Moroccan dwelling gets a whimsical revival

Taking up residence in part of a mosque complex, this 18th-century house in Marrakech, Morocco belongs to two expats from Los Angeles, Caitlin (a former public relations executive) and Samuel Dowe-Sandes (filmmaker). Dar Noury (dar means house in Arabic, while Noury is the surname of a former owner), is a traditional courtyard house that can only be accessed by walking through the entrance of a centuries-old mosque, meander down a long corridor to a discreet nail-studded door that is next a prayer hall. The two-story, three bedroom structure dates back around 1760, assumed to originally be constructed for an imam or who worked for the mosque. Before renovations, the home had holes in the floor for toilets, high narrow rooms and a sunny courtyard.

The renovations took just three months to complete, in keeping as much as possible to the authenticity of the original architecture. With the installation of modern plumbing being the first on the list, masonry walls were resurfaced, and the ceiling of a corridor was opened to expose the picturesque cedar-and-bamboo structure behind it. The owner’s also preserved the old-fashioned cement tiles in the courtyard, mainly because there are so many hues of pink in the surrounding city that the black-and-white motifs are refreshing. Most of the home was painted white, with the exception of the master bedroom which received a dramatic elephant-gray finish. The dining room was painted a nail-polish-red and the stairs were given a little extra drama with a dashing black stripe painted all the way to the top.

Just a couple of years ago the couple started their own tile business called Popham Design (named after the beach in Maine where they wed), which make artful encaustic cement tiles. The company creates whimsical patterns, which have been showcased throughout Dar Noury, from the living room floor to the guest bedroom wall. Popham Design uses local Moroccan artisans to hand-make cement tiles in an array of designs and colors that combine traditional elements with a contemporary twist; almond trees, arches, and donkey cart wheels are all sources of inspiration. Via

Loop-di-Loop cement tiles by Popham Design pave the living room, with flea-market furniture finds.

The roof terrace, with built-in seating and traditional Moroccan tiles.

In the study, the Wink-on-One tiles are by Popham Design. The cocktail table was a former movie prop.

The dining room features Saarinen-style chairs and Popham tiles.

This guest room features Curly Branch Coral wall tiles by Popham Design.

In the master bedroom, the headboard is a 1960s door.

The rooftop terrace.

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