Tangier Home: Inside the Holiday House of Two Renowned Designers
Layered with collectables from around the world, the Tangier home of Hervé van der Straeten and Bruno Frisoni simultaneously stimulates and inspires.
Having wanted a place by the sea, French furniture designer Hervé van der Straeten and his husband, designer Bruno Frisoni, had set their sights on the Amalfi Coast in Italy. They were not looking for a house in Tangier. They weren’t even particularly thinking of Morocco. But everything changed when they spent a few days with friends in the northern Moroccan port city. Here they discovered a home for sale on the edge of the medina – the walled ‘old city’.
The structure itself was not especially appealing. It was simple, painted blue and yellow, and had a ‘labyrinth of small rooms’ inside. Its location, however, was unbeatable. ‘There’s really the charm of the medina,’ says Hervé. ‘It’s an area where there are lots of crafters, with copper workers and people making djellabas or wooden furniture by hand.’ It also has impressive views. ‘It’s a little like the bow of a boat,’ he says. ‘From it, you can see the port and the beach.'
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Taking into account Hervé's career as a contemporary furniture designer and Bruno's as an acclaimed shoe designer, the couple’s skills certainly stood them in good stead when it came to the redesign of their Tangier home. ‘It was in a terrible state,’ says Hervé. ‘The upper levels had been badly built, so there was only the ground floor that could be retained.’ During the renovation process, they removed one of the two staircases and dug down an additional metre into the ground to add a basement level. They also created larger rooms and a patio on the second floor that leads to a roof terrace with handmade bejmat floor tiles.
Despite this finish, both designers were determined that they didn’t want their Tangier home to be too ‘typically Moroccan’. Instead, they referenced Tangier’s importance as a port and introduced souvenirs from their travels to create an international feel. The irregular marble floors were inspired by a similar effect at the Casa de Pilatos in Seville, Spain, while several other elements were drawn from Syrian design. The black and white-striped master bathroom references a hammam the couple visited in Damascus, for example, and the light fixtures in the sitting area of the dining room are made from brass bowls they acquired in Aleppo.
Hervé also opted to include a few Art Deco touches in their Tangier home (the white and black fireplace in the sitting room, for example, is derived from the style of the 1930s) as well as numerous examples of his own creation. They include his now-iconic Capsule stools in the study, a Cumulus table with a base consisting of finely balanced geometric blocks and a Virevolte chandelier made of brass and alabaster. A couple of rooms do have a more obviously Moroccan flavour, including a salon on the first floor – the only space in their Tangier home that is quintessentially local. It features a painted ceiling, traditional zellige (mosaic) tiles and a cosy banquette tucked into a niche. Hervé and Bruno also brought in artisans from Fez to craft the carved mashrabiya wood latticework and the finely sculpted plaster. The walls of the guest bedroom, meanwhile, have been clad in striped rugs from Syria and elsewhere.
More than anything, the goal was to deliberately create different ambiences. With its white arcades, the ground floor is purer and more classical. On the upper levels, the colours become brighter and more joyful. As Hervé points out, they spend time in their Tangier home during several different seasons. They always pass part of the summer there and can visit either for Easter, Christmas or a short break in the spring or autumn. ‘Bright, luminous rooms are great in the summer,’ he says, ‘but they’re not appropriate all year around. In winter, we’re really happy to have rooms with fireplaces and textiles on the walls!’
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