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Feb / Mar 2018
Celebrity Designer

WRITER: Nadia Michel PHOTOGRAPHER: Lu Tapp

With an illustrious portfolio of homes and product collaboration, London-born, LA-based decorator Martyn Lawrence Bullard has infinite stories to tell.

Most people in this world would be over the moon to have a home furnished with trendy, contemporary furniture and a coordinated colour scheme. The rest of us suffer from a constant case of ‘citius altius fortius’ when it comes to our domius – always wanting something better. For us, a perfect home is so much more than a roof over our heads, it’s about passion and showcasing the finest designs from every era, the best materials, the perfect symphony of shapes, volumes and shades. It sounds harmless enough, but it can be a highly preoccupying (and prohibitively expensive) condition.

 

Martyn Lawrence Bullard is pictured in his showroom, which is located directly beneath his offices on Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood. 

 

If you are into interior design, you’ve probably heard of Martyn Lawrence Bullard. Perhaps you’ve poured over his first book, ‘Live, Love and Decorate’ (2011), for hours on end, carefully reading every photo caption. The book takes you into the homes of some of his famous clients, providing both detailed insight into the incredible furnishings and an intimate glimpse into these celebrity lives. From Elton John’s custom-made onyx coffee tables and cheeky ‘I know’ neon sculpture by Tracy Emin, to Cher’s majestic mother-of-pearl inlaid bed, it’s hard not to be drawn into his fantastical spaces. It’s the kind of stuff that inspires and significantly raises your expectations of what interiors should look like. So you can imagine how exciting it is to have a conversation with him – an opportunity that recently arose because of his exotic new collection of wallpaper for Cole & Son (who’ve wallpapered Buckingham Palace and the British parliament, among other places), which launched in January.

 

Bullards describes his style, which blends periods, cultures, and scale as a "high-glam explosion". 

 

It’s a conversation that, like too many these days, somehow turns to the Kardashians. The LA-based English designer is in fact the family’s much-loved decorator. “As soon I finish with this phone call, I’m going to the stone yards to meet Kendall Jenner and pick exotic stones for her bathroom,” he tells me. He’s on the lookout for some green Brazilian stone. “Kendall’s into colour,” he points out.

The model’s preference is a departure from her mother Kris Jenner’s notorious monochromatic mansion, which viewers got used to seeing on ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’. The black-and-white, Hollywood Regency-inspired home became the backdrop for plenty of drama over the last decade, and Bullard has stood smack-dab in the middle of it, often appearing on the show.

 

Inside Bullard's showroom.

 

“When you work with people so closely, you do end up seeing certain things that happen. I’ve been shopping with Khloe and somebody passed us and threw hot coffee at her face,” he recalls.

One can only imagine the sorts of things he’s seen and heard, but a particularly special request stands out in his mind. “A very famous actor wanted a secret sex room. He wanted a room that you entered through a mirrored wall in his bedroom, and the room looked like a big black Chanel handbag,” he recalls, though he refuses to provide any clue as to whom it might have been.

 

The lobby at Casa Laguna, a hotel that dates back to the early 1920s, but which was restored in 2016 by Bullard using Moroccan influences with Moorish tiles and ceramics. 

 

But Bullard is a celebrity of sorts in his own right: he has appeared on Bravo’s ‘Million Dollar Decorators’ for two seasons. He’s also an author (his second book, ‘Design and Decoration’, was published in 2016 with a foreword by one of his clients, Tommy Hilfiger) and a licensing mogul. Indeed, he currently has eleven licensing deals with top-tier brands, including a collection of silver crowns with Christofle (he’s had a fascination with shiny things since the age of nine, when he started collecting silver spoons), fabrics with Schumacher and a dinnerware collection with Haviland. “My Mamounia rug for the Rug Company was originally designed for the green room at the Oscars, and from there we created a whole line,” he adds.

 

In 2007, along with Studio Tim Campbell, Bullard restored the historic Howard Manor Hotel in Palm Springs, bringing it back to the original vitality and splendour of when it first opened in 1936. 

 

The rug in question features a modern take on a traditional Moroccan tile, an example of the oriental flavour that seems to seep into many of his designs. He attributes his taste for opulence to his travels east, but is quick to point out that his work is extremely varied. “I’ve done everything from restoring an 12th century castle to creating ultra-modern apartments in Paris,” he says. “I like eclectic interiors, I like things that are very curated, but to have a specific style in today’s world isn’t a good thing.”

 

Bullard injected new life into the historic Château Gütsch, a grand hotel in the Swiss lake­side city of Lucerne.

 

Though he somewhat denies it, his keen eye and innate sense of style is undoubtedly what has attracted his long, seemingly never-ending list of illustrious clients (Tamara Mellon, Kid Rock, Ellen Pompeo, to name a few) to his firm, which is headquartered on Melrose Avenue, above his recently opened showroom, The Martyn Lawrence Bullard Atelier. That’s where you’ll find his sofa designs as well as his wallpapers, fabrics and exclusive, limited edition photographic prints by renowned artists like Miles Aldridge. Bullard also has offices in New York City and London, and takes on projects all over the world, including the Middle East, where he says he has worked with two of the most prominent royal families. “It was an amazing experience. The younger generations are ever so progressive and have wonderful, modern taste and a very strong opinion in art, which is a fun thing to work with,” he reflects.

 

 

Although his work has somewhat defined contemporary interior design over the last twenty years, and has graced the pages of books and countless publications, Bullard admits he rarely feels wholly satisfied. “Nothing is ever complete in my world. I’m a collector, so I’m always buying something new. I like to layer, then edit, then layer again. My home is honestly an ever-changing canvas.”

This observation might lead to the conclusion that perpetual dissatisfaction is in fact what drives success. But if we are constantly striving for an unachievable level of happiness, then we’d better enjoy the journey. Martyn Lawrence Bullard certainly looks like he is.

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