Globetrotter | Meryanne Loum-Martin
Hotelier and interior designer, Meryanne Loum-Martin is one of North Africa's most stylish and accomplished women. Known primarily as the founder of the exclusive Marrakesh retreat Jnane Tamsna, Meryanne is also the creative force behind some of Marrakesh?s most high-profile projects including designing a private house at the Four Seasons (www.villa12.com). We caught up with this global design icon when we were last in Marrakesh -- read what she has to say about the best local spots for shopping, eating, and lounging.
Hotelier and interior designer Meryanne Loum-Martin is one of North Africa's most stylish and accomplished women. Known primarily as the founder of the exclusive Marrakesh retreat Jnane Tamsna, Meryanne is also the creative force behind some of Marrakesh?s most high-profile projects including designing a private house at the Four Seasons (www.villa12.com). We caught up with this global design icon when we were last in Marrakesh -- read what she has to say about the best local spots for shopping, eating, and lounging.
How has living in Morocco influenced your style?
I always had a Marrakesh style even before knowing Marrakesh, because Marrakesh is at the crossroads of many cultures, so many styles. And I am at a crossroads of many origins, so I think that the eclecticism of the bohemian style of Marrakesh has always been mine even when I was living in Paris or New York. So it has influenced my style in the sense that it was there but it gave me its wings, because here I can have my own design being produced. You know, I have some people who understand my sketch in one minute, and then the next day I have the sample at home. There aren't many places that can do this. I like the fact that you can mix oriental things all the time. You can mix art deco things, Berber things, edited things. So it is a heaven for everyone who is very creative.
In terms of your fashion style, what do you tend to wear and what do you love? What are your favorite parts or things that are produced locally here?
I think as far as things that are produced locally here, caftans are great. There are many ways to have nice, modern ones now.
Is there someone that makes those that you like in particular?
Yes! I like Nawal. She has a very nice shop. For me, she really has one of the best places here. If you want elegant, simple things, the shop called Aya is great. In terms of fashion, I think that when you live here you become naturally more relaxed. You don?t need to have a Chanel suit to be elegant.
Aya: 11, Marrakesh, Morocco
Meryanne Loum-Martin's mother
Since you live in paradise, where do you go to vacation?
I have to find other paradises. And sometimes paradise is just different. Sometimes paradise is New York for a few days, or we tend to visit France when we travel. We?ve been going a lot to Mexico on the pacific coast. We go to the United States, various places in Europe. We go to Bavaria, where I like to go in mid August. We were just invited to a very nice country party there, not far from Munich. And I love India. India is my big passion. India and Brazil are the countries I like the most.
Because I?ve been there several times, and I think India, for someone who is into design, colors and creativity, is like Morocco multiplied by one thousand. I fell in love with Marrakesh because I had been to India the year before, and I was dreaming of having a place, having a house in a very exotic place. Having a house in India was way too far when you live in Paris. So Morocco was my India -- close to Europe. In the mid '80s (like mid '85 when I came), Marrakesh was very different. You didn?t have as many hard roads; you had a lot of sheep, it was very rural and authentic.
Where do you go in Brazil?
Well, I haven?t been in a while, but my husband is starting a conservation project in the Bahia state. So, I think I?ll be going there soon.
Since you wear so many hats, lawyer, hotelier and business owner, can you give us a sense of what your average day is like?
I?m not a lawyer anymore. I resigned from the Paris bar 20 years ago. My average day is about mixing. I?m doing some design projects, I did a private house at the Four Seasons, which I?m very proud of because it?s very nice and the challenge was to give soul to something which, you know, is a hotel brand. So, I?m not involved with the hotel at all but they have private real estate so I did a house there and I am very happy with the result. I have to say I?m patting myself on the back. I?m doing a house in Senegal for a client. So my day consists of running the hotel, working on my design projects, especially the Senegalese one, and pursuing my new projects. I did this new china for a company called Meissen. This was a very interesting project. So it?s a mix of hotel business and design all the time.
What are the must go-to local spots that you would suggest every globetrotter visit in Marrakesh? Whether that be a restaurant or places that you can?t come here and not see?
You see, that?s very interesting because when people come here they always tell me they want to go to a Moroccan restaurant where there are no tourists. But this does not exist because Moroccans, when they want to eat Moroccan food, they stay home because that is the best food. So if you want to see Moroccans, you have to go to restaurants that are French or Italian because it is something different from their culture. It?s always so funny, because people go to a Moroccan restaurant and then end up being with English Americans or Australians; tourists just like themselves. Or sometimes expats, like me, even though I prefer to have good Moroccan food at home.
If you?re a globetrotter, you?ve been to Marrakesh many times and I think you have done these places. You need someone to open some doors for you, for example -- there was a girl who was doing a pop-up restaurant, she?s stopped now, but she would have a very good chef come and for three days there would be 20 to 25 people every night, different ones, having dinner at her house -- it was fantastic! There?s also a woman in the Medina that does private dinners. You call her two days before and she?ll cook a dinner for you and your friends. I heard it?s fabulous (from very difficult people). For me, I would say these are the places that are very different. Otherwise, I like the atmosphere at Djellabar. Sometime the atmosphere at Bo Zin is absolutely electric. Theses are the places where there?s a real buzz. I am launching a gallery in a beautiful loft space in the Jnane Tamsna gardens with English artist Nic Fiddian-Green on February 28th. It's called "Nights in Marrakech" Drawings. The Garden Gallery is opening with a parallel event to the Art Contemporary Biennale. I am on the board. Apart from that, strangely there?s a bar at the Four Seasons, which sometimes has an incredible atmosphere. They do themed parties, like ?Indian party? or ?Cuban party.? When it?s hot like this, having drinks at Amanjena, on the pillows in the garden, is perfect.
A dinner designed by Meryanne in Jnane Tamsna's gardens
The ideal evening here would, of course be to start with some drinks at a friend?s house in Marrakesh. This is really what makes this place so special. [And it?s not a matter of budget, because you have people who don't have a big budget in the house, and the house is to die for, because I think that Marrakesh has an electrical influence if you?re creative. So you have small houses which are fabulous, and you have big ones which are pretty horrible.] Then going for more drinks at Amanjena, getting a vibrant table at Djellabar or Bo Zin, and everyone dancing until I don?t know what time. That is a great evening for me. And maybe just walking through the main square to see a little bit of the atmosphere and culture. There are some really fantastic places in Marrakesh. Riad Madani is so beautiful. It?s a private house in the Riad where people can stay. I don?t know if there are many places in the world that are so diverse.
The house Meryanne designed at The Four Seasons Marrakesh
Meryanne Loum-Martin and her mother.
Are there any other fashion or accessory stores you would recommend, apart from Aya?s?
There?s a charming place, by appointment only, and he has great jewelry; some antiques and things. It?s in a private villa in Gueliz. It's a real gem. It?s called Villa M. If you give this kind of secret to your readers, you have really given them something cool.
Tell me about how you got here and how long you?ve been living here.
I got here in December of ?85 with a mission to look for land for my parents and to design a house for them. They were living in Paris. One thing led to another and I, little by little, turned into a Marrakesh resident instead of being a lawyer in Paris. In fact, I designed a house for them and the next thing it was all over the press. That?s really how it started.
What are your wardrobe must-haves for a day in Marrakesh and for a day when you travel?
Well, it depends on the season of course, because right now it?s very hot. I love wearing Indian things, so Indian or African cotton for the day. At night I like short caftans. Dresses with the cut of the caftan, but that stop at the knees. When I travel it really depends if I?m going to have a social life or no social life. If I?m going to have a good social life with casual or fancy people. It really varies. I always bring a nice pairs of shoes, nice earrings or necklaces -- things that are easy to add on at the last minute, so you can fit in. I really like a nice comfortable pair of shoes.
Like Moroccan slippers?
No, no. I don?t wear Moroccan slippers; I don't think they are comfortable. If it is comfortable, then you'll just have the shape and a little heel, which makes it not Moroccan anymore. I think accessories are key. [References her own bangles she?s wearing by ?someone you should talk about? called GoGo Ferguson who just had an exhibition in a museum. She has an island called Cumberland Island on the coast of Georgia. Her family has been there forever. Everything she does, because her island?s tide brings back little things, is with animals' bones. This is a part of an armadillo.]