Design Icon 2020: Martyn Lawrence Bullard Talks Design & Inspiration
Martyn Lawrence Bullard, an award-winning interior designer, is the Design Icon Winter 2020. See what he has to say about his career, his passions and the importance of design for all.
1) So many wonderful projects over the course of your career – what are two or three of the most memorable to you and why?
I think I have to say my projects for Cher have always been favorites. With her great theatrical style and love for interior design , she made the most amazing client. Her directive of wanting to live like the first wife of a maharaja could not be more exciting, enticing and inspirational. The results were magical, full of theatrical tricks and decorative delights.
I also loved my work for Kylie Jenner. Working for someone so young, but with such strong ideas, was a truly fun project to lead with strong, and now very replicated interiors. Color infused and playful in every way, artwork and vintage furniture infuse a joyous vibe and give a layered look that mirrors her style and her youth.
Tommy Hilfiger’s homes have been wonderful to work on also. When you work with a fashion designer it’s always a great experience. Their passion and understanding of color and form is amazing and allows me, as the interior designer, to really run wild with a look and be adventurous as the client is used to such when making fashion show decisions and collection directives. From his Golden Beach, Miami house to his Connecticut estate, both very different projects, Tommy was always totally connected to the projects, hands on and willing to take chances for spectacular results. He’s a true gentleman and design impresario.
2) When did you know that design was your future path? Was there an “aha” moment?
It didn’t really strike home that interior design was to be my career until my early twenties when I fell into working in the industry. I had all my life, since a young child, loved the decorative arts and interiors but never knew how to evolve that into a career. For me it just happened organically and almost by mistake, the result has been a total dream come true, albeit a dream that I never realized I could ever make a reality.
3) Who are some of the people that have inspired you? Who are your “icons?”
Renzo Mongiardino for his great theatrical techniques and colorful flourishes. David Hicks for his revolutionary mix and match ethos, taking old pieces and pairing them with new, bold color pops in unexpected places and geometrical patterns mixed with centuries old furnishings, creating freshness, timelessness and boldness all at once. Jacques Garcia for his luxe and fantastical commercial spaces, his hotels have always excited me and have such WOW factor. Jean Michel Frank for the starkness of shape and form mixed with the most luxurious of materials and textures, comfort always being king but never giving up on high style whilst achieving this in his interiors and designs.
4) Describe your personal take on what constitutes great interior design?
A good interior reflects the personality of its owner and not that of its decorator. It should be a window into the owners soul, a personal space that captures the facets of the owners life and always welcome visitors in with warmth and comfort. For me, modern luxury is comfort and the number one rule in interiors for today.
5) Talk about your approach to product design. How do you begin, sketches, computer program, etc.?
I begin my product design usually by looking for certain things and not being able to find them out there in the market place. That always inspires me to make them, and create what I need for my own interiors and homes. I usually start out with an inspiration piece or look that I love, then we work on scale, how do we make it work for today and how do we make it correct for comfort and form? Next is always color and quality. There are too many bad quality, poorly made things out there in the world. For me, I want a standard of excellence in my work, whether it’s a $20 towel or a $20,000 dining table, quality is the number one requirement.
6) What’s your professional day like?
No two days are ever alike. I travel extensively also so that really mixes up my schedule and daily regimen. I do always try to coordinate with my office first thing in the morning to find out what the day has in store for my staff. I will often make vendor visits first thing to check on custom orders and manufacturing. Most of my late mornings are spent in client meetings either on-site, shopping or in my office. These can sometimes last well into the afternoon, when I always come back to the office to get updates on my projects, look over sampling, make design decisions and plan out the next steps on client design schemes and installations. If on a plane, I like to catch up on emails, look over design presentations, and often sketch out inspirations I may have from 10,000 feet up in the air!
7) How do you spend free time?
I love to watch movies, finding them very relaxing and often times also inspirational. I vote for the British academy of dramatic arts, so I see very many movies of all genres. It really is a passion and keeps my hand in on my own theatrical background and passions also. I love to shop, you will often find me in Palm Springs on a weekend touring the vintage stores, looking for a treasure or accessory for clients. This isn’t work for me at all, just really an added pleasure. I love to eat out and try new restaurants, along with weekends away in chic new boutique hotels where I study their design and fun-factor, and I also adore to explore the cities and towns they are in, travel being my number one inspiration and hobby.
8) What would people be most surprised to learn about you?
That my favorite thing to do is stay home, watch movies and cuddle with my dog! Everyone thinks I’m a glamorous party hopping jet-setter, and believe me I have done my share of all that, but really I’m much happier snuggled up at home chilling out!
9) What’s on the horizon?
So many new projects for next year await. Two new hotel projects, a big kite surfing estate in Maui, the reveal of an 18th century mansion in Ireland that I’ve worked on for 3 years, the opening of the Four Seasons Residences we have designed in LA, 4 new celebrity projects across America, two new product releases, and 2 more in the pipeline. My Frontgate collections becoming available to the trade and a new TV show. 2020 will be mighty busy.
10) Crystal ball time – 10 years from now, what products do you think people will consider “iconic” or transformative (doesn’t have to be all home furnishings)?
In a decades time the world will be so far advanced in our tech strategies and certainly home will be far more computerized and ‘on demand‘, so I believe the icons of today will be far more about quality and workmanship, that currently we are still able to design and execute by hand. I think some of the Apparatus lighting that has been designed in the last couple of years will be iconic imagery for the future, the Vladimir Kagan shaped sofas, although already an icon, have changed the way we look at sofa and upholstery shapes in the last few years and I believe will keep challenging and influencing design of soft furnishings as we move forward. They are an icon of today and the next decade for sure..... Le refuge daybed by Marc Ange took the design world by storm last year, winning many prices and helped start the fascination with tropical devices back into both the design world and fashion alike. That piece will be a marked icon of the decade for sure.