Pictures Richard Powers
Words Dominic Bradbury
The Moroccan coastal town of Essaouria has many charms. It is a place of escape and tranquillity, tied to the sea and the elements. This is place to recharge within an open and enticing landscape, well away from the restless pace of life in Marrakech, which is around two hours drive away. Such temptations exerted a strong influence upon the Dutch born hotelier and designer Willem Smit.
Smit has played a key part in the evolution of the El Fenn hotel in Marrakech, co-founded by Vanessa Branson, with Smit now a partner in the business, involved in its gradual expansion. But Smit had always wanted an escape by the sea and seized the opportunity to build his own home, Villa Mabrouka, on a quiet spot on a gentle hillside with views of the ocean.
The single storey home of stone and cement sits in a prominent position, arranged around a central courtyard leading out to an infinity pool. At the centre of the plan sits the open plan living area, with the dining zone and kitchen separated by three steps down in level. Two side wings push outwards, helping to shelter the courtyard from the breeze, with one wing holding the master suite and the other two guest bedrooms. There is also a roof terrace, a separate guest annexe and a grove of olive trees surrounded the home, which seeks constant synergy between inside and out.