First Look

Marrakech refined

Principessa Letizia Ruspoli has already set the standard in Europe for highly specialized private accommodations with her two-suite hotel, La Residenza Napoleone III, in her husband's palace in Rome. En couraged by that success—the remarkably beautiful address on the Via del Corso contains a collection of tapestries and 17th-century paintings from Christie's and Sotheby's—Ruspoli has raised the bar again, this time in Morocco. Dar Seven, in the medieval medina district of Marrakech, is a fourbedroom house built around a central courtyard in the neighborhood of Sidi Ben Slimane, just 15 minutes from the main square. It rents in its entirety and comes with a staff. The cook, Fatima, and the houseboy, Aziz, were still learning the ropes during our visit, but under Ruspoli's tutelage, we have no doubts.

Dar Seven is unlike most houses you'd come across in Morocco. Instead of the bright zellij tile you see everywhere, Ruspoli has chosen a contemporary mix of cream and white shadowed with black and chocolate. The beds are draped with natural cotton panels and dressed in crisp whites bearing the family crest. Ilaria Miani's towering black glass candlesticks stand alongside delicately shaped iron chairs by Jérôme Vermelin, the French decorator who worked with Ruspoli on the dar's renovation. On practically every surface sits a thick bunch of fresh mint and buttermilk-colored roses. The silks are from Shanghai, the 19th-century prints from Istanbul, the antique mother-of-pearl chest and chairs from Syria. Ruspoli bought the paintings from London auction houses; the silver-and-glass plates come from Mustapha Blaoui, everyone's favorite merchant, whose shop is a few blocks away. Rather than filling the space with Moorish knickknacks as so many nearby houses do, Ruspoli let the high ceilings create the drama and allowed the sunlight, which soaks into every room, to provide the warmth. "When you are in the souk, you're in a crowded warren," says Ruspoli, who has also added a few less tangible touches, such as serving breakfast in bed and rolling out a carpet in the dusty alley to greet guests. "I wanted to create a place in the medina where you can actually breathe." $1,230 per night, three-night minimum; 39-347/733-7098;