Photography by Sophie Denux

Published on March 27, 2020

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“It’s magic to combine the right colors together. It’s the influence of the city and the light here,” says Laurence Leenaert. The Belgium-born creative, who grew up in the foggy Flemish countryside, uprooted her life five years ago and moved to Marrakech on a whim, following a monthlong trip to the M’Hamid El Ghizlane desert. She had just launched LRNCE, a now Instagram-famous line of textiles, rugs, home goods, clothing, and artwork that comes in a palette of vibrant cobalt, mustard, rust, and dusty peach. From its new home base, the brand has quickly expanded to nine employees (and 179,000 loyal followers), as well as more than 35 artisans around the region who help produce sculptural ceramic vessels and hand-braided tapestries, to which Leenaert then applies her curvy shapes.

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“I’m always drawing, but it’s very freestyle,” she explains. “I love that it’s not perfect, that there are some mistakes, that it has a story to tell—a soul.” Leenaert’s studio in the northwest suburb of Sidi Ghanem is drenched in sunlight—a rarity in a place where traditional homes feature smaller windows—and serves as her artistic hub. Every nook is filled with her creations in various stages of production: Punchy dinnerware is artfully stacked on Majorelle-blue building blocks, chromatic canvases lean casually against a wall, and low-slung poufs double as a lounge area where the team gathers every Friday for a family-style couscous lunch. Customers are free to walk in and browse as they please, often greeted by Asu, Leenaert’s Akita Inu pup.

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When she’s not creating (her husband, Ayoub Boualam, manages the business side of things), the young designer zips around town on her scooter, visiting vendors, meeting local craftspeople—ceramists, weavers, tanners—and documenting the buzzing metropolis’s changing colors. This year LRNCE will open a second storefront in the heart of the medina, surrounded by the artisans whose work endlessly inspires Leenaert. “I love applying these traditions and materials to do something new,” she explains. “The result is a totally different story and identity.” Under the sizzling sun, she found an oasis in which to let her imagination run wild.

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Get Inspired by Leenaert’s Favorites:

Color I’m very into olive green at the moment. It has become the new Majorelle blue. My in-laws own an olive grove where we go once a month to have breakfast and walk around with our dog, so that probably had an influence—and my good friend (aptly named Olivier) is obsessed with the color.

Bacha Coffee This coffee bar is inside the Musée des Confluences, which was once a pasha’s palace. Today you can visit and see exhibitions featuring pieces from the private collections of Yves Saint Laurent and Serge Lutens.

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Film For I Am Love, Italian director Luca Guadagnino imagined a world that’s kind of perfect to me: The table settings, the gorgeous costumes, the music—it’s all the right things coming together.

Riad Elisa & Spa I went to this spa with my friends the day before my wedding, and we had such a great time! It’s in the center of the medina but you feel completely hidden away.

Book I brought Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey on a recent visit to India. I loved to daydream while reading the poems, and the line drawings that accompany them were very inspiring for my work.

Tigmi Ayoub and I got married here. It’s a magical hotel in a small village an hour south of the city. If you want to relax and have an authentic stay, this is the place to go.

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Place Last year I went to Joshua Tree in California and fell in love with the natural beauty: the trees, the large boulders, the colors of the sunset, the silence. It would be a dream to live in a place like that one day.

Magasin Général There are a lot of great decor stores near our studio, which is in a more industrial area. One of my favorites is Magasin Général, where you can find curated vintage furniture, old lamps, and tableware.

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Artist I recently saw a Barbara Hepworth exhibition at the Musée Rodin in Paris and really got to know her work. She was inspired by the nature around her to create abstract sculptures out of wood, stone, marble, and bronze. I think the pieces actually look better outdoors, surrounded by trees and mountains, than in a gallery.

La Paillote I love this French-Moroccan restaurant, located in a beautiful garden just outside Marrakech. While it doesn’t offer traditional Moroccan food, nothing beats having a cozy dinner under the olive trees.

See more studio tours:
Our Newest Artist Crush Takes Us on a Tour of Her Light-Filled Philadelphia Studio
This Artist’s Studio Is Chicer Than Most Homes
Timothy Goodman’s NYC Studio is Giving Us ALL the Feels

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