Arabic Bathroom Design

The Moroccan approach to bathing takes the idea of bathroom design to another level. Communal bathing in neighbourhood hammams turned the concept of the bathroom into something much more than a utility space, but into an important social arena where business, gossip and relationships were formed and sustained. Hammams remain an important part of life even today and traditional Arabic bathroom design incorporates rich references to both cultural and social influences from the Arabic and Islamic worlds.

A traditional take on plastering – Tadelakt is a lime based mortar/plaster, coloured with natural powder dyes, finished with a coat of black Marseillessoap and stone polished, rendering it waterproof. In Morocco this finish is the norm for bathing and bathroom areas, the material is easily malleable and can be sculpted to create soft, tactile curves that incorporate solid baths or shower areas.

Famous for intricate tiles, the Islamic geometric designs incorporated in Moroccan architecture offer much more than simple decoration, but more a representation of both religious and cultural references to the interconnectivity of life. The patterns are so complex that mathematicians throughout the ages have battled to decipher the codes. Mosaic or hand painted bathroom tiles are a perfect complement for Tadelakt bathrooms, infusing traditional Arabic design into the heart of the space.

Rather than porcelain units, palatial Moroccan bathrooms cater for a more refined taste, where a hand hammered copper bathroom sink and bath are polished and sunken into mosaic tiled stands.

Water takes a unique place at the heart of Islamic culture, religion and design - as life-giving, sustaining and purifying it is recognised as the origin of all life on earth and as such is ascribed status within the culture. At famous Moorish settlements in Southern Spain, such as the Alhambra, the presence of water runs through the entire heart of the structure. In respect to the humble bathroom the same prevalence is given in creating a space in which to contemplate, purify and rejuvenate.

Morocco is renowned for its traditional crafts, including blacksmithing and metal work that create beautiful, intricate patterns in everything from window shutters, lamps, jewellery and frame work. Incorporating either beaten metal or patterned framed mirrors into the bathroom is a great way to infuse interior design with a signature look.

Joel is a contributor on Design-Milk's weekly architectural posts and Apartment Therapy's Unplggd daily technology posts.