Hidden within the hustle of urban Marrakech (Morocco’s fabled “pink city”), the Majorelle Garden—along with its colorful, multifaceted crown jewel, the Villa Oasis—is a world-class landmark. The backstory of the Majorelle compound is a Franco-American saga revolving around six gifted and visionary men: French Orientalist painter and plant collector Jacques Majorelle; legendary rebel fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent; YSL’s partner in life and business, the feisty French industrialist, collector, and philanthropist Pierre Bergé; cool, sophisticated French decorator Jacques Grange; salty, stylish bohemian American expat and architect Bill Willis; and publicity-shy powerhouse American garden designer Madison Cox.
In 1923, Majorelle bought the property that became the core of the six acres that comprise the compound today. Starting then, and throughout the 1930s, he constructed the home known as Villa Oasis. It was his choice to paint the house a vibrating shade of blue, and to plant the grounds with an eccentric array of shrubs, vines, and trees, which he both gathered locally and brought back from his frequent travels.The son of the acclaimed French furniture designer Louis Majorelle, Jacques is best known for his realist oil paintings depicting the native peoples and landscapes of North Africa. But he was also skilled in the colorful, curvy style of Art Nouveau decorative arts. Several of the hand-painted doors and a console he created have been successfully preserved in Villa Oasis’s entry hall and grand salon.
Majorelle opened a large section of the garden to the public in 1947. When Saint Laurent and Bergé bought the property in 1980, they continued this democratic policy.
Discreetly connected through several locked wooden doors, Majorelle’s public and private domains are equally lush, shot with color, poetic, and amazingly well cared for. Both are tucked behind thickets of tall bamboo. One is less crowded.
Architect Bill Willis helped Saint Laurent and Bergé refine the architecture of the blue salon, while Grange decorated the interior. The love seats blue-and-green stripe coordinates with the palette of the tiled fireplace.
Jacques Grange furnished the rooms with custom upholstery.
Inspired by his travels throughout Morocco, Majorelle designed the elaborate tile-work and wall decorations in the grand salon. The 1920s console (right) is the villa’s sole remaining piece hand-painted by Majorelle. The early-20th-century armchairs and desk are French.
Saint Laurent personally designed and painted the top floor of Villa Oasis, which he called the Minzah. He sketched his fashion collections at the 19th-century French bamboo table at the center of the space.
A nook in the entrance hall was designed for musicians to serenade visiting guests; lemons from the garden fill a bowl from the village of Tamegroute.
Left: The headboard is hand-carved and hand-painted to match the space, and the floor is in green marble. Right: In Saint Lauren’s bedroom, the walls, ceiling, and shutters are hand-decorated in red, black and gold. The antique bench came from Château de Ferrières, Baron Guy and Marie-Hélène de Rothschild’s Henri Samuel-restored former home outside Paris. The armchairs, covered in Persian rugs, and the French crystal chandelier are from the 19th century, and the rug is a 17th-century Isfahan.
The library at Villa Oasis features 19th-century French armchairs upholstered in kilim rugs, a Syrian desk, and a carved, painted cedar ceiling.
Left: A hand-carved and hand-painted cedar door. Right: Bougainvillea shades the outdoor terrace.
There are gardens in Marrakech, for which I have a real passion. And the colors that I miss in Paris.
-Yves Saint Laurent-
From ELLE DECOR