The Design House

Essaouira & Atlantic Coast, Morocco
Book from GBP Book from £129 per night

Renovated by retro-design pros in smart 60s fashion, this stylish medina house may be the coolest place to stay in Essaouira (sleeps 2-8)

Renovated by retro-design pros in smart 60s fashion, this stylish medina house may be the coolest place to stay in Essaouira (sleeps 2-8)

When they renovated this 4-storey home in the medina, owners Emma and Graham deliberately avoided dusty, moody Moorish overtones, instead hanging on to their expertise in retro interior design. The Design House is filled with groovy 60s finds like mushroom lamps, a wall of skulls and a rattan hanging chair. Clean white lines and sunny terraces (there are 2) provide the perfect backdrop for photo shoots and lazy afternoons.

Beyond the house walls, laid-back Essaouira is an antidote to the frenetic pace of life at home. Whether you want to eat well, shop till you drop, or experience the relaxation of a hammam, ex-Londoner Emma can introduce you to all the right people. While away your time exploring the medina, walk along the beach for a drink at Café Vagabond, book some quad biking or head out on a camel. Back at the house, cook up a storm in your sleek kitchen or ask Emma to arrange a delicious home-cooked Moroccan meal delivery. This is a fabulously cool hideaway in a wonderfully friendly town.


  • The ultra-cool feel of the house with its genuine pieces from 60s and 70s designer legends
  • Set in the heart of Essaouira's medina, just 10 minutes' walk from the long sandy beach and 2 minutes from the harbour
  • Perfect for a girls' weekend away - a whole house with a daily maid, roof terraces in the sun and meals on request
  • Whether for a family or a group, Emma can provide you with a tour of the medina and give you the low-down on activities and days out - her experience is invaluable
  • This is a house rental, so you get the whole place to yourself - and there are reduced rates for a smaller group


  • A 7-night minimum stay, and during Peak Season a minimum of 6 guests must stay
  • Usual no-car problem for a house in Essaouira’s medina, but there is a parking area 1 minute away
  • Light sleepers should bring earplugs to avoid being woken by the call to prayer (the medina has 50 mosques)
  • Heating is fireplace and plug-in radiators only so it can be chilly in winter, though temperatures in Essaouira are rarely low
  • All 4 beds are doubles

Best time to go

Spring is a magical time to be here: from March onwards you are guaranteed good weather and the coastal wild flowers are spectacular. There is an excellent music festival in June, with Gnaoua and other tribal performers (book well ahead). We'd avoid August when the town struggles to cope with the huge influx of visitors from home and abroad. Winter can also be a great time to be in Essaouira: days are often sunny and mild and the light at this time of year has a unique quality. Also bear in mind the dates of Ramadan, the month-long Muslim day-fast.

Our top tips

Essaouira is famous for its quality inlaid woodwork made from thuya, a local hardwood. You can visit the workshops where you will find a selection of furniture, bowls, chess sets and boxes.

Great for...

City Style
Great Outdoors
  • Riad Rental
  • 4 bedrooms
  • Self-catering (+ meals on request)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • Beach Nearby
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Car not necessary
  • Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • WiFi
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Concierge Service
  • Laundry Service


Solidly built and full of designer pieces, The Design House's floor-to-ceiling whitewashed plaster work is accented exposed stone support arches and columns. Some display intricate symbols from the 1800s Portuguese colonial period, speaking of the building's long history.

There are 4 double bedrooms: one on the first floor with a private walk-in shower room and 2 on the second floor, which share a large shower bathroom. These upper rooms also have access to a pueblo-style terrace, complete with hammock, cactus and a rather ingenious bamboo-stick awning. At the very top, the fourth bedroom has sliding glass doors onto its own roof terrace.

The first-floor dining room opens off the all-mod-cons kitchen and afterwards, the cosy living area complete with stereo, WiFi and iPod dock is perfect for lounging. Along with the terraces, the ground floor has a quiet courtyard so there's plenty of space to chill.

All rooms have fireplaces and plug-in radiators ensuring the house is still cosy on chilly winter nights.

Features include:

  • WiFi


The well-equipped kitchen is sleek and long, with a creamy tadelakt (polished plaster) worktop and open shelving. It’s crying out for would-be gourmets to try their hand at tagine and couscous suppers, and on-hand supplies include fruit, bottled water, tea, coffee, milk, oils, salt and pepper. Step through a white archway and dine at the striking ‘tulip’ table, then chill with postprandial tunes in the living room’s music area. In summer, it’s warm enough to have a mint tea on the roof terrace. During our spring visit we breakfasted al fresco every morning.

The house is close to some good bakeries and local fish and vegetable markets. If you tire of cooking, Emma's excellent cook/cleaner can prepare a scrumptious Moroccan meal in her home and deliver it to you - now that’s service! Wine and beer can also be ready chilled in the fridge for your arrival, just ask.

The only problem with dining out is the sheer choice: Essaouria is replete with restaurants and its proximity to the Atlantic means seafood lovers are especially indulged. Thankfully Emma knows just about everyone and is happy to provide recommendations and book tables if required.

Features include:

  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • Kids' meals
  • Meal delivery service
  • Oven
  • Restaurants nearby


  • The bustling fishing harbour is a delight to behold. Ask Emma about the best fish stall to go to for lunch - the fresh chermoulla grilled fish is sensational
  • Head down to Essaouira's huge sandy beach (a 10-minute stroll from the house). It’s ideal for a long walk, though strong winds make it unsuitable for sunbathing. Luckily, the house's roof terrace is a fantastic suntrap
  • Windsurfing and kitesurfing are popular in summer (May-Sept); surfing is better in winter. Equipment can be hired
  • Go shopping at the souks: friendlier, cheaper and often better quality than Marrakech
  • Horse riding can be arranged from nearby stables, as can quad-biking and camel trekking in the sand dunes
  • Unwind by experiencing a hammam, massage or facial in nearby Azur Spa
  • Emma can book yoga and cookery lessons; just ask

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cooking classes
  • Hammam
  • Horse riding
  • Shopping / markets
  • Surfing
  • Swimming
  • Windsurfing
  • Yoga


Children are made very welcome, and this house works well for an extended family party or two families holidaying together. Kids under 4 stay for free!

Essaouira is a great destination for families with a fascinating souk, colourful port and long beaches. The Design House is centrally placed for easy access to all sights and it's only 10 minutes from the beach.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

All 4 bedrooms have double beds. The second-floor mezzanine room is best suited for children as its double bed is a little smaller than the others and parents can sleep on the same floor and share a bathroom.

Cots Available

Baby equipment:

There's a baby cot, which is free of charge (top sheet provided so please bring own sleeping bag or blanket). A steriliser is also available

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

The house has everything you need for self-catering. The housekeeper, Amina, often cooks for guests on the first night. There are plenty of child-friendly restaurants nearby, Emma can advise

Kids Activities on site:

  • Toys including a box of Lego
  • Board games

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Beach (10 minutes' walk)
  • Visit the bustling port
  • Horse riding and camel trekking (remote beaches and forest trails)
  • Quad biking
  • With advance notice Emma can arrange for guests to use 2 pools outside town
  • Surfing, kite-surfing and windsurfing
  • Trips to the waterfalls and to a beach covered in fossils
  • Visit the local souks

Families Should Know:

The house has an all-white interior and some valuable design pieces so it may not be ideal for smaller, messy ones. In addition, it's not ideal for toddlers as there are a lot of stairs


  • Airport: 15 minute drive
  • Hospital: 5 minute walk
  • Shops: 2 minute walk
Kid Friendly:


The Design House is in the medina (old city) of Essaouira, on the west coast of Morocco.

By Air
Fly into Essaouira (20km / 20 minutes' drive) or, if you're combining your visit with other parts of Morocco, it may be easier to fly into Marrakech (175km / 2+ hours' drive). From Essaouira airport, it's easy to take a taxi to the medina.

By Car
You won't need to drive to get around Essaouira itself, but it's worth considering hiring a car if you're travelling from Marrakech or want explore the wider area during your stay.

By Bus from Marrakech
There are regular buses as well as a constant stream of grand taxis ploughing the route between Marrakech and Essaouira. We'd advise taking the Supratours bus from outside the train station in Gueliz. These are fast (2.5-3 hrs) and air-conditioned, but less frequent (only 2 per day).

Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.

More on getting to Morocco and getting around


  • Essaouira 20.0 km ESU
  • Marrakech Menara 175.0 km RAK


  • Beach 0.2 km
  • Shops 0.1 km
  • Restaurant 0.1 km

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