Inside Yves St. Laurent’s Marrakech Villa

When I opened my September 2018 issue of Elle Decor and saw the sumptuous bohemian interiors of Yves St. Laurent’s Villa Oasis in Marrakech, Morocco, strains of a song straight out of my 1970s teen years danced through my head:

Midnight at the oasis,
Send your camel to bed.
Shadows painting our faces,
Traces of romance in our heads.

Maria Muldaur recorded the song, written by David Nichtern, in 1974–the year I graduated high school–and it was an instant hit. Its suggestive lyrics and Muldaur’s sultry voice are also credited with record pregnancies in that era, and concertgoers often tell Muldaur they lost their virginity to that song.

Villa Oasis is a similar kind of rich and lusty romp in the desert. The property was previously owned by painter Jacques Majorelle, who built his striking blue home in the fabled “pink city” starting in 1923. The artist was also a plant collector, and in 1947 opened Majorelle Gardens to the public. St. Laurent bought the property in the 1980s, kept the gardens open, and began restoration of the house.

A museum complex has since built up around the six-acre compound, and plans are for the home’s interiors to open to the public as well. Until that happens, you can get a sneak peek here. And if you’d like a little music to, say, put you in the mood (ahem) for such an intimate tour, Muldaur is glad to oblige.

Heaven’s holding a half-moon
Shining just for us.
Let’s slip off to a sand dune, real soon,
And kick up a little dust.

ED / Miguel Flores-Vianna photo

If I ever visit, I may never move beyond this nook in the entrance hall, designed for musicians to entertain guests.

ED / Miguel Flores-Vianna photo

But a door like this, once thoroughly examined and admired, simply demands to be opened and passed through, am I right?

ED / Miguel Flores-Vianna photo

I love how the carpet patterns in this sitting area seem to mimic the scrollwork in the table legs. Or is it the other way around?

ED / Miguel Flores-Vianna photo

Undoubtedly this intricately tiled fireplace gave the “blue salon” its name. I like how the striped upholstery adds pattern that sharpens focus on the fireplace instead of competing.

ED / Miguel Flores-Vianna photo

Another salon, just as grand, features tile work and wall decorations designed by Majorelle. The 1920s console on the far right is the villa’s only remaining piece handpainted by Majorelle during his time living here.

ED / Miguel Flores-Vianna photo

The ceiling in the library is handcarved cedar, and the 19th-century French chairs are upholstered in kilim rugs. How I’d love to sink into one of them and just lose myself staring into that ceiling!

I know your daddy’s a sultan–
A nomad known to all.
With fifty girls to attend him, they all send him,
Jump at his beck and call.

ED / Miguel Flores-Vianna photo

St. Laurent’s bedroom features a green marble floor and a handcarved and -painted headboard to match the intricate wall designs.

ED / Miguel Flores-Vianna photo

The bedroom’s sitting area gives you a more extensive view of the shutters, doors and walls hand-decorated in red, black and gold. More inviting chairs upholstered in kilim rugs beckon, as well as a 17th-century Isfahan carpet installed beneath.

ED / Miguel Flores-Vianna photo

What St. Laurent called the “minzah” is arguably my favorite room, though that’s a tough one to designate in this space. I love its colorful simplicity and more modern, though still Moroccan, look. St. Laurent designed and painted this top-floor refuge himself and is said to have sketched his fashion collections at the 19th-century French bamboo table in the center.

ED / Miguel Flores-Vianna photo

Breath-taking bougainvillea shades and scents the terrace. I love how the chairs are shaped like flowers. I suppose the guests themselves became the colorful petals. No doubting a space like this could work magic like that.

Maria knows what I’m talking about. Sing it, sister…

But you won’t need no harem, honey,
When I’m by your side.
And you won’t need no camel, no no,
When I take you for a ride.

If you want more…

Photo courtesy of Marian McEvoy
  • Continue your tour of Villa Oasis on the Elle Decor website, or pick up a copy of the September 2018 issue at your newstand. You won’t want to miss Marian McEvoy’s compelling history of the property and plans for its future. BTW, that’s her in the above photo, having tea with YSL himself in the Majorelle gardens back in the 1970s. Perhaps Muldaur was playing on the radio?
  • Put your traveling shoes on and book Architectural Digest‘s Indagare Marrakech tour Oct. 9-14, 2018, which includes insider access to Villa Oasis, Jardin Majorelle, Musee Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech, curated shopping trips, and much more.
  • Stop by Paris on your way home (you’re probably making flight connections through there anyway) as Sotheby’s auctions the contents of homes owned by St. Laurent’s long-time partner Pierre Berge, who died last year. Contents of four properties in both France and Morocco will be sold to benefit Jardin Majorelle, in addition to other organizations important to Berge. The collection will be on view Oct. 25-29, and the auction follows Oct. 29-31.
  • While on Sotheby’s website, read “Pierre Berge’s Brilliant Eye” by Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni, which details the homes the sale draws from.
  • Check out another spectacular Marrakech property featured on BoHo Home about a year ago: Artist Claudio Bravo’s winter home. If find yourself humming “Marrakesh Express” by Crosby, Stills & Nash for days after reading, so much the better! ;->
  • Browse (and perhaps purchase), using the affiliate links below, books and other items related to St. Laurent, Jacques Majorelle, and the city of Marrakech:


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