The labyrinthine of enchanting alleyways that link Marrakech are woven with tales. Its Medina, a maze-like wonder, whispers secrets of fragrant souks—where saffron spices and lamps of brass dance in the sun’s warm, honeyed streams. Nestled within its bustling streets, a new hotel has emerged to tell the story of the city it calls home.
Rosemary, a project by the acclaimed Moroccan artist LRNCE, is a testament to the city’s timeless allure. As its doors swing open to welcome the world, guests are invited to step into a space where art and hospitality seamlessly intertwine. Rosemary promises not just a place to rest one’s head, but an immersive journey into the captivating universe crafted by LRNCE, where every corner reveals stories of Morocco’s vibrant heritage and the artist’s own creative spirit. Here, co-founders and partners Laurence Leenaert and Ayoub Boualam unveil how they envisioned the tapestry of art and accommodation that is Rosemary.
Natalie Stoclet: What is the role of art in a hotel?
Laurence and Ayoub: A hotel needs to show a sense of personality, and art is the perfect medium. We reached out to artists we already know, mostly friends, who contributed in making custom pieces for the Rosemary riad—a traditional Moroccan house specifically known for its enclosed garden and courtyard. The individual identities and philosophies that shine through their pieces gives our space its personality.
NS: What is the story Rosemary seeks to tell?
L&A: Rosemary is the continuation of our interior brand LRNCE. Through the years, we have developed various products, mostly handmade and for interior purposes. With Rosemary, we have pushed ourselves to create a space where guests can experience our lifestyle and art-de-vivre. This transition from products to experience is what we’ve tried to communicate, from the moment the guest arrives until they leave.
NS: Is the artistic process similar to the design process?
L&A: The artistic process and the design process are similar in the way that they both start with understanding craft and connecting with artisans. Once we understand the possibilities and how far we can go, Laurence begins drawing and we start sampling in collaboration with artisans. The main difference is functionality. While a creative process might focus on the object and its properties—colors, materials, shapes—the design process has to put the functionality first, especially when designing a space made for guests. In our riad, this meant creating a well thought-out, peaceful, and harmonious space. A place where guests can take it easy.
NS: Tell us more about the Rosemary riad.
L&A: The Rosemary project started with an amazing encounter—a French woman named Rose-Marie visited our studio 5 years ago and convinced us that the riad she wanted to sell was for us. We ended up visiting it with her the day after and totally fell in love. The riad was designed by Belgian architect Quentin Wilbaux, who was appointed by UNESCO to map out the Medina in the 90s. During his time in Marrakech, he also renovated more than a hundred riads, and Rosemary is one of them.
Our riad is a traditional construction. It is built around a patio with a wonderful 40-year old Jacaranda tree that acts like a sculpture in its heart. We combined its traditional architecture with a more contemporary vision. We used the same patterns in many different spots, and defined a color palette innate to LRNCE throughout the whole property. The research behind the combination of different materials, from zellige to terrazzo, is what helped us to create a unique DNA for Rosemary.
NS: What are a few of your favorite artworks in the hotel?
L&A: There’s a large painting of two octopuses by Lieven Deconinck that hangs above the swimming pool, a painting made of pigments and sand by Natasha Mankowski in the living room, and a sculpture by Bart Vansteenkiste on a niche in the living room.
NS: Why get into the hotel business?
L&A: Building a space with our DNA seemed like an organic continuation of our work. We have created many custom pieces for other hotels in the past, from very large textiles to bed covers, and we knew we could make our own. We have always been attracted by the hospitality in Morocco, which is known for its warmth and generosity, and we were convinced that we could have our own impact by creating a space where design and hospitality are the signatures.
NS: What, to you, makes a hotel special?
L&A: It’s about experiencing authenticity in a place. We want guests to feel that they are away from their usual comfort zone and can discover something unexpected. At Rosemary, we believe that the experience of living in a traditional Moroccan house with a twist of design makes it special.
NS: How much is the hotel an extension of your body of work as an artist?
L&A: This project is definitely an extension of my work. It pushed me to find new inspirations. I challenged myself to create a whole universe where everything is connected, from the materials used to the furniture decorating the rooms.
NS: What does Marrakech mean to you, and how has it inspired Rosemary?
L&A: Living in Marrakech, and having the freedom to create endlessly, inspires me every day. The people, the light, the colors, the energy. Rosemary is part of our journey and we’ll see where this can lead. I love the idea of not knowing what’s next. But we are so proud to be part of the Marrakech community just a little bit more with Rosemary. We hope that we can share this with our guests and people around us.