This week I’m working on a group of custom designs for a Moroccan themed spa area in Alys Beach, Florida designed by architect and interior designer Jeffrey Bruce Baker. I have been collecting lots of inspiration for this, but I really hit the jackpot during our recent trip to Egypt and Israel. There were gorgeous patterns everywhere-in mosques, windows, temples, and tombs, but the most inspiring place to me was our beatuiful boutique hotel in the rural outskirts of Luxor, Egypt, literally a palace!
Al Moudira hotel, was a destination on Luxor’s West Bank, which I wanted right away when I first began planning our family adventure to Egypt this summer. The hotel seemed to meet my criteria, luxurious (I definitely wanted luxury on this trip), unique, full of character and personality, visually inspiring, and off the beaten path. I hate being in super touristy areas and hotels! I read about the owner and architect, Zeina Aboukheir, in an article, and saw an image of her posing with someone beautiful and famous, which immediately caught my attention.
The hotel was absolutely everything I imagined it to be and more. We were there in the off season (so hot in June), and as it turned out we were the ONLY guests there in the 54 room hotel! I cannot believe they staffed the entire villa and grounds with the most caring and kind chefs, hosts and house keepers just for our stay. Even the full menu was available, made to order, just for us of course. Delicious food, exquisitely presented in a spacious and cool dining room with a wooden bar. I felt like we were in a movie, royal British explorers visiting Luxor, wining and dinning in exotic luxury.
Zeina sold the hotel several years ago to a German company (they have done a great job keeping it as she designed it and I hope it remains this way), but happened to be living there while we were there, so we got to spend some time together. What a treat! She told me here entire story, and I asked her about EVERY design detail I noticed. I must have been exhausting! What I found so striking about the decor, was that it truly felt like a personal and carefully curated collection of special furniture, textiles and light fixtures. It was exactly as I try to do in my house, filled with objects (and some clutter in mine) that are not only beautiful, but that have meaning to me. All true for Zeina. She spent years shopping and collecting furniture, ornaments, and fabrics throughout the world, and made them all work together. Even the stained glass windows were inserted into sliding doors, and huge wooden antique beams were purchased and incorporated into the walls. The meaning behind her design is intentional, eclectic and really stands out in every corner. Every detail mattered to her and it shows! Zeina is originally from Lebanon and has quite the eye, no surprise she was a photographer for years.
She told me where to shop in Cairo (yay) and how she embarked on this tremendous project years ago. There was literally nothing there but sand! What a trailblazing woman she is! Even the paths throughout the gardens are filled with broken patterned tiles, placed with her own hands, lending such personality and character throughout the property. It’s low key, mellow yet elegant and it was very quiet and relaxing hearing the fountains throughout and taking a dip in the pool, which was quite necessary in 100 degree dry heat. What I loved the most was the sound of the dry winds rustling in the palms and brush. It honestly felt like an oasis, and it is!
I filled my phone with photos and my mind with our fulfilling conversations, and now I’m using it all as inspiration in this custom project. I sort of thought these photos would be easy to translate into repeating patterns and into metal (they really should be) but they actually are not. I think it’s because I’m trying to capture the beauty of what I saw, and nothing can really come close to a true Moroccan antique wood cutout, complete with the whimsical irregularities and the weathered surfaces and adjacent trickling fountain. I’m finding this process to be an interesting design challenge. I am embracing it, hoping that the outcome will be some beautiful custom Modern Metal screens for Jeffrey’s client.