Historian of the Home: Inside an Enchanting Saudi Textile Boutique
Overlooking the Red Sea, Jeddah has long been a melting pot of cultures, thanks to a steady influx of religious pilgrims and traders from around the world. The historic city is also home to a number of hidden gems that reflect its cosmopolitan allure. On each of my trips there, I make it a point to visit Layla Moussa’s chic boutique displaying a tantalizing mix of home furnishings and accessories.
To say Moussa is passionate about textiles is something of an understatement considering the interior designer has built her thirty-year career on yards of intricately embroidered silks and velvets. An expert in the art of embroidery, she has attracted an international clientele since launching her career in 1981 as an antique dealer specializing in textiles. Traveling the world in search of treasures such as seventeenth- and eighteenth-century European furniture, Mogul jewelry, and vintage costumes, she soon decided to establish her own interior design business.
Moussa has never been one for understated decoration at a time when minimalism and midcentury modernism dominate. She quickly became famous for her bold opulent approach to interiors, steeped in layers of history, tasseled velvets, carved-wood antiques, and heaps of embroidered textiles. “The best description of my work is restrained decadence,” noted Moussa, whose unique style can be seen in the homes she maintains in Jeddah, London, Paris, and Beirut.
The difference between pure ostentation and Moussa’s approach to design lies in the materials she employs. Possessing a curator’s eye, she set about transforming her London pied-à-terre into an oasis of opulent colors and museum-quality furnishings, dotted throughout a dramatic three-level space perched atop a stately Victorian mansion in Chelsea. Among the exquisite pieces she’s accumulated over years of travel are a seventeenth-century spice cabinet, a thirties Art Deco flame lamp picked up in Paris, and an antique four-poster bed topped by a Raja’s hand-embroidered velvet tent top, which Moussa acquired during a trip to India.
Long passionate about collecting antique textiles, in 2000 Moussa launched her own line of embroidered fabrics and furnishings. Today she overseas an army of two-hundred artisans trained in reviving painstaking techniques. Each of the textile designs and patterns she creates (many inspired by her collection of antique fabrics) are meticulously hand-stitched onto sumptuous custom-woven silks and linens. Describing her line as more haute couture than prêt-à-porter, the value of her textiles is often measured in terms of hours of workmanship, such as the four-thousand hours of embroidery required to create an ottoman or a quilt. Despite this, she has acquired a following amongst interior designers and architects, impressed by her beautifully executed pieces.
For more information, visit http://www.laylamoussadesign.com/.
Photos: Courtesy of Deena Aljuhani Abdulaziz