
But now I see in Departures a story about fashion designer Bruno Frisoni and artist Hervé van der Straeten’s modern home in the same Moroccan city. The photo spread, and Frisoni’s quote, spoke to me: “We’re not Moroccan, so it didn’t feel right to create a house that was strictly in that style.”
Their decor seems absolutely appropriate to the region, yet reflects their own lives, not others’. Their journeys through Italy, Andalusia and Syria informed designs such as a guest bedroom with walls covered in multi-striped carpets from Aleppo. The headboard is an old door from Fez, but the night stands come from the nearby medina. A “nod to modernity” and some pops of color is found with a yellow 1970s Paul Smith chest of drawers in the living room, in addition to fragments of an Andy Warhol wallpaper. They flooded the rooms with natural light and brought in a more general Mediterranean aesthetic.
My life hasn’t been nearly as fabulous as theirs, of course.
Now that Casa Nana is done, we’re ready to consider how to furnish her. Our first house together, a 1938 Connecticut Colonial, was influenced by me watching too many Turner Classic Movies. The 1944 film “Laura” has so many beautiful interiors that hold up today. We went for the same cozy, layered look. Not so much with ruffles and fringe, but lots of lamps, pillows, molding, little sculptures and books in a built-in like you see in a New York City pre-war apartment — the type you’d see in “Laura.” But this time around, we’re going in the opposite direction. More nods to clean, modern lines, which somehow makes sense in tropical conditions.
Soon, we’ll be shopping for beds and night stands. Early on, I had my eye on those four-poster iron beds, to emphasize the height of the room, but platform beds with an upholstered headboard seem increasingly compelling. I’m less and less inclined to replicate a hacienda restoration and more inclined to bring own world into Casa Nana, as Bruno and Hervé have. We’re not the overlords of any haciendas, and don’t feel the need build a Hollywood set that would allow us to pretend that we are.
Looking at these photos from Tangier, I’m reminded of another goal. Color! Finally, we’ll be introducing reds and oranges and greens through artwork, fabrics and accessories. Another American who’s way ahead of us in the expat department recently wrote that lamps and lampshades are something not to be left behind. Maybe there’s more in our “Laura”-inspired Connecticut Colonial that will end up on a shipping container than I first thought.