In 1966, Yves Saint Laurent and his partner, Pierre Bergé, traveled to Marrakech for the first time. While they were greeted by an entire week of rain, it was the beginning of a lifelong love affair with Moroccan culture. “Before Marrakech, everything was black,” Saint Laurent famously said. “This city taught me color, and I embraced its light, its insolent mixes, and ardent inventions.” Saint Laurent would continue to return for decades to come, purchasing a property in Marrakech in 1980 and, 17 years later, buying a second villa atop a hill in Tangier overlooking the world-famous Strait of Gibraltar.
Today, the Tangier clifftop hideaway that served as inspiration for Saint Laurent’s collections has opened its giant crenellated horseshoe-arched doors to the public. The new owner, British designer Jasper Conran, spent four years faithfully restoring the 1940s house and revealed it last month as a 12-suite hotel with sweeping terraces above verdant gardens and Tangier’s glittering sea.
The house’s sweeping terraces and floor-to-ceiling windows bring in abundant natural light, a comfortable airiness, and instant connection to the gardens just beyond.Andrew Montgomery
Saint Laurent initially purchased the house with Bergé, after years of traveling to Morocco to source inspiration for his collections. They called it Villa Mabrouka, an Arabic name that translates to “House of Luck,” and enlisted legendary decorator Jacques Grange to design the interiors. “The theme wanted by Yves was that of an eccentric Englishman of the postwar years who had come to live in Tangier,” Grange said in Jacques Grange: Recent Work, by Pierre Passebon. “Yves wanted chintz and one color per room…it was like decorating a house for characters out of a play by Tennessee Williams.”
After acquiring the Art Deco building in 2019, Conran (who is also the proprietor of L’Hôtel Marrakech) sought to honor the spirit of Saint Laurent’s aesthetic decisions, staying true to the essence of 1940’s modernist architecture, in tandem with traditional Moroccan design elements and English country house interiors. He began by modernizing its infrastructure, updating the essentials—such as roofing and electricity—and adding new rooms, a garden cottage, three restaurants, and a kitchen. There’s also now a rooftop terrace, a coffee bar, and dining pavilions—including an original pavilion designed by American architect Stuart Church, which has now been carefully restored.
In the Marrakech Suite, Conran has brought in soft, flowing voile curtains, intricate fretwork, and veined marble flooring that all stand out against the clean, whitewashed walls.Andrew Montgomery
Inside each of the 12 suites—which start at $290 a night with a staff-to-guest ratio of five to one—Conran continued with the theme of one color per room, bringing in glazed linens in shades of chutney, caramel, emerald, and rose. Locally handmade bejmet and zellige glazed clay tiles have been used throughout, complemented by ancient Roman mosaics and 16th-century Andalusian tiles.
In the Rabat Suite, Conran drenched the space in rattan, using it for wall panels and headboards to create tactility and texture.