Traditional Arabic décor uses stylised forms and elegant draperies to evoke a sense of space and comfort, contrasting the warmth of the palette with the need to allow cool air to circulate. Utilise the style’s innovative lighting concepts and bold colours in your own home with this guide to its best-known hallmarks. It’s perhaps most naturally suited to Mediterranean or desert climates, but can also be used to more bohemian effect in an urban property.
Take inspiration from the landscape of North Africa, using a base palette of warm neutrals like natural reds, beiges and ochres. Combine with a bold accent colour from within the same scheme to add character without clashing. If your tastes lean more towards prints, look for geometric motifs or complex designs inspired by tapestries.
For a more dramatic change, you could take inspiration from Chefchaouen, a bright sky-coloured city in Morocco. The buildings are painted turquoise, blue and white, a colour scheme that can be used to create a relaxing atmosphere in the busiest rooms of the house.
Classically, Arabic architecture is designed to make best use of shade and sunlight in a hot climate, blending natural lighting with soft artificial light. Careful use of drapes, curtains and latticework screens can filter stark rays into the room, and lamps at different levels will create a similar warm ambience on shorter winter days. Oversized floor lanterns in highly polished silver, brass or copper can work well within a minimalist design scheme, while intricate traditional Moroccan lamps will cast mesmerising silhouettes on walls and floors.
Traditional Arabic wood furniture is often elaborately carved with geometric designs and inlaid with mosaics of flowers, vines and animals. Mother of pearl is a popular material for inlays, and the pale, iridescent shell is striking against the dark walnut wood typically used to construct ornate chests, chairs and cabinets.
Line the walls of your living room with plush ottomans and footstools, with small wooden side tables placed conveniently alongside. Select antique ottomans that have been upholstered in embroidered silk, or update the style with a leather design. Mirrors should be set in ornate frames of either carved wood or gold filigree, positioned opposite windows to reflect the light.
Ancient Islamic ceramicists created some of the most stunning and distinctive dishes, tiles and albarellos of the age. Look out for pieces that pay homage to this illustrious artistic heritage – lustreware is particularly associated with the ancient Islamic world, and refers to ceramics that have had metallic salts added during the glazing process, creating a delicate, luminous sheen.
In traditional Arabic architecture, properties are designed around a central enclosed garden or sehan, a cobbled or paved atrium with a tree, fountain or other focal point in the middle. Although your home may not follow this exact blueprint, you can recreate the same overall effect by decorating your airiest, lightest room in a similar way. Miniature orange trees in terra cotta pots instantly evoke the heat of the Arab world, while tiled floors and lavish soft furnishings complete the aesthetic.
Engel & Völkers has offices in Bahrain and Oman, making it easy to find your own authentic Arab investment. To search for properties that capture these qualities either at home or abroad, just visit us online.