Moroccan Furniture Design
Moroccan furniture is some of the most unique and ornate furnishings in the world. Unlike most of the pieces found in the vast majority of furniture stores, a Moroccan piece of furniture has both an ornate and distinctive charm. This is due in large part to the large number of cultural influences that have come to shape Moroccan decor throughout the centuries.
Although many experts point to the Moorish and Turkish cultures as being heavy influences upon Moroccan furniture design, this is not entirely accurate. Four major cultures combined through the centuries to help make Moroccan furniture and architecture what it is today.
The Berbers and their culture predate recorded history. They lived in the desert and mountains of north Africa. In terms of architecture, they are best known for their castles, known as "Kasbahs". The Berber contribution to Moroccan furniture is the use of colorful carpets and carved doors.
In the 7th century, a group of Arabs known as the Moors conquered most of North Africa. They brought with them their culture and religion, Islam. Because the Islamic culture prohibits the use of figures and realistically depicted objects, the Moors brought with them an artistic culture that used geometric patterns which are cornerstones on Moroccan furniture. Also, the Moors used a lot of blues and deep colors in their furniture and clothing. Moroccan style furniture utilizes bold colors offset by earth tones to create a dynamic visual display.
The Moors later invaded the Iberian Peninsula and thus established a base in southern Spain calling their European base, "Andalus". Because the Spanish had been heavily influenced by Roman architecture and furniture design, the Andalusian culture became a synthesis of Roman, Arab, and Berber traditions. The Roman use of arches and columns was absorbed by the Moroccan culture. The six-sided table with side arches and a shaped top are an example of the Roman influence upon Moroccan furniture design.
France formed a protectorate of Morocco in the early part of the 20th century between the years of 1912 and 1956. At this time, French art and culture was heavily influenced by the Art Deco movement. Art Deco furniture tended to be highly decorative and functional, using a lot of bright colors taken from Nature's pallet. The movement blended perfectly with the geometric forms and bold colors of the Moroccan culture.
The blending of these major cultural influences has inspired what Moroccan furniture is today. Some of the hallmarks of Moroccan furniture are: the use of bright and bold colors in upholstery; repeating geometric patterns; the use of brass or bronze as a metallic finish; and the use of rich and luxurious materials.
The colors used in upholstery and throughout Moroccan furniture, particularly in bedrooms, are bright and bold. Purples, dark reds, emerald green, bright blues and gold are all typical colors used. The more exotic colors are toned down by using earth tones such as terra cotta and cinnamon. But, not only are the colors exotic, the materials themselves tend to create an air of opulence and comfort. Wool, silk, and velvet are common to Moroccan furniture and décor.
The furniture itself is comprised of both Middle Eastern and European staples. From the Middle East comes the ottomans, couches, pillows, and bolsters. The European contribution to Moroccan furniture is evident in the Louis XV style chairs, tables, and armoires.
Most Moroccan furniture has some degree of painted or carved geometric shapes and patterns adorning its surface. The elegant Moroccan armoires are coveted treasures because the artisans take the time to hand paint the geometric patterns onto the surface. The small tables and stands found in seating areas are also decorated in the same manner.
Moroccan upholstered furniture also typically has painted or carved geometric patterns on pieces. It is also true that the furniture tends to be overstuffed and lower to the ground than pieces found in the West. Moroccan seating furniture is essentially designed to be combined together in a main seating or entertaining area, sometimes referred to as the Salon Room, or perhaps living room. These overstuffed sofas and ottomans have bright and fringed pillows thrown on them to provide added comfort and aesthetic appeal.
The center of the Salon Room usually has a low brass coffee table sitting atop a stand. There may also be a traditional Moroccan tea table centrally located in this room where people often entertain guests and family. Against the wall might be found some French inspired chairs with fringed edges or perhaps even a settee with more decorative pillows. It is also not uncommon to see a Moroccan henna lamp sitting atop coffee or tea tables with mosaic tiling. These unique lamps are generally made out of wrought iron and covered with an animal hide. The hide is hand painted with the familiar geometric patterns and casts a warm, exotic, glow over rooms.