Designer Bill Willis: Decadence in Morocco
In the mid-to-late 1960′s, at a time when happy hippies had become a permanent fixture in pop culture, many of the world’s celebrities, socialites and glitterati were escaping to the East for a new perspective…and, ya know, hashish.
While the Beatles famously meditated in India, several others – Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Yves Saint Laurent - flocked to Morocco in search of a little peace and a lot of partying. Among the sparkling crowd was interior designer Bill Willis, an adventurous ex-pat from Tennessee who had a brilliant artistic eye and a nasty coke habit.
Despite his addictive personality, Bill Willis was a creative genius who found a deep sense of inspiration in ancient Moroccan craftsmanship. “My discovery of the Islamic world has been an astounding experience,” Willis told Architectural Digest in 1989. He decided to make the North African country his permanent home, working to revive the Moroccan aesthetic and creating masterpieces out of dilapidated homes.
Bill’s most notable client was iconic fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, for whom he created two breathtaking, oasis-like homes. He exercised zero restraint, filling the spaces with flamboyant tiles, sexy stenciling, majestic fireplaces, and the softly polished waterproof plaster known as tadelakt. But thanks to his fearless implementation of such ornate, artisanal details, Bill Willis is credited with single-handedly reviving Moroccan-inspired design and bringing it back into mainstream culture.
To preserve the designer’s magical creations, editor Marian McEvoy recently published Bill Willis – a luscious collection of fifteen interiors that she and photographer Nicolas Mathéus painstakingly tracked down, styled and captured on film.
Above photos courtesy of Architectural Digest
Perhaps considered Bill Willis’ greatest masterpiece, the Villa Oasis in Marrakech was the beloved home of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre
The above photos are courtesy of Wall Street Journal / Photography by Oberto Gili
Relish Bill Willis’ designs in person, dining in the still-popular restaurant Dar Yacout