We often talk about the resonance that we feel in moving through a landscape as we search for our one of a kind goods. We immerse ourselves in the culture of a place to gain a stronger understanding of why something should be done a certain way, to learn the histories inherent in beautifully crafted objects. These travels inspire us to no end and reverberate long after the familiar thud of the plane’s undercarriage has signalled our arrival home. Perhaps we speak too often about these landscapes and far too little about the magnificent people that we cross paths with along the way. The people that stoke the fire within us to keep searching, how they strengthen our resolve to not settle for the merely adequate but to hold out for the truly sublime. These people are the real inspiration, the ones that have the most impact on us as a small company, as arbiters, as people. It’s time to meet our friends……
How often do you get a letter or an email with a sign off that reads:
Writer, Photographer, Hotelier, Shop Owner …In an olive grove in Marrakech, Morocco”
A woman that signs off in such a manner is not a person to ignore at a cocktail party. She isn’t the transatlantic seat mate that bores you to tears with blurry phone pics of “back home”. This person is a dynamo and should be treated as such….What Maryam Montague has left out of her signature is that she is a renowned human rights specialist, incredibly stylish, and has a hell of a sense of humour. We have also been mutual fans for quite some time now.
A life of traveling brought Maryam and husband Chris to Morocco. After stints in West Africa, SouthEast Asia, Nepal, and Namibia the couple where drawn, as many are, to Marrakech. With two children they eschewed the expat route of fixing up an old riad in the city centre and headed just outside of town to open sky, a view of the Atlas mountains, and yes, an olive grove.
Such a blank slate must have been absolutely tantalizing for Chris, whose work as an architect has included refugee clinics in Nepal. What do you build to serve as a home for your children, and a repository for a lifetime of travels? What if your project in an olive grove happens to become a boutique hotel known as Peacock Pavilions that draws international style mavens like moths to a flame (or moroccan lantern)?
The compound’s design can be found in Moroccos timeless Casbahs. Separate guest pavilions flank a symmetrical pool that anchors the whole beautifully. Different volumes of varying sizes work together as is the local tradition. The effect is both stunning and wonderfully peaceful…..
Soaring communal spaces and towering windows that open to the storied North African sky are testament to Chris’ architectural skills. Things are equally as interesting closer to earth. The interiors are all Maryam in the most literal of ways. They look like her. The talismans, the gris gris, the Middle Eastern antiques, the curated offerings of a life in transit. All a reflection of who she is. Travels and experiences mold you, they become a part of your dna. Eventually they follow you home and set up shop. The term “Nomad Chic” is thrown around quite a bit but Maryam and Peacock Pavilions have it in spades.
We share an endless fascination with enviroments both old and new. A curiousity and openess towards the surroundings we find ourselves in. Maryam has made a life of seeking more. Her humanitarian aid work has sent her to 74 countries. She speaks French, English and just enough Farsi, Morrocan, and Italian to get the job done. While working on initiatives overseas she makes a point to seek out local craftsmen, to find the interesting photographic opportunity, to ultimately rub elbows with the mythology of a place,. All fodder for her award winning My Marrakesh, the ever changing canvas of Peacock Pavilions, and her best selling (and also award winning) Marrakesh by Design which she wrote and photographed.
Maryam would seem the very embodiment of the “anatomy of restlesness” that we like to go on and on about. Articles in The New York Times, Elle Decor, Food and Wine, and Vogue Italy dont have her resting on her ever so stylish laurels. Maryam has turned her eyes closer to home and has started up Project Soar in the nearby village of Douar Ladaam. Her enthusiasm in empowering these young girls is infectious and the village and girls are blessed to have such a champion in their corner.
We are anxious to see where Maryam’s travels take her next and to read her beautiful and emotive writing found on My Marrakesh. We consider Maryam one of the Imperial Black “Lads” and are endlessly inspired by her sense of the world around her. We know you will be as well……
All images courtesy of Maryam Montague and Peacock Pavilions