Interiorssneak peeks

Vibrant Happiness in a Rug Dealer’s Marrakech Home

by Sofia Tuovinen

Vibrant Happiness in a Rug Dealer's Marrakech Home
When Mary O’Dell first moved to Morocco seven years ago to work in artisan development, she had no idea that a turning point in her life was just around the corner. A year into her stay, she agreed to be set up with Pascal, a Frenchman, and owner of Kechmara, the local restaurant where the two had their first date. Mary and Pascal hit it off instantly, and now have a four-year-old daughter, Mila. Three years ago, Mary began sourcing vintage, one-of-a-kind Moroccan rugs, which she sells in her store Happytapis on Etsy. Like her rugs, life in the family’s Marrakech home is colorful, happy and vibrant.

Although many foreigners choose to either live in the “medina,” the old city, or in distant suburbs, Mary and Pascal prefer to live in a neighborhood that’s something in between — removed from the chaos of the medina, but still not completely isolated from the unique feel of the bustling city. “I’m on a first name basis with many people in the neighborhood, like the produce vendors, the furniture upholsterers, and especially the rug cleaners!” Mary says. The family’s rental home is somewhat unique, as it was designed by renowned French architect Charles Boccara as a prototype for a kind of house seen all around Marrakech.

Decorating has always been a mutual interest for Mary and Pascal, and home is where their two styles create the perfect mashup. “Pascal has an amazing collection of mid-century furniture and lighting,” Mary shares. “I love his taste and it’s been fun to create this home together — we really click in terms of our design sense.” Mary considers her style to be more colorful and playful, and has taken the lead in picking out the wall colors that cheer up each room in the house. From grey, lavender and bold turquoise walls to unique multicolored Boucherouite, Boujad and Azilal rugs to name a few, Mary has ensured that each space in the house has visual interest and lots of textured layers. In addition to being colorful, comfort and functionality have been top priorities throughout this family home.

Since insisting to renovate and repaint parts of her home at seven months pregnant, Mary has scaled back her ambitions for bigger home improvement projects. But she’s always eager to find new ways to refresh each space, without turning life upside down. “I’ve always felt strongly that you should feel at home in your space, and I’m willing to put up with some inconvenience in order to make that happen.” Mary’s advice to others who are passionate about creating personal and colorful spaces is simple — “don’t be afraid of bold color choices!” she exclaims. “Figure out what your signature is, and don’t worry if it’s not trending,” she continues. “My signature style is creating a gallery wall using a combination of art and found objects. I heard the gallery wall is going out of style, but I’m going to stick with it.” —Sofia

Photography by Mustapha El Ayb

Image above: Pascal’s mid-century aesthetic and Mary’s vibrant and colorful style greet visitors who enter the family’s Marrakech home. The chairs are vintage replicas, which Pascal and his brother had made for their restaurant Kechmara. “Our console and lamp came from the Bab el-Khemiss souk, Marrakech’s weekly flea market, where you can find amazing mid-century furniture if you have enough patience and determination,” Mary shares. All rugs in the family’s home are from Mary’s store, Happytapis

Vibrant Happiness in a Rug Dealer's Marrakech Home | Design*Sponge

The $300 living room sofa was custom-made by a furniture builder, whose workshop is located just behind the family’s house. To update the space, Mary usually changes the pillows and rug a couple of times a year. “We totally dork out on little house projects,” she says. “We are constantly repainting furniture, hanging new artwork, and I keep our neighborhood upholsterer busy with my pillow obsession.”

Vibrant Happiness in a Rug Dealer's Marrakech Home | Design*Sponge

Mary’s favorite piece of art in the living room is the vintage movie poster. “Pascal’s restaurant, Kechmara, displays different art exhibits several times a year, and this movie poster was from one of their first shows over 10 years ago,” she explains. 

Vibrant Happiness in a Rug Dealer's Marrakech Home | Design*Sponge

The dining and living rooms are one big space where Mary, Pascal and Mila spend most of their time together. Pascal had the dining set made in a small workshop in Marrakech when he ordered several hundred pieces of furniture for his restaurant. The metal shelves on the wall are one of Pascal’s DIY projects, inspired by a picture found on Pinterest.

Vibrant Happiness in a Rug Dealer's Marrakech Home | Design*Sponge

The dining chair cushions were upholstered with fabric from Mary and Pascal’s favorite textile shop in France, Petit Pan. “The objects on the shelves were collected from our travels, from flea markets in Pise to the souk in Essaouira. I love this space because it’s minimalist, but still colorful!” Mary adds. 

Vibrant Happiness in a Rug Dealer's Marrakech Home | Design*Sponge

Mary and Pascal have found the kitchen to be by far the trickiest room in the house. “It’s small and doesn’t get a lot of natural light, so naturally, it feels cramped. While I’d love to knock down a wall, we’re renting, so that’s not in the cards,” Mary says.

Vibrant Happiness in a Rug Dealer's Marrakech Home | Design*Sponge

To make the most of the tight quarters in the kitchen, Mary decided to paint the walls turquoise and add yellow accents. “If I can’t make the kitchen bigger, at least I can make it a happy place,” she explains.

Vibrant Happiness in a Rug Dealer's Marrakech Home | Design*Sponge

“We’re lucky to have a small covered outdoor space next to the kitchen, which holds the fridge and dishwasher, so I could maximize the counter space and [make it] feel less claustrophobic,” Mary shares.

Vibrant Happiness in a Rug Dealer's Marrakech Home | Design*Sponge

As Mary and Pascal often welcome guests from out of town, they wanted a guest room that felt inviting and comfortable. The nightstands represent local traditional design and were painted in Mary’s favorite shade of turquoise, left over from the kitchen. “My favorite thing about this room is the morning light. I often come down [here] to read and have my first cup of coffee before Pascal and Mila wake up,” Mary says. 

Vibrant Happiness in a Rug Dealer's Marrakech Home | Design*Sponge

“The large pillows on the bed were made from a textile I bought in Tangier. I’ve been looking for it ever since, and still haven’t tracked down more!” Mary reveals. The gallery wall includes pieces bought in Amsterdam, where the couple celebrated Mary’s 40th birthday, and flea market finds from France.

Vibrant Happiness in a Rug Dealer's Marrakech Home | Design*Sponge

Pascal and Mary with their daughter Mila. Mary is passionate about sourcing one-of-a-kind vintage Moroccan rugs for her Etsy store, Happytapis.

Vibrant Happiness in a Rug Dealer's Marrakech Home | Design*Sponge

As the main bedroom is the coldest room in the house, Mary and Pascal decided to install cork panels on the back wall and paint them twilight blue. “I love the texture that it adds to the wall. The travertine floors also get very cold in the winter, so I make sure that rugs cover as much space as possible,” Mary says.

Vibrant Happiness in a Rug Dealer's Marrakech Home | Design*Sponge

Mary’s latest acquisition is the bedspread, a textile called a haik, worn by Berber women as a draped cloth.

Vibrant Happiness in a Rug Dealer's Marrakech Home | Design*Sponge

Arched openings lead from the main bedroom to Mary’s home office — when she is not in the souks sourcing rugs, this is where she spends most of her days.

Vibrant Happiness in a Rug Dealer's Marrakech Home | Design*Sponge

“For many years, I did all my work at the dining room table or even (embarrassingly) in bed,” Mary shares. “Last year, as a surprise, Pascal built this desk for me to have a home office space, which quickly became one of my favorite spaces in the house.”

Vibrant Happiness in a Rug Dealer's Marrakech Home | Design*Sponge

Mary added a gallery wall above her office desk to make the space feel personal and all hers. It’s now the perfect sanctuary as Mary works on the less glamorous admin parts of her rug business.


Vibrant Happiness in a Rug Dealer's Marrakech Home | Design*Sponge

As Mary and Pascal have no closet space, they converted the fourth bedroom into a dressing room. “I love having my clothes and shoes separate from my bedroom. We could let it get messy, but Pascal’s neat freak tendencies keep it in check,” Mary shares.

Vibrant Happiness in a Rug Dealer's Marrakech Home | Design*Sponge

Mary and Pascal painted Mila’s room when Mary was pregnant. “I really didn’t want a girly pink princess nursery, hence the green and grey that was playful but also not too babyish,” Mary explains. “That said, Mila does love pink, so I found this vintage kantha in a flea market in Asheville, NC, to satisfy her pink fix.”

Vibrant Happiness in a Rug Dealer's Marrakech Home | Design*Sponge

Mila’s Legos and blocks are stored in Berber baskets to keep the clutter under control. “The artwork includes a series of birds made from found butterfly wings in Senegal, and if you’re lucky, you can find a Senegalese vendor on the Jema’a el-Fna [market place],” Mary tips. “The vintage children’s Moroccan slippers were bought when I was pregnant, and before I knew Mila would be a girl. Though she never wore them, they’re one of my favorite things on her wall.”



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  • Oh my, what a beautiful space! The colors are so harmonious, and I love all the textures and patterns that are playing so well together. Having lived in a variety of rentals that I wasn’t crazy about, I love all the solutions they have found to make the entire house sing.

  • Oooh, such a lovely home. Each rug is cooler than the last! I just got back from my first trip to Marrakech where I managed to refrain from buying any rugs (though I did shop plenty) and now I feel such regret, even though I still don’t have a place to put them. :)

  • Oh how I would LOVE to be a rug dealer. Well, no not really but your house makes me think so. Beautiful and I LOVE the color choices on the walls. Great job.

  • Gorgeous home, beautiful article! It makes me so happy to read this. :) And now I want to fill my house with your beautiful rugs!

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