Inside design: Interview with the star of Million Dollar Decorators
Why we love Martyn: He’s larger than life, opinionated, and decorates with the confidence, creativity and inimitable flair – not to mention budgets! – that most of us only dream of. (Plus, his accent is something we all swoon over.)
Cheryl Tieg's living room.
Style at Home: We heard that you wanted to be an actor when you were growing up. Although you went on a completely different path, you’re now on TV and often work with celebrities. How did you go from an aspiring actor to an award‑winning designer to the stars?
Martyn Lawrence-Bullard: I came to L.A. with stars in my eyes, wanting to follow in my actor father’s footsteps. I flailed around for a while, getting small parts, and finally got a role in a movie playing Eartha Kitt’s boy-toy pianist. I befriended the producer, and after seeing my home he asked me to decorate his offices – the Hollywood FilmWorks. Then the head of Capitol Records saw it and asked me to design for her. She then introduced me to supermodel Cheryl Tiegs, who hired me on the spot…and the rest is history!
S@H: What’s it like to design for celebrities like Elton John, Aaron Sorkin, Edward Norton, Christina Aguilera, the Osbournes and Kid Rock (to name just a few)?
MLB: Designing for celebrities is always fun because they’re creative people. They want to live out their fantasies, and I help them do just that.
S@H: Tell us about some of the more eccentric decor requests you’ve had.
MLB: One of the maddest things I was asked to do was to apply gold leaf to the interior of a garage! I actually declined, thinking it would ruin my reputation.
S@H: Art seems to play an important part in the rooms you design. What’s your strategy for incorporating artwork into a room?
MLB: You should buy what you love and feel emotionally attached to, since artwork is an expensive item that you’ll live with for years. Don’t buy “over thesofa” art just because the colour works with your cushions. Buy from the heart. If you love it, it’ll always work in your interiors and become a real window into your personality and put distinctive style into your home.
Martyn's home decor book
Live, Love & Decorate is the culmination of my work thus far. It offers directives and shares the secrets behind how my clients envisioned their homes.
S@H: What are some of your favourite pieces in your product line?
MLB: My new Majorelle fabric in the original colourway is my favourite. It has a mid-century vibe yet seems to work everywhere. I also love my Sultan’s Suzanni fabric – it was my first design and still feels so fresh to me.
The Osbournes' living room.
S@H: What are the elements of a perfect kitchen?
MLB: I believe the kitchen should be an extension of our living room – a room decorated to entertain in. We spend so much time in the kitchen that it really is the hub of the home, so they should be decorative and reflect the homeowner’s personality. Ample seating is very important – bar stools should have comfortable backs and kitchen chairs should have arms.
S@H: What’s trending in kitchen design right now?
MLB: There’s a big push back to traditional-style cookers, like La Cornue ranges. Even in a sleek, streamlined kitchen, these large ranges add a touch of sheer glamour. And I’m seeing lots of metalwork again, such as metal-framed cabinetry, which has clean lines and subtle, luxurious detail. Also popular are solid slabs of stone for counters and backsplashes instead of tiles or colour combinations.
Places to shop
Some of Martyn's favourite places for design finds are: The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul (shown above); Marchés Paul Bert et Serpette in the Marché aux Puces St. Ouen de Clignancourt, Paris; JF Chen Antiques in Hollywood; Duane Street district in New York; Alfies Antique Market on Church Street in London.
Favourite things to do on a day off
“Go to the spa for a deep-tissue, foot and head massage, followed by a manicure, pedicure and a long steam. Then, I’d take a long walk with my dog, Diva, and, finally, I’d eat dark chocolate washed down with a delicious Barolo while watching Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame.”
Martyn's favourite kitchen counters include white honed bianco carrara marble (left) and gris de savoie marble (right).
S@H: Any advice on how to transform a room simply and achieve a fresh new look?
MLB: A really simple fix for a room without architecture is to add wainscotting. Thirty-six-inch-high wainscotting painted in a bright hue will instantly renew a white room. It’s inexpensive and gives maximum impact. I recently did that in the Colony Palms Hotel in Palm Springs (seen above), and it transformed the whole property!