Bill Willis (1937-2009) was one of the most influential interior designers of the XXI century. He’s certainly the father of Moroccan style interior design. He studied and rescued the old techniques of craftsmen from North Africa and gave them a new life by daring to change the paradigms of this ancient style.
Mr. Willis life was as interesting as his creations. Born in Memphis in 1937 and after studying Fine Arts in Europe ended up traveling to Morocco in the mid-60s with the company of two newly married friends, nothing less than Talitha and Paul Getty Jr.
The three friends, members of the bohemian high society explored the town and fell in love with a glorious Marrakesh in decay. At that time, there were many old Moroccan palaces and Riads that were uninhabited and condemned to ruin.
They saw the beauty that lay behind those crumbling walls and decided to buy a mansion whose decoration would be provided by Bill itself.
That love for Marrakesh continued to grow and finally, they settled in that city. Bill got in touch with the artisans of the city that developed their pieces with ancient techniques.
Willis saw a world of decorative possibilities with those pieces. He was ready to give back all its splendor and to open new doors in the decoration. He rescued traditional Moroccan motifs and gave them a new life with his personal taste, new color palettes and new patterns.
Willis created very sophisticated spaces with ornate filigree and details but avoiding overloading spaces. Despite all the decoration the interiors are highly masculine and sober, and that combination is something very hard to achieve.
The house was a meeting place for stars and people from the high society of the time like Marianne Faithful, Michelangelo Antonioni or the Rolling Stones. One of the most influential visitors was Yves Saint Laurent who quickly saw the exceptional talent and imagination of Willis and became one of his best customers and friends, working together for over 40 years.
The interior designer was responsible for decorating Yves Saint Laurent’s house in Marrakesh, next to the legendary Jardin Majorelle. It became a simple, elegant and cozy retreat. In the 80 the fashion designer bought Villa Oasis, Majorelle’s own home and Willis created a paradise that became the official home of YSL.
He invented a new style inspired by splendorous techniques of the past. For me, he is one of the great interior designers there has ever been. What is so great is his use of color, its color tones, how they fit together and how they can provide so much sober personality to space.
He earned the respect of local craftsmen, we must not overlook the great contribution that Willis made helping to maintain local crafts.
The interiors include tiles, domes, fireplaces and elements made with a type of waterproof plaster called “tadelakt”, typically used in Arab hammam. Today the “tadelakt” is a prized material for decorating bathrooms over the world.
You can see his work in the magnificent book Bill Willis (Éditions Jardin Majorelle) written by Marian McEvoy. It is currently only be purchased at the store from Majorelle Gardens in Marrakech and the boutique Foundation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent in Paris at a price of $ 95. If you want more information about the book you can contact in firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the moment, I leave my Pinterest board dedicated to Bill Willis in order to delight your eyes.