In case you missed my interview with Martyn Lawrence-Bullard on Decorati:
If Che Guevara had a love child with Rupert Everett and that adorable baby became a top L.A. designer, his name would be Martyn Lawrence-Bullard.
You know how when you’re in high school, you get voted as “Most Likely to Succeed” or “Best Dancer”? If Martyn were in my class I would have voted him “Most Likely to Overthrow the Design Establishment.” But more on that later.
The meteoric rise of Martyn Lawrence-Bullard Design is immediately apparent when you walk into his luxe modern offices and notice the photos of both his interiors as well as his Hollywood royalty clients. The work is (and here’s where the Che Guevara genes kick in) revolutionary. One photo has a huge red “roundabout tête-à-tête”, like you would see in a grand hotel (see below), only it’s outside on a beautifully manicured lawn on a manicured rolling hill.
As for his client photos on the wall above his chair, let’s just say they put the glitter back into glitterati and include Cher, Elton John, Eva Mendez, Cheryl Tiegs, the Osbournes, Keenan Ivory Wayans, and a bunch of rock stars who do “hip hop” and other music styles I can’t even name.
And then there’s Martyn himself. If I didn’t know who he was, I’d think he was a scruffy actor or model with tremendous charm, a lovely British accent and yet also a real edginess in an uber-stylish sort of way.
His life reads like a novel. His father was an opera singer who traveled extensively with his family in tow. This exposed young Martyn to a variety of design “looks and styles” that he would later interpret in different ways in his interiors. At 12, he was prowling flea markets for antique finds, later attended the Royal Academy of Arts in London, and supplemented his income in his 20’s doing both runway modeling and acting.
Buzz: Describe your design style in ten words or less.
MLB: Sophisticated, comfortable, eclectic and in any and all periods.
Buzz:: Your interiors are so strikingly different and new. Where do you get your inspiration for them?
MLB: My travels inspire me always- new cultures, colors, food, music and smells of new and exotic places really make the major impact on me.
Buzz: Fill in the blank “I realized I was destined to be an interior designer….
MLB: At the age of 12 when I discovered the virtues of a few yards of fabric and a staple gun. In an hour, I transformed my boyhood bedroom into a tented fantasy fit for a Maharaja… well almost.
Buzz: Is there a particular building/room/location (like the Taj Mahal) that you visit again and again for new ideas?
MLB: I love to go to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London- their decorative arts exhibits are some of the best in the world. (This summer’s Baroque exhibit was breath- taking and highly educational).
Buzz: I can imagine you walking down a runway in Milan but were you really a working actor as well?
MLB: Yes, but my film and television work was a bit avant-garde, not unlike my design work. One film that illustrates my acting “career” was my role in the last movie done by cult filmmaker Ed Wood. It was titled; “I Woke up Early the Day I Died.”
Buzz: Was that a comedy, drama, or horror movie?
MLB: I have no idea and neither did Ed.
Buzz: So how did you transition from actor/model into interior designer?
MLB: The Producer for the movie loved my style and asked me to do his offices at the Hollywood Film Works. The day it was finished the President of Capitol Records saw it and a career was born.
Buzz: In the past few years, I seem to see your work everywhere. Is it my imagination or have your become the dimpled darling of shelter magazines and coffee table books?
MLB: Well, I’m not sure about the dimpled darling part, but I am featured in about 20 coffee table books and my work has been featured in most of the major shelter publications like Architectural Digest, Elle Décor, Vogue, W, House & Garden and almost every major international shelter publication.
Buzz: Did you ever get any formal training in interior design and do you feel this helped or hindered your creativity?
MLB: I am literally self-trained. I think you are either born with style or not and I have added to my gift by educating myself traveling the world and experiencing new cultures.
Buzz: Speaking of your creativity, how would you describe it?
MLB: I’d say that my creativity thrives on diversity and I’m still not sure where the boundaries are for my design ideas. In addition to doing numerous residential and commercial interiors which include the executive offices at Warner Brothers, Paramount Studios, The Colony Palms Hotel, various restaurants, corporate offices of Jimmy Choo and retail stores worldwide, I’ve also introduced my own line of textiles, furniture, rugs and scented candles.
Buzz: Who’s your favorite clothes, jewelry and shoe designer?
MLB: Well, I adore both Jimmy Choo (for shoes, handbags) and Loree Rodkin (for jewelry). They are both incredibly talented and also happen to be clients of mine. My favorite designer for menswear would be Hedi Slimaine (ex. Dior Homme) for fashion and Tom Ford for tailoring.
Buzz: What’s the most exotic location where you’ve done a project?
MLB: I’m currently working on a 12th century castle in Umbria…not really exotic, but a dream come true. Punta Mita in Jalisco, Mexico was pretty exotic… and very hot!
Buzz: What exotic look has a special place in your heart?
MLB: I love the mystery and drama of Moroccan or what some might call a Marrakech style and the magic of Ottoman interiors- but I also love that 70’s Courreges vibe too.
Buzz: What is the singular most beautiful room you’ve ever designed?
MLB: That’s a hard one because each new room that I finish becomes my favorite….currently Cher’s bedroom in Malibu.
Buzz: You mentioned to me that you’re doing an ultra-eco-friendly home in Malibu for Keenan Ivory Wayans. I think you said even the wiring is recycled! Tell us about this project and what earth-friendly techniques you are using.
MLB: I believe the use of natural fibers such as linen, cotton, and raw silk always lends itself to a tasteful interior. It’s also eco-friendly, which is of great importance to me now. My project with Keenan Wayans is a huge learning curve for me. It is imperative for the planet that we all start to think in an eco friendly and sustainable manor. Reclaimed materials, local products, energy saving appliances and solar panel heating are major elements in this movement…and of course the use of antiques is ultimately the greenest.
Buzz: As I sit here across from your desk I’m staring at a huge crystal skull that’s staring back at me. What’s the story on that?
MLB: It was a gift from Sir Elton John. It’s hand-carved rock crystal from Southern Brazil.
Buzz: And speaking of accessories, what are your favorite antique accessories? Are they tortoiseshell boxes, architectural elements, tapestries, ancient busts, rock crystal globes/ or obelisks, or what?
MLB: I love Vizagapatam pieces. And I also love so-called Milanese furniture, mostly 18th century. The juxtaposition of the white ivory inlay imbedded into the ebony is I believe a Turkish classic.
Buzz: When it comes to antiques, do you have a favorite period or style?
MLB: I love all styles and periods because there is always something beautiful from every period that can be incorporated to create a fresh new interior.
Buzz: How do you feel about mixing antique periods that starkly differ like Louis XIV against Biedermeier?
MLB: If the pieces work together, they work! All beautiful things belong to the same time.
Buzz: Is there a particular antique style or period that you really can’t stand?
MLB: I’m not crazy about Art Nouveau…funny, as a kid I loved it.
Buzz: At C. Mariani, we’re famous for the grandest antiques. In order to avoid a “museum look”, what factors or characteristics do you incorporate into your ultra-luxe rooms that counterbalance antiques?
MLB: It’s usual in design to play the juxtaposition game if you have an important Louis XV armoire, then make the soft furnishings more inviting. To create a more relaxed vibe around such pieces, always allow them to shine.
Buzz: What is the single most important antique you’ve ever purchased on behalf of a client and how did you use it in the client’s home?
MLB: A pair of rare 16th century olive wood mirrors for over a million dollars that I used in the client’s bedroom.
Buzz: What is the favorite antique you have in YOUR home and why do you love it the most?
MLB: A pair of 18th century carved Portuguese chairs made to celebrate the wedding of a Russian Prince and a Portuguese Duchess. Their crests are entwined on the back splats of the chairs creating the most wonderful quirky detail.
Buzz: Tell us about an antique that you repurposed for a use that it was never intended for?
MLB: I often use old chest of drawers and convert them into sink units. They add such character to a bathroom.
Buzz: When your client has a limited budget, do you ever choose singular focal pieces that are fine antiques or do you just go with mass-produced furniture and reproductions?
MLB: Always choose good pieces, even if it means less is more.
Buzz: What are the hot color trends for interiors right now?
MLB: Tones of orange are big again, very 70’s Halston. Black and white combos are hot now too!
Buzz: What are your favorite colors to paint walls and what do you think about all the walls being off-white?
MLB: I still love deep red for a dining room, classic David Hicks chocolate and Billy Haynes teal green. I do however think off-white interiors have timeless quality, especially for art collectors.
Buzz: What advice do you have for someone who wants a top designer like you but is operating with a limited budget?
MLB: Pick one favorite trade mark of that designer’s look that’s easy to achieve, ie: a paint color and then build your own look upon those bones.
Buzz: Are there certain elements of an interior design project should never be skimped on even if your budget is limited?
MLB: Good drapery is like a frame to a painting. It must be fine quality, simple yet stylish and is vital to a room’s overall look and balance.
Buzz: If you were doing this interview, what key question did I forget to ask you and how would you answer it?
MLB: “What do you most love about your job?”
It’s the freedom to be creative every day. To be lucky enough to do a job I adore, to interact with fascinating people on a daily basis and to shop the world for the most beautiful objects. Truly, I am so fulfilled and lucky that the universe has blessed me with the talent and is allowing me to live my dreams.