For Exotic Romance, Try Moroccan Decor
By Joyce Harmon
Mystery! Romance! Adventure! Can a room’s decor really evoke these feelings? They can when the theme is Moroccan. Think Bogart and Bergman in Casablanca.
This lush evocatic decorating scheme can be yours and it’s not at all expensive to achieve. Some key elements: mosquito netting, jewel-tone silks, brass, rattan, wood carved in serpentine shapes.
First, think about wall color. If your walls are the standard off-white ‘builder’s beige’, that will suffice to approximate the traditional Moroccan whitewash. Other colors, blues and pinks, might be a bit more iffy, though a pale green would work and yellow with orange tints can evoke the mud-brick of North Africa. If you’re feeling ambitious and own your own home or have a landlord without the usual paint aversion, you can do a faux finish of mustard with cayenne highlights, perhaps even a rough plaster look.
If the room comes with a ceiling fan, great! However, if the fan blades are too modern or western in appearance, you’ll want to change them out for wood or wood and wicker blades or paddles.
Now to fill the room. Start with the netting. In the modern home with air conditioning and screens, mosquito netting is not needed to serve the utilitarian function of blocking out mosquitos. But draped from the ceiling to frame a headboard or chair, it evokes romance and exotic luxury. Use enough netting to puddle on the floor, and to attach your netting overhead, try a basketball hoop! You might even already have one of these going unused in the garage. Attach it to the wall close to the ceiling and use fabric to disguise the hoop’s sporty past.
For bedding, seating, and floor pillows, you’ll want to use brilliant silks. These can be surprisingly inexpensive if you know where to look. The key is to buy sari fabric. This national dress of India is simply a long rectangle of fabric, usually silk, comes in gorgeous lush colors with wide borders decorated with silver and gold, and one sari gives you six yards of fabric!
Choose your colors carefully. While the pastel silks are beautiful, they won’t provide the Moroccan feel. Remember, jewel tones! Look for the deep richness of ruby, sapphire, emerald and amethyst.
You can use your sari silk for lush window treatments as well. Or for an alternative window treatment, you could go with interior wooden shutters with intricate latticework.
For seating, you won’t want to lounge on your floor pillows all the time, so look for a fan-back basket chair. (Remember Morticia’s favorite chair in The Addams Family? That kind.) Also surprisingly inexpensive at the import store, and you can occasionally find them second-hand in thrift stores as well. This might be the chair to feature with your mosquito netting canopy. Here’s another place to use your sari silk, as a cover for a round seat cushion.
Nothing is more unmistakably Moroccan than the pierced brass hanging lantern. This is usually a sided-cylinder shape, sometimes with an onion dome at the top or bottom, with insets of colored glass, usually red and amber. The genuine article can be your most expensive purchase for your room project, running several hundred dollars. But watch the second-hand stores and on-line auctions, and you might be able to pick up a used one at a fraction of the cost. Or if your project has a shoestring budget, you can invent your own Moroccan lantern by converting a cylindrical hanging lamp. Some copper paint on the metal and glass paint on the clear glass panes should add a Moroccan flavor.
For tables, go with rattan or large round Moroccan brass trays on a stand. You can use the tray to dress up a plainer table or make your own stand for it. Dress up plain wall to wall carpeting or wood floors with oriental or oriental-look throw rugs or area rugs.
For general room decor, you’ll want at least one potted palm, though two or more are better. Get the largest palms your budget can afford, at least shoulder-high. For additional drama, uplight your palms with spot lights aimed up from the floor behind the palm.
Finish the room off with some carved wood camels and for a touch of whimsey, consider a large ceramic or stuffed plush parrot on its own hanging or freestanding bird roost.
And there you have it! As you shop for your project, you’ll probably find other little decorative touches for your Moroccan fantasy, colorful tiles, large baskets, a camel saddle footstool, more bits of Moroccan brass, but your room is essentially finished. You can loll on your floor pillows and enjoy the exotic and mysterious environment that you created for yourself.
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Joyce Harmon, a freelance writer in Virginia, enjoys writing about decorating, collecting, gardening, self-help, and pets.