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Publication Date: 2012-07-16

Inspiration

The Star Style of Martin Lawrence-Bullard

Interior designer-to-the-stars Martyn Lawrence-Bullard is busy these days – really busy. He’s currently working on projects in six countries, including a hotel in Jakarta; a country house in England; a 12th-century castle filled with 17th and 18th-century furnishings and contemporary art in Italy; and a colonial beach house on Long Island with, as Lawrence-Bullard describes it, “a South Seas goes to the Hamptons vibe.” His client lists reads like a whos-who of celebrity royalty, ranging from Sir Elton John to Cher to Kid Rock to Christina Aguillera. His work is bold, eclectic, and, often, eye-poppingly exotic. Here, he talks about how travel inspires his designs, the best way to layer patterns, the importance of dimmer switches, and why Lady Gaga is his dream cl

Q. Your own aesthetic can be rather hard to define or pin down. It’s exotic, eclectic, surprising, textured, rich. How do you like to describe the Martyn Lawrence-Bullard style?
A. The one word I use to describe myself is definitely ‘eclectic.’ In my own home I have a mix of things from almost every period. I attribute that back to a wonderful saying from Oscar Wilde: “All beautiful things belong to the same age.” I might have an old master painting sitting next to a Herb Ritts photo next to a Crate and Barrel bowl. It’s all about the mix, being eclectic and creative. For my clients, I actually don’t have a look—I’m all about being an enabler of clients’ dreams. Hopefully that means I’m a decorative dream-maker.

Q. Many of the pieces in your Dering Hall storefront make reference to exotic destinations—I’m seeing the Lisbon bed, the Jaipur bed, the Marrakech sofa. How does travel inspire your work?
A. One of most important influences in my life and the best education for any decorator is to travel the world, to experience new cultures, smells, new design aesthetics. My collections, whether fabric, furniture, or rugs, everything stems from my travels. For instance, the Lisbon bed was inspired by a very typical but now rather rare Portuguese-style bed I fell in love with while in Lisbon about 10 years ago. I love the overscaled turnings, intricacies, the eccentric scale.

Q. The products in your Dering Hall storefront are remarkably wide-ranging, from sofas to beds to rugs to fabrics to side tables… You could decorate an entire room, top-to-bottom, using only Martyn Lawrence-Bullard products. Say you were charged with just such a task—what pieces would you use together in a single space, and how?
A. I love the idea of curating an exotic bedroom, so you feel every time you’ve gone to bed you’ve gone on vacation to some wondrous place. I love the faux ivoire Jaipur bed—I’d start with that in a room and maybe add Moroccan side tables next to it to keep that flavor going. I love seating in the bedroom, so I’d add one of my Marrakech sofas, topped with lots of pillows and throws. Then I’d put a star-shaped mirror over each side table to reflect light. Just with those few items you’ve already built an exotic vibe.

Q. The Agadir screen is a particularly unusual piece. How did this piece come about, and how would you suggest people use it in their home?
A. It’s inspired from screens that divide the sultan’s bedroom from his harem in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. I photographed them and showed the image to Cher, with the idea of decorating her private sitting room in Malibu. I completely paneled the room and it created such a magical vibe that I decided to put a screen into my collection.

Q. Any other items you’d like to call out from your Dering Hall storefront?
A. My favorite piece is really the Lisbon bed—that’s what I sleep in at home. I also love everything about fabric design, it’s been one of my great pleasures. Senja was inspired by my trip to Ubud, in the hills above Bali, where I saw local villagers creating batik fabrics in big dye vats. I was just in Venice and bought some old Italian damasks, and we completely rescaled and re-colored them. In a few months they’ll be out as part of my fall collection.

Q. You’re great with layering and texture—incorporating multiple colors, textures, and patterns in a single space. Can you give readers some advice on the best way to incorporate this look into their own homes?
A. Believe in yourself, never be worried about what your neighbor’s got, and follow your heart—you’re not designing for anyone other than yourself, so if you love it and believe in it, it’s going to be wonderful. Never be scared of mixing patterns—people will see floral and stripes and paisley and think, ‘oh my gosh I can only use one of those.’ But if there’s a unison of color, you’re fine layering prints. I also like when big pieces—sofas, dining chairs, beds—are in a solid color. That allows for the great joy of being able to change the look by throwing throws over an arm, or changing the pillows according to the seasons. My final and most important bit of advice is—always change out your switches to dimmers! They are cheap and available from Home Depot, and they’ll absolutely change your experience of every room. From your kitchen to your powder room, you can change a mood immediately by dimming or brightening light.

Q. What’s the best design advice you’ve ever received? Or: what design advice do you often give to other people?
A. My best advice is to live, love, and decorate! In life the most important thing is to live well, love what you do and what’s around you, and decorate accordingly. I also never save anything for best—that’s what I live by. My parents kept their best china and silver to use at holidays. I use everything I own everyday. As far as I’m concerned, every day is your best, so live it that way. The best advice I’ve ever gotten was given to me by my father at an early age. He told me: if you ever have an opportunity to go somewhere new, do it. It’s the most inspirational thing you can do, and you’re never too old to learn a new trick. And as decorators, we need a lot of new tricks to keep our work fresh.

Q. What’s the one element one should never skimp on when designing a room?
A. Comfort. I believe that modern luxury is comfort. For me, it’s all about having beautiful, deep, comfortable lounging sofas and armchairs. A very good mattress is also very important. People will spend a fortune on their beds and headboards, but they skimp on mattresses. But out of 10 years of your life, you spend 3.5 in bed—so make sure you get a comfortable, natural, supportive, eco-friendly mattress. You can live in most the beautiful house in the world—but if your chairs are uncomfortable or you have a bad mattress, what’s the point?

Q. What’s your no-holds-barred fantasy design project?
A. I’ve had an amazing career where I’ve gotten to decorate extraordinary places for extraordinary people. But my absolute dream client…? One is Lady Gaga, because I think someone who is so expressive in way they dress, who embraces fashion and image in such a no-holds-barred way—I can only imagine how wild it would be to decorate a house for her. I also think Johnny Depp would be amazing to design for—he’s so far-out with his visions and the movies he picks and roles he plays. He’s really fun and interesting and he has this extraordinary castle from 1920 in the Hollywood hills—I’d love to get my hands on that.

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