Knoll & Morocco: When a Moroccan Fortress meets Modern Design.

Morocco Modern, as Knoll calls it, was originally a marketing idea by the former Knoll international president Yves Vidal for the company. His aim was to show that Knoll furniture could be incorporated tastefully in traditional and past spaces. This ended up being tremendous success.

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York Castle

In the 1961 Knoll int purchased York Castle, a fortress in the cosmopolitan Moroccan city of Tangier as the ultimate stage set for the company’s modernist catalog. The property was named after the British Duke of York who once served as the governor of Tangier. Yves Vidal saw in the medieval ruins a perfect setting for the clean lines of contemporary furniture design. With the help of interior designer Charles Sevigny, along architect Robert Gerofi, Vidal set about refurbishing the property. The idea however was still to keep the traditional Moroccan architecture style. It was a classic North African property structure with a open courtyard in the center that gave access to different rooms. The Arab doors and North African engravings in their doorway as well as the traditional Moroccan tiles and wall patterns were restored giving the space it’s original look back.

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The designers wanted to take this idea even further and decided to incorporate oriental objects in the fortress to contrast as much as possible with Knoll’s western mid century modern aesthetic.

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The Knoll Touch

Yves Vidal and his partners furnished the space with a range of different Knoll textiles and furniture. The dining room right outside of the courtyard was furnished with Eero Saarinen’s tulip table surrounded by tulip chairs. Other rooms carried Bertoia Diamond Chair and the Womb Chair. And each room was covered with Knoll carpets that carried either a Saarinen Coffee Table or a Pedal Coffee Table.

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In the larger “living” rooms, you could find different knoll sofas covered with pillows from Knoll textiles. When the interiors of the castle were exposed to the public it caused quite a stir as these interiors completely defied the standards for the 1960s.

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The Result

Although the blend of modern design with traditional spaces was a new concept that took people by surprise at the time, It was well received by the public. as Vidal recollected, Knoll’s European audience made peace with the notion of inviting contemporary design into spaces bounded by tradition, oriental or not. “Little by little, it became absolutely chic to have Knoll furniture in your house,” he said.

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“I think it showed people that you could mix it up with different furniture and objects and paintings which were not necessarily modern, it could be done with antiques.” -L’Oeil France

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