The stuff of ...; Treasures from Morocco in north London

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The Independent Online
There is no need to wander through the souks of Marrakesh to find Arabic artefacts that look as though they have come straight from Aladdin's cave.

Much closer to hand than a Moroccan kasbah is Michael Davenport's treasure trove, lavishly displayed in new premises in London's Vauxhall. Here the collector or the spontaneous buyer can sift through a huge selection of sparkling brass lanterns, ancient walnut doors and windows, scores of hand-painted tiles and delicate wrought-iron work, and can admire both antiques and new designs from Davenport's Fez-based workshops.

Intricate mosaic and ceramic table-tops set on wrought-iron bases are a favourite with people who want a touch of Eastern exotica at home. All the tiles are hand-made, and cut into tiny pieces to make a mosaic design. There are Hasira rugs, made from palm fronds woven with coloured wools: they sell for around pounds 125 each. An antique walnut couscous bowl, some 3ft in diameter, once used for tribal feasts, costs pounds 140.

Davenport, an Oxford anthropology graduate, first fell in love with Morocco when he visited it as a student. He made friends with the local craftsmen and returned again and again, eventually deciding to set up his own business.

"There are many craft centres in Fez, where the tradition of craftsman goes back for generations. The production and design in ceramics haven't changed. Clay is brought in by donkeys, and the kneading process right through to the firing is still as it used to be. Many of the brilliant colours used are still produced from crushed mineral ores."

Davenport imports both new and old pieces from Morocco in large quantities, thereby cutting down on the cost. He says it is often cheaper for customers to buy large items from his shop than to haggle in a Casablancan souk and then pay a hefty fee for shipment back to England.

A striking hand-painted vase standing around 3ft 6in high had a pounds 150 price tag in his shop, and an impressive collection of large pots, vases and old butter-churns give the enthusiast a chance to pick up a real bargain.

The shop, now named Dar al Andalous - it was formerly known as Marabout, and run out of a Fulham garage - offers a catalogue of mosaic designs in some 40 colours and undertakes commissions for tiling kitchens, bathrooms, swimming-pools and patios. Wall tiles cost around pounds 60 per square metre, and hard-wearing cement floor tiles from around pounds 25.

Dar al Andalous is at Arch 11, Miles Street, Vauxhall, London SW18 1RZ (0171-720 9678, fax: 0171-627 5129).

Sally Staples