Need to soften up a room of hard lines? Embrace the arabesque.

Bold, bright and fearlessly extravagant, Moroccan design is known for elements that didn’t originate in Northwest Africa, but fatefully converged there: vibrantly colored tile and upholstery, intricate carvings, exquisite arched windows and passageways. But the Moroccan feature that’s most harmonious with modern (and even transitional) design is the shape known as the arabesque, which is at once sharp and soft. You may not know it by name, but you’ve undoubtedly seen it before: It’s typically a diamond-esque shape with gently swelling sides and sharp, pointed apexes—like the tip-tops of the Taj Mahal. (Technically, an arabesque is any infinitely repeatable shape derived from the curves of foliage, but the simplest variations are most common.) The curves and points bleed traditional, but the shape’s bilateral symmetry creates a repeatable pattern that harmonizes with modern design’s geometric foundation. Modern bathrooms in particular—which can sometimes feel cold and utilitarian—can benefit from an arabesque’s delicate touch.

Case in point: this powder room. The undulating contours of head-to-toe arabesque tile give the bathroom a feminine feel; the stark contrast of the grout lines gives the motif some masculine weight. The tile’s breezy blue hue—a toned-down version of the richer blues characteristic of Moroccan design—softens the metallic edge of the mirror and our Venetian bronze Dryden faucet.

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Here, the mirrors serve two functions: drawing the eye up with the vanity’s espresso finish, and using the arabesque’s crowning curves to interrupt the grid-based design. (Our Addison faucet helps, too.)

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A flat, two-tone arabesque wallpaper whispers Moroccan tradition, but cool white marble and our Tesla faucet pull the bathroom into modern territory.

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That same graphic wallpaper reads transitional when paired with a Victorian-style tub filler, warm wood floors and a side table that repeats the arabesque theme.

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