How Moroccan style gardens can inspire our outdoor spaces

On a recent trip to Marrakech in western Morocco, I had the true pleasure of staying in a boutique riad called El-Fenn. Marrakech is full of riads – large houses built around interior courtyards – many of which have been converted into hotels and private accommodation for visitors, making it a city of hidden oases. Stunningly renovated by Vanessa Branson (Sir Richard Branson’s sister) and her partner, El-Fenn is something special. During a two-year renovation all 28 rooms, courtyards, gardens and rooftop terraces were reimagined and redesigned.
 
The result is breathtaking. Vivid colours, earthy textures and lush planting create a beautifully relaxed environment. Pots have been left to age, plants grow all over the walls, and polished lime plaster in every hue speaks of the building’s long history.
 
El-Fenn was a feast for the senses, from the rich shades of the walls, tiles and textiles (which deepened as the light drained from the evening sky), to the bubbling fountains, the muezzin’s call to prayer and the delicious cooking smells floating from a neighbour’s rooftop. By appealing to all five senses and paying attention to the details, we can import a little Marrakech magic into our interiors right here at home.
 
 
Pools and baths are a key feature of riad design. If you don’t have room for a swimming pool, consider a small plunge pool or outdoor bath. Even a simple water feature will add a desert oasis feel to your Kiwi garden.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Add texture and interest to a room by creating a wall display of lanterns and baskets
 
 
Create welcoming seating areas with a mix of brightly coloured soft furnishings, as in the rooftop terrace on the previous page. Have fun with colour, then tone it back with simple terracotta pots and rambling plants. A thatched sunshade can be a great escape from the heat of the day and completes the bohemian feel.
 
 
 
 
Have fun with colour, then tone it back with simple terracotta pots and rambling plants. A thatched sunshade can be a great escape from the heat of the day and completes the bohemian feel.
 
 
Mix up shapes and styles of pots, lanterns and plants to create interest. If you are using tiles, consider creating a bold pattern.
 
 
Plan your outdoor or courtyard area around a symmetrical structure and use seating and tiles to frame the space. Planting and pot placement will soften the effect.
 
 
Create a focal point by hanging a series of lightshades in natural fibres above your outdoor dining table or courtyard, or along a balcony.
 
 
Create a textured wall by stacking your firewood high and carrying the natural colours through with burnt oranges and warm browns.

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