Inside LRNCE’s Rosemary Marrakech – a boutique stay years in the making

Crafted elegance

The adage ‘good things take time’ could not be a more apt way to summarise the creation of Rosemary in Marrakech. A project that’s taken years to conceive and curate, the boutique stay is a masterstroke of contextual design and an ode to local handcraft.

While in hindsight, the design of a riad makes sense as a natural evolution for an interior and fashion brand (these disciplines lending themselves seamlessly to a lifestyle environment), it came about partly by chance for Laurence Leenaert and her husband Ayoub Boualam, who had never pointedly set out to become boutique hotel owners.

But as co-founders of design brand LRNCE – known, loved and collected globally for its unique and instantly recognisable identity – it was perhaps their ability to straddle disciplines, from loosely handpainted ceramics and textural rugs to eye-popping framed artworks and striking clothing, that made the progression into designing a hotel so natural.

Leenaert had met Rose-Marie, the previous owner of the space, at the LRNCE studio. She was selling it and persuaded them to come and have a look. Once the couple saw the space—its magnificent original features and the limitless design scope it offered—the deal was all but done.

Courtesy Rosemary Marrakech

While their design versatility allowed them to move seamlessly into hospitality, it was their ability to give traditional craft contemporary relevance that made them the ideal custodians of this unique space.

What is now an intimate five-suite boutique hotel was originally a family home in one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the medina. Designed by Quentin Wilbaux, who documented, photographed and personally restored close to 150 properties in the vicinity, its design pedigree and history offered the perfect canvas upon which to weave something completely unique.

Rosemary is an all-enveloping continuation of the LRNCE brand into a three-dimensional world. The Marrakech hotel celebrates Moroccan design in the most intricate way imaginable while simultaneously expressing LRNCE’s personality. ‘With Rosemary, we have pushed our concept into creating spaces where our guests could experience our lifestyle and art-de-vivre. This transition from products to experience starts when the guests arrive and lasts until the moment they leave,’ says Leenaert.

The experience the couple have created has been done with the utmost respect for the original features, such as the wine-coloured floor-to-ceiling marble in the original Hamman and exquisite ceiling panelling while creating something new. This sensitive approach to preserving heritage elements entailed enlisting the expertise of traditional artisans. As such, 20 master craftsmen and women were employed to realise the duo’s vision, who took a hands-on approach to the design from the initial architectural drawings to the final installation.

The couple travelled the country searching for the best craftspeople – from women specialising in stained glass in Meknes and potters in Safi to hand-chiselled zellige from Fes and marble vendors in Rabat. Some, like the carpenters, metalworkers and plasterers who painstakingly perfected the riad’s finishes, live locally, including the artisans who hand-poured the courtyard’s innumerable terrazzo tiles.

The interior fit-out has an astounding level of customisation. In a bathroom, Leenaert handpainted hundreds of picture tiles. Each room is carefully composed, with unique lamps, rugs, cushions, linen, and artwork—an endeavour that prioritized getting it ‘just right’ ahead of doing it quickly.

The transformation took several years, from purchasing the property in 2021 to perfecting each stage, from initial architecture to custom detailing and finishing touches.

Leenaert and  Boualam gradually sourced vintage pieces that add layers of eclecticism to the custom and crafted design – from vintage Scarpa armchairs and light fittings hauled from long-defunct hotels to 1920s desks and American Fanimation ceiling fans, Moroccan Beldi glass tumblers inspired by vintage whisky glasses and polished silverware.

Every space has been seen as an opportunity for curation and expression, manifesting Leenaert ‘s inner creative world. The end result is so personal and all-encompassing that some of her own works feature, as well as the couple’s wedding chairs and treasured pieces by artist friends from their own private collection. Ultimately, it stands as a testament to, as well as a labour of, love.

Vintage items by European designers feature alongside Funimation fans and artwork by LRNCE
Courtesy Rosemary Marrakech
Right: Carved wooden cedar door made by Abdellatif. Left: an outdoor seating nook in the courtyard
Courtesy Rosemary Marrakech

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