Janice Issitt                    Life and Style

travel, interiors, photography, home, crafts, personal style

11 Jun 2017

Villa Anouk Essaouira, the ultimate Beldichic

It was a serendipitous meeting with a cool interior designer in my favourite cafe that led me to discover the most amazing retreat on the outskirts of Essaouira.  It was probably the mention of Instagram, and some spooky vibes, that prompted John to tell me of a place I simply had to check out. A quick message and a short taxi ride later, the gates were opening to paradise on earth, Villa Anouk.

the hammam bath

The Moroccan word Beldi means traditional, and in homes this translates to natural local materials like the pale and soothing, creamy coloured sand stone with ceilings of wood and thatch, some left open and some with decorated panelling, lovingly hand painted. Taking the Beldi and adding the Chic, this widely spaced villa, set right alongside a forest, is like walking into a mood board on Pinterest, you have to pinch yourself.

However, there is something different here, something extra. Villa Anouk is a fusion, a carefully curated and meticulously thought out blend. Like a brilliantly cooked meal, the flavours and enhancements which hint through, are hand chosen by it's owner Anouk, a lady with incredible style and flare.

So it wouldn't surprise you to learn that Anouk has come from a background of style and a heritage of passion, having worked in America for many of the top glossy publications and from a French family. Like many of us before, and for those yet to discover, our host fell head over heels with this fishing port full of cats.

Something happens to you when you go there, the place creeps into your soul, wipes away all the cobwebs and by day three you will begin to absorb the pace. I have never been one to visit the same place twice, it's always seemed that there are so many other cities to conquer. Since my first visit 18 years ago I have held Essaouira in my heart, it's been calling my name, and now I just can't get enough of it. So much so that I want to turn it into a thing I do regularly and therefore share my discoveries and knowledge. So here is where Tribe All One is formed.

Since my twenties I've often had conversations with girlfriends about what we would do if ... we won a million pounds, if ... we had a super power. The super power thing, well that still changes, but the millions pound thing, that never has. My answer was always, "I would still have to work, but do something that I really really enjoyed, taking all the best bits, like travel and shopping." 

It's taken me a few years to get the travel bug back, and last year it crept up on me more than ever, with the added enjoyment of ensuring shopping trips are featured largely. Finally the penny dropped, what I really want to do is source gorgeous things, I trust my eye now with the extra confidence that thirty years can bring. So while the lottery win didn't happen, I'm not going to talk myself out of that dream.

Anouk has confirmed to me a style that I have in my head but haven't been able to do for geographical reasons. There is no 'theme-ing' of rooms or cheap copies, just a feeling of liberation.

The retro pops are a clever twist.  Good bohemian interiors rely on a few pieces from the sixties and seventies, like these metal formed chairs. Placing them with a giant woven rush lampshade and berber rugs, an old door as a coffee table and a ceiling painted in traditional Beldi style (but with a different palette of colours). The key pieces are having a conversation with each other, and the soft furnishings paired back so as not to 'over-egg' the pudding, (sorry but that English phrase is the best description).

Anouk and her Villa are inspirational and I'm gutted we only had a few hours together, so I had better rectify that pronto. Even as I'm writing this, I'm looking at the photo above and wondering how to get that plaster wall in my house! There are so many wow factors in the furnishings here, and Anouk loves to see the look on people's faces, especially when she explains their stories.  

Here at the Villa Anouk is a perfect example of following your dreams, and if you aren't completely sure what yours are yet, then go here, learn how to relax and just do nothing but think, (and look up at that ceiling maybe). 

I'm pretty sure that Anouk has a super power, I just need to tap into it and drain a bit off.  I can only dream of the determination it must have taken to build, design and manage the construction and decoration of this network of connecting rooms and patios.

 The interior style is simple rustic tactile spaces, decorated with ornate furniture and blankets yet also hints of retro and re-cycled.
Solid stone steps take you from level to level, interspersed with giant cacti and fountains. Anouk has salvaged lots of items from the flea market, where old French furniture turns up covered in dust and dirt. It takes a honed and skilled eye to dig out the treasures and find a new twist on how to make them better. 

Instead of re-covering these old inlaid chairs, Anouk painstakingly removed every tack to reveal the lovely hessian upholstery. The inlaid mother-of-pearl was covered in a thick layer of lacquer which had to be carefully removed and exposed. 

Wedding blankets are a key feature in many rooms, either as cushions or at the end of a bed. I will be talking more about these very soon, their rich history and romantic stories. At Villa Anouk the soft furnishings aren't overdone, it would be easy to fill the place with traditional reds and muddy colours found in many Moroccan homes.

The simple white muslin curtains help to divide the spaces and add some softness to brick, such a basic yet effective way to bring romance and seclusion. With too few textiles the rooms could be echoing and cavernous. The balance of materials explains the zen of why it works. 

Solar power provides most of the energy I believe, but power cuts regionally, can play havoc with the facilities. The technicalities of keeping this place ticking are complex, yet like the swan sailing gracefully along, underneath it's feet are paddling. 

Anouk did explain about dealing with the engineering side, but I think I was lost in the colour of a wall, or detail on the coffee table, to remember.  In the west we forget about how water is a precious commodity, so I was slightly ashamed at myself for not noticing how careful the Moroccans have to be, and why that hadn't occurred to me before. 

Safe assured, Anouk will bend over backwards to keep your cocoon gently wrapped around you, going to every effort to insure smooth and silent passage. Her knowledge, having now built up over 4 years, is not to be sniffed at, my point being that this lady is more than an interior designer. She is a visionary, a mum, an engineer, a linguist, and many many more things besides.

Without putting myself under too much pressure, I will be hatching a cunning plan to slot into place the start of something for all the tribe to enjoy, and I have a funny feeling that this place could just be the start of it.

Morocco is such an amazing country but where you visit and for how long will reflect on the kind of experience you have. Essaouira is small, enclosed in ancient walls and alongside the sea. Here it feels less stressful than the buzz of the larger cities but with all the beauty of them still intact. 

If you need to pace your experience  at a slower rhythm then a stay straddling some time in the medina and some time away will enhance the ability to unwind. More basic accommodation can tend to be Moroccan authentic but bear in mind this means the possibilities of cockroaches in unlit hallways, showers which only work off ancient gas canisters intermittently, bedding and towels which are like something your granny threw away years ago, and the sounds of families echoing through stairwells. For me the student living aspect can only last a few days before I want a really nice proper bath with white fluffy towels and a bed of freshly laundered cotton sheets and pillowcases. 

If you have a problem with stairs the Riad's in town are tall and thin buildings with lots of them. Now that odd apartments are being rented out through Air 'bnb' you can find yourself on the top floor of a building not complying to western health and safety. While this is charming in lots of ways it may really bother older people as the steep staired hallways can be unlit, with no hand rails intact, worn away steps and entrance doors which operate by pulling a bit of wire at a funny angle and took three of us to fathom, including two large men. My older female friends would have struggled just getting in the first door at street level, and a definite no no for anyone with small children.  The close proximity of families and very old women living either side, above and below, makes one aware not to make noise above whispering level, so while we wouldn't dream of having parties, the relaxing side of things felt slightly awkward. Many of the apartments have metal front doors so the banging of these is loud within a building.

If you know your limits then it's worth spending a bit more on a Villa that understands you are on holiday. The level at which you want to relax will determine how much time you spend in the main town, and if you have concerns over mobility then be very careful where you choose. 

We made friends with a local chap who has lived a lot in the UK, his apartment is in the Medina and is completely amazing. This would rent out at around the same price as an Air bnb and showed that the town places can vary enormously. Don't judge a book by it's cover, as you probably wouldn't even have noticed his door on a narrow alley yet it opened up to a beautiful French style hall and was spacious and elegant in it's details. Renting in town can be a gamble and it may take a few different tries before you find the place that suits your needs best.

Choosing a Villa in the countryside will give you quite a different experience and if the host speaks your language there is no time wasted on communicating your personal needs. You are much more likely to get straight about the task of relaxation here with no nasty surprises.

please do go and have a look over at ;  http://www.villaanouk.com

Over the next few months I hope to unveil the whys and wherefores of Tribe All One and so if you have an idea of something you would like me to look for then please message me through instagram, here, facebook or email to janissitt@btinternet.com

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