The courtyard is a dominant feature in Islamic architecture and the centerpiece of a dar. At Dar Borj Dahab, original plaster carving highlights a living space with nested arches that unify the messreiya suite of Moroccan salon, sitting room, and bedroom. We commissioned new carving to top the arches and courtyard pillars in the same style as the original plasterwork.
The messreiya‘s ceilings and halka–a large opening in the ceiling to admit light and fresh air into traditional buildings–were already painted with intricate motifs. We had the painted designs cleaned where possible, and where faded almost to oblivion, repainted. The result was as though a beam of light was now directed at the historic paintwork.
Existing features of the messreiya included two interior salons. A decorative interior arch was relocated to align it with arched doorways windows with ironwork and Iraqi glass refreshed. Previous tenants had installed a temporary wall, which we removed to open up a small salon. On the mezzanine level overlooking the courtyard, we built a second loft built to match an existing one above the small salon. Both lofts feature wooden screen, or masharabbi, panels.
The sure touch of traditional craftsmanship
To complete the messreiya suite, we re-purposed a hallway and converted the traditional Turkish toilet space, creating a full bath with shower. We used marble tiles found in the courtyard to floor the bath, and installed a half bath on the mezzanine. In the bath, we installed a copper lavatory and lined the walls with zellij that mimicked that already in place along the bases of the salons.
Delighted with the beauty of the zellij carpet we had uncovered in the doorway separating salons from the courtyard in the messreiya, we commissioned a second one, using the same pattern within an octagonal border that traced the shape of the unique opening, or halka, overhead. Inspired by the results of our efforts on the main messreiya and mezzanine levels, we decided to replicate as many of the features as possible when we headed downstairs to tackle the ground floor.