The bohemian town of Santa Cruz, California, is 10 thousand miles from Fez, Morocco. But inside a perfectly gingerbread-esque Victorian house in the coastal surf town, home to one travel-loving family, the North African country feels surprisingly near in spirit.
“In decorating, authenticity isn’t as important as the sense that things work together and that you’re drawn to them,” says the home’s Los Angeles–based interior designer Alexandra Loew. “You don’t need design to be connected to your sense of identity.” Amid a lengthy review of lighting options, one of the homeowners zeroed in on a pair of Moroccan filigree lanterns and a lightbulb went off for Loew. She thought of the late American decorator Bill Willis, a Marrakesh transplant whose hedonistic, pan-Arabian pastiches (often the result of hallucinogenic benders) were fashionable for jet-setters like Yves Saint Laurent and John Paul Getty, Jr. Willis become the patron saint of the project.
The late-1800s architecture was marvelous, to be sure, but required some updating. Loew and her team removed claustrophobic dropped ceilings, carefully preserved the home’s historic stained-glass windows, and designed a sizable addition that would take years for the local landmarks commission to approve. From there, Loew began creating languorous interior spaces in the spirit of Morocco’s riads.
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“There’s just something about the combination of earthy metals, shimmery silks, and silvered mirrors.”
With patterns that recall zellige mosaics, the movie room’s layered tapestry and wallpaper are old-world counterpoints to a modern modular sofa, while the living room’s allure comes from a blend of rusticity (rush floor matting) and refinement (tasseled Fortune lamps). Shimmering with smoked glass, silk textiles, and star shapes from the filigree lanterns, the dining room is a sumptuous scene right out of One Thousand and One Nights.
Despite the seeming incongruence of the storybook architecture and seductive interiors, Loew found parallels. An interior palette of lavender, peacock, and terra-cotta—the latter reminiscent of casbahs in the High Atlas mountains—is not far off from the splashy color schemes of Victorian houses. This, too, suits the home’s setting: Santa Cruz, an ice-cream–colored beach town that all but defines Americana. For Loew, the magic is in the incongruence: “It’s all a little weird, a little anachronistic, and a little unexpected.”
Loew designed the interior architecture to express the pinches of the roofline and “layered up” the moldings for Victorian character. Chaise: 1stDibs. Floor pendants: silk shades by Fortune. Drapery fabric: Fox Linton silk wool, Kneedler Fauchere. Side table: Syrian, Mosaic Moroccan Interiors. Chairs: Warren Platner, 1st Dibs, in Trudeau Stripe, Kneedler Fauchère. Cocktail table: custom, Alexandra Loew, in silk velvet.
Zellige tile in a Moroccan trellis pattern lines the back of the bookshelves. Headboards: custom, Alexandra Low in C&C Milano fabric from Thomas Lavin. Lanterns: vintage Moroccan, Mosaic Moroccan Decor. Bedding: vintage, Jamal’s Rug Collection.
An architectural turret was transformed into a breakfast nook. Countertops: flamed granite (left); butcher block, John Boos (right). Cabinet paints: Palladian Blue, Benjamin Moore (left); Hague Blue, Farrow & Ball (right). Backsplashes: Heath Ceramics.
A small seating area in the bay window serves as the kids’ table during big gatherings. Table and ottomans: custom, Alexandra Low. Upholstery: Soie de Lune silk, Alden. Drapery: Fox Linton silk wool from Kneedler Fauchere, with Samuel & Sons La Petite silk borders and Rouen tassel.
Mixing green botanical textiles makes it feel “saturated, layered, and cozy,” says Loew. Wallpapers: Pimpernel by Morris & Co. from Jasper Showroom. Drapery fabric: Marly in Blue Greens by Colony from Scalamandré. Chests: antique Romanian, 1stDibs.
The custom headboard’s Moorish star shape was specifically designed to accommodate a set of sconces. Headboards: custom, Alexandra Loew, in Ruskin fabric by Colefax and Fowler from Cowtan & Tout. Bedding: vintage textiles, Jamal’s Rug Collection. Side table: Syrian, Mosaic Moroccan Interiors. Wall paints: Cloud Cover, Benjamin Moore.
The mirror’s perimeter of bone tile references the opulent mother-of-pearl inlays prevalent in Moorish furnishings. Backsplashes: Clé Tile. Faucets: Waterworks. Lantern: vintage Moroccan, Mosaic Moroccan Interiors. Mirrors: for similar try Wisteria. “I love to pair a little threadbare rug with a little shine,” says Loew. Tubes: The Bath Works. Garden stools: 19th-century Minton faience, 1stDibs. Towel warmers: EuroConcepts. Shades fabric: Fiandra Stella Machè by C&C Milano from Thomas Lavin.
The homeowners requested a sofa by the window so the children could curl up while doing schoolwork. Drapery fabric: Isan, Jim Thompson. Wallpapers: Bird & Pomegranate, Morris & Co. Settee: Napoleon III, 1st Dibs. Tables: 19th-century Charles X, 1stDibs. Lamps: Armilla 41, Fortune. Pillows: custom from salvaged saris.
Adjacent to the movie room, the infinity-edge pool overlooks a vegetable garden below. Loungers: Janus et Cie. Poufs and lanterns: vintage, Mosaic. Rugs: Jamal’s Rug Collection.
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