Name: Stephen di Renza
Location: Old Medina — Fes, Morocco
Size: 56 square meters (600 square feet)
Years lived in: 4 years; Owned
After years of dwelling in various locations — New York, Paris, London, Hanoi— it is in Morocco that American-born Stephen Di Renza came to a halt and settled. The multi-talented creative juggles his many hats — creative director of Jardin Majorelle, owner of Riad 9, cofounder of Restaurant Número 7, fashion director, and interior designer — between Marrakesh and Fes.
His heart is definitely in the Old Medina of Fes, a superb location listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site where, in 1999, he unpacked his suitcase with a deep-set feeling of having found a special place. Since then, he reinvented his riad as a guest house, the next door space to a restaurant that hosts chefs from all around the world. The top of the restaurant is his official pied-à-terre I photographed for this tour.
A home adorned with vintage accents doesn't have to resemble a secondhand store. In fact, well-chosen antique pieces can refine the look of a space and achieve a very sophisticated feel. Stephen's pied-à-terre shows an ideal balance between art pieces, around-the-world bazaar scores, DIY projects and one-of-a-kind items. Not only is the enigmatic two-bedroom apartment both refined and cozy—a difficult combination—but Stephen has managed to make us forget that all the windows face the indoor courtyard; I personally did not even notice until he mentioned it.
Of course, as a creative professional, having designed interiors, boutiques, and other spaces, Stephen has developed a sharp eye, a if you can't find it just design it approach, and a strong vision that only comes with years of experience. Though most of us are far from the 10,000 hours it takes to master a skill, we can still learn something here in the design therapy process of outfitting our own shelters: BE BOLD.
If you don't find the exact color of the exact fabric with the exact finish you've been looking for, just make it yourself. Stephen's home is full of customized/designed/orchestrated projects, such as the kitsch-en counter, purple snakeskin pillows and intriguing art pieces.
To avoid the flea market-ish feel, just focus on good quality products (the French hospital side tables), bold pieces (colorful tiles), and classic lines (the triptych mirror), and reinvent some of your finds with a personal touch, as Stephen did when he had the top of the Scandinavian coffee table in the living room covered in leather. In the guest room suite, the purple walls, bedding, headboard, and purple pillows dramatically demonstrate the essence of Stephen's style: Moroccan Modern.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: Modern Moroccan.
Inspiration: Islamic architecture.
Favorite Element: Tiles.
Biggest Challenge: Windows open onto [inner] courtyard not exterior.
What Friends Say: Feels airy and good to be in.
Biggest Embarrassment: None.
Proudest DIY: Mounting 4 meter (13 feet) long photo myself.
Biggest Indulgence: 4.2 meter (14 feet) leather sofa.
Best Advice: Keep it simple.
Dream Sources: Voice Art Gallery, Marrakech, Gallerie 127, Marrakech.
- Orange ornament: vintage 1920s silk obi belt
- Tables: vintage French hospital side tables.
- Small book: one of Mao's "little red books" Stephen bought in China in the '80s
- Bronze sculptures: Mauritania
- Leather Sofa: B&B Italia
- Rug: Beni Ourain from the mountains of Morocco
- Coffee table: 1960s Scandinavian table that Stephen had covered in leather
- Draperies: black silk English drapes by Jim Thompson Silk
- Lamp: industrial French vintage workshop
- Ladder: 18th-century Swedish
- Costume: from Paris opera Faust
- Photograph of face: DIY
- Photo with hands using sign language: a visual Stephen conceived for Alfred Dunhill Japan
- Cabinet: French 1940s cabinets that Stephen added tiled countertops to
- Portraits: vintage '40s and '50s portraits, part of Stephen's collection of "Moroccan Kitchen Kings"
- Trunk: vintage 1920s Goyard trunk
- Headboard: designed by Stephen
- Bedsheets: French 1920s linen
- Sliding doors: made from salvaged windows
- Teak and leather bench: Stephen's design
- Photo: Keichi Tahara
- Artwork: What has flown over Vietnam by Warren Edwards
- Headboard: made from 18th century wooden room divider
- '70s steel lamp: Paris flea market
- Embroidered throw: 18th-century Fes
- Console table: contemporary Italian
- Purple cushions: Stephen's design
- Rug: Moroccan vintage circa 1950
- Tiles: handmade Fes Zillige tiles
- Photo: Michael Biondo—it was for a cover of Paper magazine that Stephen styled in mid-'80s.
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