Custodian Conran


The hotel everyone is talking about this Summer, Villa Mabrouka in Tangier was, in the '90s, the source of inspiration for designer Yves Saint Laurent. Now, thanks to British designer Jasper Conran, it's a contender for this season's must-stay destination.

Villa Mabrouka, Conran’s second hotel in Morocco, is located in a beautiful villa set within one of Tangier’s largest, enchanting gardens, constantly alive with vibrant colour, gentle breezes, birdsong and glittering views of the Strait of Gibraltar and North Atlantic Sea.

“One step through Villa Mabrouka’s heavy carved wooden doors and into the gardens, you are immediately transported to the feeling of being in paradise,” says Conran. Once the secluded sanctuary of fashion legends Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé, Conran has meticulously transformed Villa Mabrouka from a former private home into a cossetting and elegant hotel. While respecting the spirited details Saint Laurent and Bergé introduced into the house while working with French interior designer Jacques Grange three decades ago, adding “I wanted to add my own lifetime of thoughts and expressions in a complementary way.”

“I have always admired the way Saint Laurent and Bergé worked so diligently to draw attention to Morocco and to encourage its people and culture,” he continues. “Yet working on Villa Mabrouka has made me even more aware of its importance as a landmark and place of historical significance. For me, this has been a conservation and preservation project as much as a design project.” “My aim at all times, has been to protect the magic of both the house and its ravishing gardens. In this, I have been very touched by the kindness and encouragement shown to me by Madison Cox, President of the Foundation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent (who also designed the original garden) and by the Moroccan authorities, whose enthusiasm for the project has been invaluable.”

As custodian of such an extraordinary house, Conran’s vision has embraced the clean-lined simplicity of the house’s 1940s modernist architecture while bringing to it the quiet eccentricity and traditional service of an English country house, the yesteryear romance and magic of the Riviera’s early 20th century golden era of travel, as well as the designer’s own contemporary taste for refined understatement and exquisite craftsmanship.

While only moments from the bustle of the famous white city’s Kasbah and Medina, the intimate 12-room Villa Mabrouka has been transformed into a haven of tranquillity and calm, a place to be immersed in the beauty of nature and attentive service, whether on your own or with a group of family and friends.

Conran has invested extensively in the modernisation of Villa Mabrouka’s infrastructure, from roofing, electrics, plumbing and underground services, to adding a myriad of new rooms and garden cottages, three restaurants and kitchens (where the menu will emphasise market-fresh Mediterranean ingredients infused with the subtlety of Moroccan spices), a rooftop terrace and coffee bar, a second swimming pool and a hammam, as well as three beautiful dining pavilions available for private hire (one of which, designed by American architect and long-time Moroccan resident Stuart Church, has been faithfully restored). In the garden, already abundant with sweeping lawns, banana palms, ferns, bamboo, citrus trees, hollyhocks, nasturtiums, roses, bougainvillea and agapanthus, Conran has undertaken a vast restoration and replanting programme, adding over 6,500 new plants, shrubs and trees. The new larger pool, carved into the clifftop’s rocks, cascades with water warmed by the sun-drenched stone; a smaller plunge pool, shimmering with emerald herringbone local tiles.

The generously proportioned rooms and sweeping terraces, constantly awash with natural light and an easy, comfortable airiness, are afforded an instant connection with the verdancy of the gardens and the bright blues of Tangier’s glittering sea and sky through floor-to-ceiling glass windows and doors. Against the backdrop of whitewashed walls, Conran has brought in the softness of flowing voile curtains, intricate fretwork, brassware, and veined marble, as well as tactility through rattan, used for wall panels and headboards to furniture, mother-of-pearl inlaid mirrors and side tables, and Mauritanian leather and reed rugs.

Glazed linens in shades of chutney, caramel, emerald and rose have been mixed with delicate block-printed florals and antique Fez embroideries. Locally handmade bejmet and zellige glazed clay tiles have been used throughout, complemented by ancient Roman mosaics and 16th-century Andalusian tiles. Murano chandeliers, crenelated archways and beamed ceilings (some painted in the late designer’s signature shades of green and blue), and monochromatic marble floors are among the many touches created by Saint Laurent and Bergé that Conran has retained.

“I want Villa Mabrouka to feel deeply personal, like staying in a home rather than a hotel, reflecting the way I personally like to live, the things that I enjoy and the appreciation of beautifully made things,” says Conran. “I want it to be a place where you can spend time taking in the beauty of everything around you.”



Photo credit: Andrew Montgomery

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