Maryam Montague's Moroccan Oasis

See how one writer created a luxurious retreat in the desert outside Marrakech.

When Maryam Montague and Chris Redecke first decided to settle in Morocco, they were determined to purchase an olive grove, drawn to the tree's history and symbolism. With their shimmering silver leaves, olive trees are among the oldest plant life in Morocco and are also a global symbol of peace, a fact of particular significance to an international human-rights worker such as Montague. 
When Maryam Montague and Chris Redecke first decided to settle in Morocco, they were determined to purchase an olive grove, drawn to the tree's history and symbolism. With their shimmering silver leaves, olive trees are among the oldest plant life in Morocco and are also a global symbol of peace, a fact of particular significance to an international human-rights worker such as Montague. 
Photography by Patrick Cline. Original text by Robert Leleux.

Five years ago, Maryam Montague, an American human-rights specialist with a hard-won expertise in negotiating the world’s least stable governments, was searching for a place for her family to call home. Because her career often involves traveling throughout Africa and the Middle East, she and her husband, architect Chris Redecke, chose Marrakech for its central location, beauty, and cosmopolitanism. Preferring the city’s outlying deserts to its bustling medina, the couple formed the notion of taking up residence in an olive grove. "We knew it would be a wonderful life for our two children," says Montague. "It took a while, though, to find the right place. You might be surprised to learn just how few olive groves come up for sale in Morocco each year." When they discovered the eight-and-a-half acres on which they’ve since built Peacock Pavilions, however, they knew they’d found their home.

Maryam Montague's Moroccan Oasis
The Atlas Pavillion is deocrated with treasures gathered during Montague's many travels. Throughout, traditional Mococcan rugs and textiles are reinterpreted to suit a modern decor. 
The Atlas Pavillion is deocrated with treasures gathered during Montague's many travels. Throughout, traditional Mococcan rugs and textiles are reinterpreted to suit a modern decor. 

Over the next three years, Montague and Redecke designed and built something far more than a typical family home. The couple has now transformed a rustic olive grove with views of the Atlas Mountains into a boutique hotel and resort, a luxurious compound that includes three spacioushouses, an 800-square-foot swimming pool, and even an outdoor cinema. On each project, the pair sought to combine traditional elements of Moroccan architecture, such as domed ceilings and eyebrow arches, with the latest developments in eco-conscious design.

Clockwise from top left: The grand salon of the main house is alive with color and pattern, blending traditional Moroccan design with industrial touches, such as swivel chairs made from repurposed metal barrels; Many of the rugs and blankets seen throughout the hotel are available for purchase online at Montague's shop, the Red Thread Souk; Many of Peacock Pavillions' bedrooms boast working fireplaces such as this one, covered in sumptuous black marble; The vibrant bedroom with its hand-blown Egyptian lantern, showcases traditional Moroccan textiles in a decidedly modern context.
Clockwise from top left: The grand salon of the main house is alive with color and pattern, blending traditional Moroccan design with industrial touches, such as swivel chairs made from repurposed metal barrels; Many of the rugs and blankets seen throughout the hotel are available for purchase online at Montague's shop, the Red Thread Souk; Many of Peacock Pavillions' bedrooms boast working fireplaces such as this one, covered in sumptuous black marble; The vibrant bedroom with its hand-blown Egyptian lantern, showcases traditional Moroccan textiles in a decidedly modern context.
Maryam Montague's Moroccan Oasis
From left to right: A boldly stenciled ceiling paired with a delicate chandelier creates a sense of drama in this simply appointed bedroom; A chimneypiece of Egyptian tiles is decorated with a Catholic reliquary; The Golden Gazelle Suite's mural was inspired by a folding screen from fashion designer Jeanne Lanvin's apartment, spotted by Montague in a Christie's catalog; Elaborate stencling adds a sophisticated touch to the understated elegance of a cool white hallway.
From left to right: A boldly stenciled ceiling paired with a delicate chandelier creates a sense of drama in this simply appointed bedroom; A chimneypiece of Egyptian tiles is decorated with a Catholic reliquary; The Golden Gazelle Suite's mural was inspired by a folding screen from fashion designer Jeanne Lanvin's apartment, spotted by Montague in a Christie's catalog; Elaborate stencling adds a sophisticated touch to the understated elegance of a cool white hallway.
Maryam's Tips for Decorating with Moroccan Flair

   

  • PATTERN IS ESSENTIAL IN ANY MOROCCAN DECORATING SCHEME.

    For an inexpensive fix, I like to stencil Moroccan patterns on surfaces from floors to stair risers to ceilings.

  • CEILINGS ARE OFTEN A FORGOTTEN SURFACE IN AMERICA.

    But in Morocco, they're the pinnacle of design. Consider wallpapering or painting your ceiling with a graphic pattern. 

  • WOOD FLOORS ARE A RARITY IN MOROCCO,

    a country famous for its sandy stretches, so Moroccans always warm up the floors with cozy carpets and flat-weave rugs.

  • MOROCCAN LANTERNS ARE UBIQUITOUS IN THE SOUKS.

    But rather than just one large pendant light, Moroccans often like to cluster several smaller light fixtures, showering the light below. 

Clockwise from top left: A black Moroccan wedding blanket, used here as a coverlet, is of Montague's own design; Montague's black-and-white photographs are showcased throughout the hotel, including those decorating the bar of the main house's formal dining room; A hanging light fixture pops agains a stenceled ceiling; Vintage French newspaper illustrations line serene, white walls.
Clockwise from top left: A black Moroccan wedding blanket, used here as a coverlet, is of Montague's own design; Montague's black-and-white photographs are showcased throughout the hotel, including those decorating the bar of the main house's formal dining room; A hanging light fixture pops agains a stenceled ceiling; Vintage French newspaper illustrations line serene, white walls.

In the midst of this endeavor, Montague began documenting her experience on My Marrakesh, a blog that’s now grown into an award-winning resource of news and insight on Moroccan living. Its millions of readers have established Montague as an authority on the region’s culture, and this month, her first book, Marrakesh by Design, will be published by Artisan. In it, the author has crafted a celebration of her adopted country’s style. "While creating Peacock Pavilions, "says Montague, "we’ve attempted to pay tribute to the exquisite culture of Morocco, while reverently searching for ways to reinterpret it, for ways to make this beautiful place a home of our own."

Star-shaped lanterens, with their delicate filagree, line a glass-enclosed hallway overlooking the swimming pool.
Star-shaped lanterens, with their delicate filagree, line a glass-enclosed hallway overlooking the swimming pool.
The hotel's social life is organized around the luxurious 800-square-foot swimming pool and Moroccan-style cabana. 
The hotel's social life is organized around the luxurious 800-square-foot swimming pool and Moroccan-style cabana. 
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