Bvlgari Family’s Opulent Holiday Escape

Influenced by Moroccan architecture, this Marrakech Riad showcases a sophisticated mix of Islamic and Spanish style: in this astonishing Moroccan estate, Moorish meet the Modern.

When she was a college student, Maite Carpio Bulgari and her friends liked to visit Marrakech on long weekends and holidays. Years later, she and her husband, Paolo Bulgari, chairman of Italian luxury brand Bvlgari, were inspired to build a family retreat. One that would combine the best of Morocco’s craft traditions with modern and supreme European style.

Their two-story, seven-bedroom riad took five years to build. “I looked all over Europe, but everyone I talked to wanted to make the house too sophisticated, however I wanted the interiors to reflect Moroccan style but be simple and easy to live in. I realised what I needed was a Spanish designer from Andalusia. Someone who already had the right aesthetic, for whom Morocco would not be foreign.” says Mrs. Bulgari.

Her choice fell on Pablo Paniagua, a Málaga-born designer who has a reputation for creating unfussy, elegant interiors that are contemporary yet timeless, with a touch of Andalusian flair. The Bulgaris told Paniagua they wanted their home to embrace the local culture while avoiding a predictable Marrakech look.

There are several living areas: three separate dining rooms for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and a series of occasional chambers, all connecting with outdoor terraces. 

The rooms are surrounded by courtyards, the gardens are planted with orange and almond trees, and flowers are cut daily to perfume the interior. Electric lighting is hardly ever used, instead rooms are illuminated by the candlelight.

Throughout the home you’ll find Moroccan tiles and traditional polished plaster known as tadelakt, while richly detailed coffered ceilings, handcrafted in Spanish cedar.

Many of the furnishings were custom-made in the spirit of classic Moroccan craftsmanship, such as the dining room’s expansive table of walnut and brass, but Paniagua also mixed in select antiques sourced from Spain, including such exquisite finds as a 16th-century velvet-upholstered chest in the entrance courtyard and an ornate 19th-century secretary inlaid with mother-of-pearl and exotic woods in the foyer.

Curtains and upholstery embroidered with ancient Berber motifs were handwoven by artisans from the High Atlas Mountains. “We wanted to give a soul to this place. It has a Moroccan sensibility with an Andalusian essence.”

What the riad doesn’t have is fine art. Even though the Bulgaris are serious collectors and Paniagua is passionate about art, they wanted to respect prohibitions, observed by many Muslims, against depicting human and animal forms. Instead, they turned to the boldly colored, often geometric-patterned kilims found all over Morocco, hanging them, along with monumental mirrors, like paintings.

Once the lengthy process of building of this Marrakech Riad was complete, the Bulgari family started the challenge of decorating the interior, creating a luxury interior design. All the contemporary design inside the Bulgari’s Marrakech Riad captures the unique mix of styles.