Morocco to Scotland – steal design ideas from Vanessa Branson’s two magical hideways

Unlikely as it sounds, today’s post about Vanessa Branson’s two very different holiday escapes is woven together by the common theme of the Beni Ouarain rug. Before we explain, lets introduce the two locations. First, her magical island Eilean Shona in Moidart on the west coast of Scotland – a place that J M Barrie once holidayed and is rumoured to have inspired Neverland.

One of our team spent a magical holiday here last year and enjoyed a proper escape from life (AKA connectivity). Guests are collected by boat from the mainland then escorted to their holiday home where tvs, phones and anything more tech than a toaster are completely absent. A small village hall, which acts as a communal games room for guests from all seven holiday cottages (in addition to “the big house” which sleeps 20), offers the only wi-fi on the island. The natural outcome of this is that you spend all your time at one with nature, whatever the weather. Stags wander past windows and gallop in packs accross the hills and if you’re lucky you might spot seals, otters and pine martens.

El Fenn meanwhile, Branson’s 28 bedroom riad hotel in bustling Marrakech – not far from the main square Jemaa el Fnaa and the manic markets that wend their way down the streets off here – is a haven with no less than three swimming pools and some resident tortoises. It’s frequented by the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow among other starry names. And also us! We love hanging out there for lunch when we’re on our buying trips.

As different as they are, the interior design in both locations is cosy, cocooning and fitting of each setting. We’ve spotted North African rugs in both and were struck again by how versatile these textiles really are.

The Old Schoolhouse on Eilean Shona (below) has only just been added to the collection of cottages on the island, following its refurbishment – it is now the nicest one.

Some of the origial fittings – such as the brass light switches – remain part of the modernised interior where white-washed pannelled walls, bare floorboards and simple furniture create a classic cosy cottage feel. So far so Scottish. But two Beni Ouarains in the main living and dining space bring a subtle taste of Morocco to the look. Made from sheep’s wool in a natural colour, they actually fit in perfectly here in remote – and lets face it cold – Scotland.

In an all-white bathroom an Azilal follows the same tonal theme, but adds a touch of colour too. Again, the textural quality of the piece makes the room cosy and comforting.

The design could not be more different to the rooms at El Fenn, where hot colours and darker walls are more fitting for the climate and local design traditions.

In this bedroom, the Beni Ouarain has the effect of adding a highlight, an almost cooling effect.

As well as Beni Ouarains, there are various other North African rugs dotted throughout El Fenn…

From faded orange, patterned kilims…

To bolder Berbers that create real impact in the rooms – green with red/pink/orange is a wonderful combination.

We’re probably biased, but to us, the rugs play a big part in the interiors of both holiday destinations we’ve shown above. Hopefully they’ve given you some interiors inspiration and maybe some ideas for travel too.

Images from Eilean Shona and El Fenn

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