Last week Maryam Montague, humanitarian, hotel owner and Moroccan design expert called into my show. Given my recent travels in the country, is was a treat to learn more about the lush designs. Here is my extended interview with Maryam.
You seem to be a bit of a modern renaissance woman. How do you juggle all of your different passions and projects?
It’s true – I’ve a lot on my plate! I work in international development (humanitarian aid) – a job I’ve had for over 15 years and which requires considerable travel. With my husband I also manage our boutique guest house in Marrakesh, Peacock Pavilions and have an online shop, Red Thread Souk, which sells Moroccan carpets and textiles. My blog, My Marrakesh is important to me and these days, I’ve also become enamored with Pinterest. And I can’t neglect time for my husband and two children either!
So time management is an essential part of my lifestyle! I keep a running To Do List on Teuxdeux.com, which automatically moves tasks to the next day if they are not completed. I then use the Pomodoro Technique to maximize my efficiency. The basic concept behind the Pomodoro Technique is to work in focused sprints – it has literally doubled my productivity. I take all my notes and keep track of my all my different projects in separate notebooks on Evernote. To make sure that I keep my energy levels high, I have a personal trainer that comes to my home and puts me through my paces 2-3 times a week.
You and your husband, Chris, built and designed Peacock Pavilions. What’s been your favorite part of creating a new space and environment?
Chris is an architect, and I’m passionate about interiors. So we make a good team. It’s been exciting to design and build Peacock Pavilions from scratch. It’s a sort of modern day Kasbah in our Marrakesh olive grove. My favorite part of the process is being able to display all our goodies that we’ve collected from our travels – from textiles from Afghanistan to talismans from Yemen, to antique doors from India, and so much more. The world is endlessly fascinating to me and I love to surround myself with its beauty and objects of curiousity.
Your book, Marrakesh by Design, is a complete Moroccan style guide. What advice can you give to decorators who want to infuse a bit of Morocco into their homes?
My book targets the everyday decorator in so many of us – people who just want to make their homes more interesting, meaningful and memorable; that’s so easy to do with a little Moroccan flair! Accordingly, Marrakesh by Design is broken down into 3 sections. In section 1, there are chapters on Moroccan architecture, Moroccan features and finishings, Moroccan color and Moroccan pattern. In section 2, I discuss Moroccan design in every room in the house, with practical Bringing it Home boxes and how-to projects. In section 3 I talk about all the best Moroccan things to buy for your home and where to buy them, whether in Morocco or anywhere in the world. I feel so lucky that House Beautiful Magazine named Marrakesh by Design one of the top 6 design books of 2012, and the editors at Amazon also selected it as a Best Book in the Home and Design category.
Aside from the opportunity to travel the globe, what is most rewarding about your international humanitarian aid work?
My work keeps me grounded, gives me perspective, and helps give me a higher purpose. It’s also taken me to over 40 countries. I’ve worked on diverse projects – from prisoner rights to women’s rights. Right now my projects in Morocco and Egypt work with a wide range of civil society organizations that promote and advocate for youth, women, and the handicapped.
Your blog, My Marrakesh, is a little bit of everything that inspires you. How did you start blogging and what do you enjoy most about it?
I started blogging as a way to chronicle my adventures in my new home town, Marrakesh. I tell little tales about everything from my travels to shopping. Photography is a very important part of my blog and way to share color, pattern, and life! I’m lucky that My Marrakesh has won Best Blog in Africa for the last two years in a row. It’s been an amazing way to connect with people all over the world – I’ve made so many new friends and had so many interesting projects directed my way via the blog.
Marrakesh by Design: Decorating with all the colors, patterns, and magic of Morocco, $20, Amazon