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Podcast Episode 4: Celebrity Design with Martyn Lawrence Bullard

Step into the glamorous homes of the world's hottest A-listers

Jon Sharpe By Jon SharpeChief Creative Officer

Martyn Lawrence Bullard is an interior designer who needs very little introduction. He is renowned around the world as the “designer to the stars” and it’s a worthy epithet. Martyn is part of a small contingent of designers who have amassed an extensive celebrity following. A quick scan of his portfolio and you’ll discover the homes of the world's top tier celebrities, including Elton John, Tommy Hilfiger, Kylie Jenner and Cher.

In addition to being a designer, Martyn is also a TV personality and the author of two books. He is regularly named to Architectural Digest’s AD100 and he’s a LuxDeco 100 honouree. In this episode of The Tastemakers, we explore the celebrity aesthetic, his glamorous life in LA and what he has to say about some of his most famous clients.

 

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I've been so lucky to work with some of the most extraordinary people that I never imagined in my life I would ever get to to talk to, let alone work for them.

 

Don’t miss

  • Martyn's glamorous (and elaborate) journey into the world of interior design at 02:00
  • What he has to say about some of his famous celebrity clients at 15:25
  • An exciting new commission from the world's most famous drag star at 24:44
  • And his very fruity party piece at 52:41
Kylie Jenner home | Martyn Lawrence Bullard | Celebrity interior designer | Grey interiors | Read more in The Luxurist at LuxDeco.com

Image Credit: Martyn Lawrence Bullard

Links & Articles

Shop Martyn Lawrence Bullard lighting

LuxDeco 100

Martyn's website

Martyn's Instagram

Martyn's books, Design & Decoration and Live, Love & Decorate

KYLIE JENNER’S HOME DESIGNED BY MARTYN

Continuing his longstanding design relationship and friendship with the famous Kardashian-Jenner clan, Martyn most recently made over the home of Kylie Jenner with an ebullient, perfectly feminine style befitting the youngest sister's meteoric rise.

Kylie Jenner home | Martyn Lawrence Bullard | Celebrity interior designer | Pop Art interiors | Read more in The Luxurist at LuxDeco.com

Image Credit: Martyn Lawrence Bullard

 

Whatever the client's kind of needs are, whatever their hobbies are, whatever their dreams are, we make sure that that happens within the home. And so that's really the big difference, is that the normality of normal life for the rest of us is really amplified in a weird way in a celebrity world because they don't have as much freedom. And so you have to create these environments at home that become their sacred place.

 

Kylie Jenner home interiors | Martyn Lawrence Bullard | Celebrity interior designer | Pop Art interiors | Read more in The Luxurist at LuxDeco.com

Image Credit: Martyn Lawrence Bullard

TOMMY & DEE HILFIGER’S MIAMI HOME DESIGNED BY MARTYN

Of fashion mogul Tommy Hilfiger's home in Miami, Martyn explains, "I created something that was very kind of 1970s Studio 54 disco pad, because it's a vacation home and he wanted something that was super fun and somewhere to exhibit his collection of Pop Art."

Martyn Lawrence Bullard | Celebrity interior designer | Tommy Hilfiger home | Pop Art interiors | Read more in The Luxurist at LuxDeco.com

Image Credit: Martyn Lawrence Bullard

 

“It's always wonderful to decorate for people like [designers] because they're incredibly creative. And then when you add in your own creative juices into this mix, you end up with this fantastic cocktail that often ends up in these really cool interiors that the other people could only dream of living in.”

 

Tommy Hilfiger home | Martyn Lawrence Bullard | Celebrity interior designer | Pop Art interiors | Read more in The Luxurist at LuxDeco.com

Image Credit: Martyn Lawrence Bullard

Tommy Hilfiger bedroom | Martyn Lawrence Bullard | Celebrity Interior Designer | White Bedroom, White Fur Rug, Four Poster Bed | Read more in The Luxurist at LuxDeco.com

Image Credit: Martyn Lawrence Bullard

KOURTNEY KARDASHIAN’S HOME DESIGNED BY MARTYN

The home Martyn designed for the eldest Kardashian is full of iconic Mid-century furniture, casual silhouettes and easy breezy neutral colour palettes.

Kourtney Kardashian Home | Martyn Lawrence Bullard | Celebrity Interior Designer | Mid-century Interiors | Read more in The Luxurist at LuxDeco.com

Image Credit: Martyn Lawrence Bullard

Kourtney Kardashian home | Martyn Lawrence Bullard interiors | Celebrity interior designer | Mid-century interiors | Read more in The Luxurist at LuxDeco.com

Image Credit: Martyn Lawrence Bullard

MARTYN'S OWN HOME

After spending his weekdays in L.A., Martyn escapes to his storied Palm Springs abode at the weekend. We can't blame him. With a rug that came from Andy Warhol's Factory, a bed that belonged to Sylvester Stallone and a terrace that was made for dancing it's perfect for some weekend unwinding.

Martyn Lawrence Bullard home | Celebrity interior designer | Mid-century architecture in Palm Springs | Read more in The Luxurist at LuxDeco.com

Image Credit: Martyn Lawrence Bullard

 

It's an amazing Mid-century house built in 1962 for Roger Moore, my favorite James Bond. And then later in 1970 until 1978, I believe, it was the home of Hugh Hefner and it was the Playboy in the desert. So you can only imagine what went on within these hallowed walls during that crazy time.

 

Martyn Lawrence Bullard home | Celebrity interior designer | Pink and white living room | Read more in The Luxurist at LuxDeco.com

Image Credit: Martyn Lawrence Bullard

Martyn Lawrence Bullard home | Celebrity interior designer | Pink, black and white living room | Read more in The Luxurist at LuxDeco.com

Image Credit: Martyn Lawrence Bullard

 

I believe a home is a window into people's souls. And if you can open that window and allow it to breathe, then you have a super successful interior.

 

Monochrome bedroom | Martyn Lawrence Bullard home Palm Springs | Celebrity interior designer | Read more in The Luxurist at LuxDeco.com

Image Credit: Martyn Lawrence Bullard

Art Podcast with Martyn Lawrence Bullard | Designing The Celebrity Aesthetic | The Tastemakers | LuxDeco.com.mp3 transcript powered by Sonix—easily convert your audio to text with Sonix.

Art Podcast with Martyn Lawrence Bullard | Designing The Celebrity Aesthetic | The Tastemakers | LuxDeco.com.mp3 was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the latest audio-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors. Sonix is the best audio automated transcription service in 2020. Our automated transcription algorithms works with many of the popular audio file formats.

Jon:
Hello and welcome to The Tastemakers: A LuxDeco Podcast. I'm Jon Sharpe, your host and Chief Creative Officer for LuxDeco—the world's leading luxury interiors, which is changing the way people design and shop for their homes. Part of our commitment at LuxDeco is to help people to live beautifully. In The Tastemakers, we do that by exploring interior design and lifestyle through the stories of our influential guests. Guests who are celebrated for their fine taste in design and beyond. Subscribe and listen for inspiration straight from some of the world's most incredible style authorities.

Jon:
Martyn Lawrence Bullard is an interior designer who needs very little introduction. He is renowned around the world as the designer to the stars and it's a worthy epithet. Martyn is part of a small contingent of designers who have amassed an extensive celebrity following. A quick scan of his portfolio and you'll discover the homes of the world's top tier celebrities, including Elton John, Tommy Hilfiger, Kylie Jenner and Cher. In addition to being a designer, Martyn is also a TV personality and the author of two books. He is regularly named to Architectural Digest's AD100 and he's a LuxDeco 100 honouree. In this episode of The Tastemakers, we explore the celebrity aesthetic, his glamorous life in L.A. and what he has to say about some of his most famous clients.

Jon:
Martyn, welcome to the show. How are you?

Martyn:
Thank you, Jon. I'm good, yes. Thank you so much.

Jon:
So, it's fair to say that you've taken a somewhat glamorous route to where you are today. You've said of your story, "It's been years of really hard work, a bit of luck and lots of great support along the way. It's kind of a Hollywood story in reverse." So could you quickly take us on that journey? Where did it start for you? And how did you get to where you are now?

Martyn:
It's— it's been a crazy, wild, amazing journey, to be honest. I mean, you know, it starts off in the— in the antique market of Greenwich in south London. Back when I was 12 years old, so— so 40 years ago now. And I had convinced my— my dad to let me use my my pocket money—or my allowance, as we call it, here in America—to run around and buy, I mean, almost junk really. I mean, it was sort of decorative things that I loved from— from an old vintage cup and saucer to a silver spoon or lace tablecloth. Just things that kind of caught my magpie's eye at that age. And so I would run around to flea markets and car boot sales and jumble sales and all sorts of things, either before or after school and spend my— my little bit of pocket money on these things. And then on Saturdays we would stall out in the market and I would— my dad would rent me a stall in the morning and I'd kind of lay out my wares and make them look pretty. And then basically sell them to unsuspecting American tourists. And so it was an amazing game because it was kind of like my hobby and it was a way to make money and I was amazed as a kid that I could buy something for £2 and sell it for £5, you know, twenty minutes later on my own stall.

Martyn:
So the most amazing part of that is, though, not that I would— was already working and making money, it was that unbeknownst to me, it was really my training for who I am today. It was the path that led me to understand period, style, era, origin—

Jon:
And by the sound of it, unsuspecting Americans.

Martyn:
Yeah, exactly. And so, literally, you know, slowly but surely over my four or five years that I ended up working at those markets on— on my weekends, I suddenly knew what Regency was, I understood hallmarks, I understood the difference between something that was French and something that was Italian and, decoratively, really sort of start to learn all the ins and outs. And, ultimately and most importantly, I learned how to put two or three things together on my stall and make them look a lot better. So rather than— than it's sort of looking jumbled on somebody else's layout, I would display my wares so they would actually capture the eye of the audience and that's really how we ended up— Or I ended up, rather, being able to sell things and make this profit.

Jon:
So visual merchandising?

Martyn:
Yeah, exactly. Yeah, it was kind of amazing. In fact, by the time I was— you know, my father had been— early on in his life in the entertainment industry. He'd kind of been an opera singer and an actor. And I always wanted to follow in those footsteps. And so with all my ill-gotten gains from these markets, I decided that I would put myself through drama school. So I did a kind of drama summer season, and then I loved it. And then I decided to enroll in the Lee Strasberg Institute, which at the time was in Covent Garden in London.

Martyn:
And, so, I went and joined that and, whilst doing that, I ended up renting another stall on Mondays in Covent Garden market and— and continued to sell my stuff and I'm sort of 17, 18 now. And then slowly but surely, I ended up getting all sorts of little acting gigs and little modelling gigs and all sorts of things that were building up to my ultimate goal of me thinking I was going to move to Hollywood and become a movie star.

Martyn:
Well, cut to, by the time I'm 21, I've saved a little bit of money and I decided to follow through with that goal and I move myself to Los Angeles, enroll in the Strasberg Theatre School here, and continue on— on a six month sort of self discovery in L.A., which culminated in absolutely no acting jobs whatsoever. A two day stint in a coffee shop until I blew the cappuccino machine up and I was sort of the typical kind of flailing around, not knowing how I was going to pay the bills next.

Martyn:
So, eventually, however, I got cast. I went to— to all sorts of castings all the time, all the other little actors from my drama school, and eventually I got cast after falling around for a while in a movie called I Woke Up Early The Day I Died, which was Ed Wood's last script and—

Jon:
Right. Nothing to do with you, I hope?

Martyn:
Nothing no, exactly. And I ended up— I ended up playing Eartha Kitt's boy toy.

Jon:
Of course you did—it was the role you were born for.

Martyn:
And so— and so, anyway, I ended up in this movie. I mean, they cut most of it out, but it was— it was a fantastic experience. And— but the real culmination from this wasn't actually that I was discovered as a— as a budding movie star, it was that I was discovered by the producer and his then girlfriend, who I sort of became friendly with on the set and eventually invited them to dinner at this tiny little house that I had rented in West Hollywood. I mean, I had no money inside this little house that was kind of— it was actually very cool, it used to be Charlie Chaplin's biggest star when he was doing his movies was a woman called Norma Talmage and I lived in this very kind of bizarre wooden structure that had been her star dressing room when she was— When the property was on the back lot of Charlie Chaplin's studios, which now is a giant supermarket. Anyway, so in this very random little, little house I've rented, they came for dinner and they loved it. They loved what I'd done in the— You know, I had no money. I'd done it all in the— in the— in the local flea markets. So it was really kind of a hotchpotch of stuff put together.

Martyn:
Anyway, by the end of this dinner, Victor asked me if I would come and help him decorate his new offices, which were called the Hollywood Filmworks. They were up on Sunset Boulevard. And so with great excitement, I took on the challenge, obviously not knowing what the hell I was doing. But I took on the challenge because I thought to myself, my God, this is gonna be amazing. I'm gonna decorate his offices and he's gonna put me in another movie. And it's going to be incredible.

Martyn:
And so what happened with that is that— that he had $30,000 to do his entire office. 5000 square feet, which somehow or the other I managed to do it. It was sort of a, again, a run around all the local flea markets here in L.A.—the Rose Bowl, the Santa Monica Airport, Sunday flea market and all sorts of weird things like beaten up old leather club chairs, old Indian doors that hung on the wall as art and we installed a lot of fans and palm trees.

Martyn:
And so it was kind of Casablanca goes to Hollywood via the flea market look. Anyway, they loved it and, miraculously, I managed to pull it off for that little bit of money. And, literally, the day it was finished, I got a phone call from— from a could Liz Heller, who to this day still a very close friend of mine now. And she said to me, I love what you do on the Hollywood Filmworks. Would you come and look at my offices?

Martyn:
She's like, I'm in the Capital building. So I was like, Oh, my God, this is so crazy. Now somebody else wants me to decorate for them. And the Capitol building. I'm not sure what that is, is it the White House? What is it? I'm so confused. Anyway, it turns out I go there. The Capitol building was Capitol Records and she was the Executive President of Capitol Records. So I go in to meet her and I suddenly think to myself, oh, my God. Okay, so I'll decorate her office and she's going to make me into a pop star! Always [inaudible] for the easy route to my stardom. And so, basically, I started to work for Liz and we clicked, like, unbelievably and literally a month into the process, starting to work with her, she had— she was getting married at her house and it was a big Hollywood affair because it turned out that Liz's father was Liberace's manager for his entire life. And, John, Liz's soon to be husband's father was one of the great Oscar-winning celebrated Hollywood directors and both Liz and John and also produced a couple of Oscar-winning movies themselves. So it turned out to be an incredible Hollywood affair. Anyway, her wedding planner, OD'ed, the day before the wedding.

Jon:
That's very Hollywood.

Martyn:
Very Hollywood. So, in a complete state of panic, she called me to kind of come in and help and I— again—not knowing what the hell I was doing—but I ran down to the flower market in downtown L.A. and bought dustbin bags full of rose petals and bunches of flowers and kind of went over to the house and threw around rose petals and flowers everywhere. It kind of looked like some sort of Moroccan or Indian wedding, I guess. And she loved it and loved that I'd stepped in to help save the day. And she invites me to stay to the wedding. And they sat me next to a lady called Cheryl Tiegs, who, at the time I had absolutely no idea who that was, and it ended up that she was America's first ever supermodel and kind of an icon.

Martyn:
And by the end of the wedding, she hired me. And within nine months I finished her Balinese pavilion in the hills of Bel Air house and it ended up on the cover of six magazines around the world, and my career as an interior designer was born.

Jon:
So that was the first time that you actually did a job without hoping to get a different kind of job from it? You weren't actually hoping for a modelling contract at that stage?

Martyn:
No, I wasn't hoping for that at that point. This ordinary kind of mad story evolved into the fact that I ended up working for kind of a major American personality and ended up with all of these covers everywhere from, you know, a boy of 23, 24, at this point, who had absolutely no training, no idea of any of it. And we ended up with all of this extraordinary praise.

Jon:
But— the training that you did have, the only formal training you did have was obviously in acting and dramatic art. And how do you— how do you think that helped pave the way for what is now your signature celebrity style?

Martyn:
Well, you know, I think that that— I think that that has helped because obviously, number one, when you go through that kind of acting training, you end up— you end up really understanding more about actors and performers anyway. You understand the way they think and the way life works with them and for them. And also, I think that it helped me be a showman, meaning, you know, when you're— when you're presenting your design boards and presenting your looks and designs for somebody's home, you're able to kind of articulate and— and present it in a way that they find appealing. And that's, you know, to be able to sell the look, sell the job is obviously one of the most important talents because that's how you get the business done.

Jon:
So there's— there's always a dramatic element to the presentations and do you think there's also a dramatic element to the schemes? Do you think interior design is a dramatic art to some extent?

Martyn:
I think so, for sure. I mean, I really do. There's definitely a lot of drama at it anyway.

Jon:
So, before we go any further, let's— let's talk about some of these celebrity clients in a bit more detail, because we can't really interview you on designing the celebrity aesthetic without it. So if I give you a couple of names of a couple of previous clients of yours, perhaps you can tell our listeners about a project you've worked on with them and maybe some of your favorite memories of designing—.

Martyn:
Yeah, you know what— I'll talk about— I'll talk about some of the most interesting parts of the people that I've worked with because one of the questions that is always asked, you know, people always say to me, well, who was your favorite person you've ever worked with? What was your favorite thing you've ever done? And listen, I've been so lucky to work with some of the most extraordinary people that I never imagined in my life I would ever get to to talk to, let alone work for them. And so I think really one of the big ones has got to be Cher because the majesty— the extraordinary thing about working with Cher is that she has lived her life on the stage since she was very, very young. And when you get to her home, she still likes the idea of living, kind of, you know, on a— on a— in a set, as it were, in a— in a life set.

Martyn:
And so that leads to very imaginative interiors. It leads— when you have somebody that has, you know, not only been a recording star, she has had all of her extraordinary Oscars for movies and things, but she— it's always been around these unbelievable kind of productions. And so for her home, the first time I did one of her homes—I've done several—her descriptive to me was, I want to live like the first wife of a maharaja. And so, because of that, it's been— it's been an unbelievable experience because we did things like flew to India and bought the facade of a palace, you know, to put— to take all of the wood and recreate a magical bedroom and entry ways into all of her rooms using this antique reclaimed wood. I had the most extraordinary stone staircase from another palace that was actually in Pakistan, brought here and disassembled and we used the marble panels to create a bathtub and panel the walls.

Martyn:
So it's been kind of an amazing experience to do those kinds of things and have a client that is willing to be that adventurous and to be that exotic.

Jon:
It's very interesting to hear you talk about Cher specifically and perhaps, you know, other performers in general in terms of living in a set. Do you think that's actually one of the kind of key differences between celebrity clients and perhaps mere mortals?

Martyn:
I mean, celebrity clients... Here's the thing. So, for instance, obviously, I've done a lot of work with all of the Kardashian/Jenners and, you know, the world's biggest reality TV stars. Probably the most— some of the most recognisable faces in the world, those people cannot just suddenly go around the corner to get a pint of milk, you know, without having to get full hair and makeup done and a bodyguard. So when you are— when you are designing homes for these kinds of people, for celebrities, their homes have to really become a sanctuary. They have to become a place where where all of the desires, all of their needs are there for them, you know, so they don't have to keep running out and going around to other places because it is— it's not easy to kind of manoeuvre and get out and about like the rest of us can.

Martyn:
So that means that, you know, we end up putting in amazing home theatres, you know, we put in glam rooms where— where they can get ready for their performances or appearances. I mean, full hairdressing salons and things there. Whatever the client's kind of needs are, whatever their hobbies are, whatever their their dreams are, we make sure that that happens within the home. And so that's— that's really the big difference, is that the normality of normal life for the rest of us is really amplified in a weird way in a celebrity world because they don't have as much freedom. And so you have to create these environments at home that become their— their sacred place.

Jon:
So they're almost more distinct in function than they are in form even.

Martyn:
Yes, exactly. I mean, listen, people have different taste all the way across the board. And so I've gotten to create all sorts of incredible things. So for instance for Tommy Hilfiger, for his house in Miami, I created something that was very kind of 1970s Studio 54 disco pad, because it's a vacation home and he wanted something that was super fun and somewhere to exhibit his collection of Pop Art. And so, you know, compared to his his formal home, which is in Connecticut, which I also decorated, which is a incredibly sophisticated version of kind of a English country house meets Normandy chateau, you know, filled with antiques and ancestral paintings and, you know, Ming Dynasty porcelain on the walls. So you end up with these personalities where they— where they like to live out all these different, almost decorative fantasies within their lifestyle. And also, the money is allowing them to do that, but also the fact that they don't— they're not able to lead their normal lives, they need these fantasy homes to help, you know, make them feel at one. I mean, it's been an amazing journey to have clients that let you do those kinds of things and want to do those kinds of things.

Jon:
And with Tommy Hilfiger, for instance, I mean, of course, an enormous celebrity in his own right, but also a designer. And how was that as a designer working for a designer?

Martyn:
You know, I've worked for a— for a few top fashion designers over the years and it's actually an incredible experience because people in fashion, you know, they— they obviously have to be incredibly creative three or four times a year, y'know, to launch all their different collections. So they're used to an ever evolving wheel of thought. We live creativity, constantly rolling.

Martyn:
And so it's always wonderful to decorate for people like that because they're incredibly creative. And then when you add in your own creative juices into this mix, you end up with this fantastic cocktail that often ends up in these really cool interiors that the other people could only dream of living in or be horrified of living in. But at least it's something amazing they want to look at. So if, you know, so— so when you work with other creative people, you end up getting even more creative yourself and I think loads of fun.

Martyn:
I mean, again, for instance, with Tommy in the Miami house, he and his and his beautiful wife, Dee, loved the idea of these sort of almost Barbarella type rooms for guest rooms. So we have rooms— For instance, there's a guest room where all of the walls and the floors are covered in a very thin, beautiful, thin cut felt. But but it's white with giant circles and different dimensions cut out with yellow dots. So you're in this kind of like, you know, yellow dream scene room. and all of the furniture is plexiglass and Lucite 70s see-through furniture. And it's very trippy, but it's an amazing kind of, you know, gob-smacking room. Would I want to live in it everyday? No, but super fun to go visit and stay for the weekend.

Jon:
Which is the function of a guest room!

Martyn:
Exactly.

Jon:
And speaking of— speaking of creative people, you've mentioned in the past that one of the people you'd love to work with is Lady Gaga. Can we make that happen? I mean, that sounds like quite an amazing collaboration.

Martyn:
Funnily enough, I did go meet Gaga to look at doing a house with her and it just ended up— the— there were a bunch of things going on with both of us at the time that we didn't end up working together on that project. But she's amazing. I mean, the energy, the creativity and she had these extraordinary ideas for her home, which I know hasn't even happened yet because she's been so busy. But, you know, one day—yeah, I mean, we've already we've already met so that's— that's a good foot in the door.

Jon:
And I hear that you're currently working on a home for Ru Paul. So tell us about that commission.

Martyn:
You are very well-informed.

Jon:
I am indeed.

Martyn:
In fact, this evening I'm actually a guest judge on Ru Paul's Drag Race All Stars, where we have an amazing interior design challenge that I— that I give to the queens this week so it's going to be very fun show. So Ru has been a good friend of mine for many years. He is, again, an unbelievably, extraordinary character—a great creative force. You know, drag is a real art form and he is, to sort of coin the pun, he is the queen of drag. And so the reality is that to design a home for somebody like that is gonna be amazing. So we're— we're actually well underway. In fact, the phone call I took before I before I did this with you was all about Ru's— Ru's closets. And we've taken about two thousand square feet to create one of the closets, which is really for the drag costumes, which is gonna be kind of like a cross between a museum and a boutique of draggery. So we have— It's extraordinary, yeah, it's kind of it's quite something to sort of work out dimensions for cabinets to hold, you know, tulle gowns with 20 foot trains and, you know, a metre high wigs. So, yeah, it's going to be— it's going to be the most amazing challenge and something extraordinary to see when it's finished.

Jon:
So when you gain a new client and I assume it's really the same as any interior designer with any new client, you have to do your due diligence. You have to learn as much about them and their lives as possible. How do you find that experience of getting so personal with such world famous stars?

Martyn:
You know— And you do have to get persona, you do need to know people to get— To create a really beautiful interior, you have to have an understanding of the person and the way they live and their dreams and passions and their— and their force of everyday life. So, you know, I always when I— when I meet people to begin with—and it doesn't matter if it's a celebrity or, you know, who it is, a bank manager or whatever—we have to get an understanding with each other and feel and feel some trust within each other. And— So it's really— I ask a series of questions I come up with with things like I'll ask, what's their favorite restaurant? Where is their favorite hotel? What's their favorite place they've ever visited? What do they love currently about their home? What do they not like about their home? What is it about the new home they've bought or looking to build that they feel will fulfill their dreams?

Martyn:
So all these little bits of information that happen within kind of a conversation or two, you end up taking both pieces and dissecting them almost like a jigsaw puzzle and then slowly piecing it together until you get the perfect picture. And of course, everybody's picture is different. But that's why it can take some time to get an understanding with each other. And I found— even though along the way, to be honest, I haven't been asked, I have been given a couple of projects where I've been given kind of complete carte blanche to do whatever I wanted. But the reality is that these these projects where we have had that bond, where we have had that relationship and that sort of, you know, able to talk to each other and really connect has brought us around the very best results. I mean, I'm— at the moment, I'm also doing a home for Gwen Stefani and she and I kind of clicked immediately. And the more we've got to know each other, we can almost finish each other's sentences within the design format.

Martyn:
And that's a really wonderful thing because, you know, you're going to end up creating, you know, something that is so personal to the client and really does capture a real portion of their personality. You know, I believe a home— a home is a window into people's souls. And if you can open that window and allow it to breathe, then you have a super successful interior.

Jon:
And as you're getting to know what happens on the rare occasion that you may discover that a client doesn't have great taste? Because, of course, fame doesn't necessarily equal good taste and I'm sure, as a designer, you've had occasion where you've had to help celebrity clients develop theirs. How do you go about doing that? How do you foster good taste in your client style?

Martyn:
The line between good and bad taste is very thin. And so even sometimes if I have a client where I don't think the taste is— is to my taste anyway. There's always a way to to study that and formulate it and then work with the person and their— And their idea of what they want and to sort of massage it into something that maybe makes a little bit more sense or is a little bit chicer or is a little bit more, you know, in the bounds of reality. And so, again, it's— listen, it is really about being able to interact with people in a way that you can help them make the right decisions.

Martyn:
I mean, along the way, I've had a few really, really wild, you know, directives. One once— somebody wanted me to— to gold leaf an entire interior of a garage. So that when they pulled in in their Rolls-Royce they were in a glow of gold. And I— and I said— and I thought it was really vulgar and I ended up, you know, walking away from that project because I didn't want my name to something like that. But, you know, there are other things like, you know, I get another client wanting to have— in fact Tommy and Dee wanted to super fun for their kids bedroom and they talked to me about, you know, maybe it'll be fun to have scratch and sniff wallpaper and in the end, we worked with somebody to create this banana scratch and sniff wallpaper, which is now so hilarious. It's like a piece of Pop Art and it's a super fantastic element in their home. And so, you know, it's the massaging of those things until you get something amazing out of it.

Jon:
So, Martyn, we've heard about your journey and some of your inspirational clients, now it's time to hear about your home life, which means we've arrived at the section of the show we call How I Live. Now I've been particularly excited about this because I know that your home is one with quite extraordinary provenance, both in terms of some of its previous owners and also previous guests. So let's start with where is home for you?

Martyn:
Well, you know, I'm— I'm lucky. I have a few houses. And, I mean, my real home base these days is Los Angeles. But my favorite house, I think—kind of where my heart lives—is my house in Palm Springs. And that house is called the Villa Grigio. Not only because it's painted a rather attractive pale grey, but because of the amounts of Pinot Grigio that is consumed within its walls. But the reality of it is it's a— it's an amazing Mid-century house built in 1962 for Roger Moore, my favorite James Bond. And— and then later in 1970 until 1978, I believe, it was the home of Hugh Hefner and it was the Playboy in the desert. So you can only imagine what went on within these hallowed walls during that crazy time. And then— kind of amazingly, actually, a friend of mine in Australia who, after I bought this house, sent me an old Vogue Living magazine that showed the house in the 80s, and there was an Australian, somewhat eccentric Australian art collector/dealer who lived here. And the photographs of the house were unbelievable. It had a Francis Bacon triptych, Modiglianis, Picasso, Cezanne, Degas... It had the most on believable art you've ever seen all over the walls. Which is pretty extraordinary, so it's had a very colorful and very decorative past, this house.

Jon:
And how would you describe your home style now, in its most recent evolution?

Martyn:
Well, this house, the Palm Springs house I'm talking to you from now is, you know, I couldn't decide exactly how to decorate it when I first bought it. I bought it completely on a whim. I saw it for ten minutes and then I had to fly to England to film a TV show. And I got a phone call from my— from my realtor saying the house has gone under offer and so I almost had a heart attack. And somehow or the other I convinced the realtor to convince the people that were buying it that the house wasn't right for them and that they should look at another house that I'd looked at that they actually ended up buying. And so I managed to jump in and buy this, but literally I bought it on a whim for ten minutes.

Martyn:
And just because I loved kind of the drama of the whole thing. I didn't even know the history of the house, to be honest. But there's an amazing thing with this house, which is that it has an enfilade of ten white arches that run from the inside to the outside, creating this incredible indoor-outdoor living experience. And back in Hugh Hefner's day, they actually— the covered outdoor portico, which is large, used to have disco balls hanging from it and it was his dance floor. And I must admit, I've have a little dance out there myself now, but it is missing the disco balls. Well, I decided that, you know, the house had sort of almost like a like a sexy, modern Moroccan vibe to it so I thought, shall I go with that flavour?

Martyn:
But eventually I decided to go for real kind of swinging 60s, James Bond, you know, a Mid-century vibe. How the living room— all the floors are very beautiful terrazzo and the living room kind of drops into a sunken pit. A conversation pit in the middle with an indoor fire pit. So, you know, this house is just ready for a lot of martinis. And so that's the vibe. It's— it's filled with really cool Mid-century furniture. I've collected a lot of things from designers from the 60s and 70s that I love. People like Paul Evans and I've got a lot of Lucite or plexiglass, as they call it, in England, furniture from a famous 70s designer called Charles Hollis Jones. I've actually got Sylvester Stallone's bed in my bedroom—a big four poster in plexiglass from— that used to belong to him. I have a lot of great Italian Mid-century pieces as well within the mix. My sofas are by Vladimir Kagan, who is one of the great American furniture makers of that period.

Martyn:
And, actually, the floor in my living room is covered in a zebra skin rug that used to belong to Andy Warhol. It was on the floor of the factory in New York back in the in the 60s, I think. And— And so a client of mine who was a supermodel was kind of one of the Warhol girls, actually gave me this many years ago and it is sort of the grounding piece in the living room. So, yes— So I'm living in this very swinging vibe here.

Martyn:
Whereas, actually, my house in L.A. is also an interesting house because that— it's a— it's a Spanish villa style house, a Mediterranean villa, which was very popular in Hollywood with— with sort of the movie stars and the— and the Hollywood jet set in the 1920s and 30s.

Martyn:
And this house was built in the mid 20s and it became a kind of famous actually I guess now because there's a book with the actual address of the house after it. And— Because Dennis Hopper—the actor, artist, photographer—lived there again from 1962 to 1972 and he basically photographed his entire journey in and around the house with everybody that came there and, you know, were a part of his life at that period. And he ended up having the first ever art shows in the living room of that house—of my house—for Roy Lichtenstein and Keith Haring, so they almost birthed the Pop Art movement out of my living room in the early 60s in L.A.. So that's got an incredible history to it. And also Tina Turner and Ike live there. Again, funnily enough, Warhol live there for a while. So that house has kind of got an amazing energy in it.

Martyn:
But that I've designed actually— I did put kind of Moroccanny touches into that house because of the— the Spanish Andalusian type architecture it had. So I have the ceiling in my living room, for instance, has a black and white, amazing interlocking Moroccan pattern all over it, which took some poor guy three weeks to paint on his back. But it's very dramatic and wonderful. But I've got a mix there, actually, of vintage pieces, of antique pieces. It houses most of the collection of my photography because I'm a passionate photography collector and I also kind of, you know, I've got it mixed up. I've got fun things like Maison Jansen brass palm trees in the living room and my— my media room, my— my TV room is tented. So it looks like an amazing Moroccan tent all done in a wonderful Turkish ikat. So there's the real exotic flavour to that house.

Jon:
So when you're— when you're at home, which room do you find that you spend most of your time in? And does that vary depending on the house?

Martyn:
Well, funny enough, in both of these houses. We both— Both of them have got these kind of movie rooms, these media rooms. And, you know, we really find that—particularly in my Palm Springs house, which I really use at the weekends—you know, I love to relax and catch up on great TV shows or watch movies. I'm a member of BAFTA—the British Academy of Film and Television Artists, sort of leftover from my days as an actor. And so because of that, you know, we get all of the movies sent to us to view. So I kind of really take that serious and I view, the 150 movies that come from them before we vote. So I am an avid movie watcher.

Martyn:
And, you know, I have certain TV shows that I love that I kind of follow. So I really get to use those media rooms as a relaxation zone. My life is so hectic and full of things going on that to sort of zen in front of a great movie to me is a real— is a real way for me to relax. So I use those rooms a lot, but— but, honestly, here in Palm Springs, because we have extraordinary weather, my outdoor— my terrace and my garden are sort of really furnished just like an indoor living room. There's big lounge chairs and sofas and low tables. And so, really, we live out there because the weather is so gorgeous. Have dinners out there, entertain there, you know, so— So that's kind of one of the great upsides of living in southern California.

Jon:
And now on to the section we call Who, What, Where and Why. Some deeper questions, which we hope will reveal a little bit more about you. So, firstly, Who. Who is your style inspiration?

Martyn:
Wow. I'm— You know, I'm constantly inspired by things. I mean, I think that to be a good designer. You have to live your life like a sponge where you're constantly taking in the information. And, to me, travel has always been one of my greatest inspirations. So— So, that's on kind of a daily evolving basis, but, for design inspirations, obviously the greats. People like David Hicks very inspired me because, you know, he would— His mix of the old and the new and the unexpected. You know, he'd go into an English country house and paint the drawing room chocolate brown and all of the Chippendale furniture white and then cover everything in pink and turn this very classical room into something that was hip and groovy, yet still super sophisticated. That, to me, is an extraordinary recipe for design to be somewhat fearless and use things in a surprising way. So he's always inspired me, not only for that passion, but also for his use of colour. Renzo Mongiardino, the— the maestro Italian designer. He, of course, was a set decorator originally and he created, during his lifetime, the most amazing theatrical interiors—just some of the most spectacular rooms that were lots of trompe l'oeil, lots of things that tricked the eye, lots of theatrical uses with drapery and swags, and eccentric looking pieces of furniture mixed with the most important pieces of art. So, as— You know, a lot of the style is very over the top for today. But as a person to learn from and to understand, you know, the great benefits of understanding theatre design and how you can transform that into home design, he is one to study. It is absolutely amazing to me. So those those are two that have really, really coloured my life, as it were.

Jon:
And what is the most defining characteristic of your style?

Martyn:
I think, honestly, that— that I don't stick to one style. You know, I— I like to create, for my clients, individual interiors. I like to find ways to— to be different on every level. I never, ever want to be cornered into having just one look. I want to be able to create, as I have done, you know, restored 12th century castles, created a Victorian beach house, made a Studio 54-inspired, you know, apartment, created ultra, ultra modern state of the art nightclubs... I want to be able to do everything. And for me, that is the joy and excitement of this career.

Jon:
Do you think the fact that you haven't developed what some people refer to as a house style is partly due to the strength of character, the creativity and the extraordinariness of some of the clients you've had? Or do you think it would have been the case regardless of who you've worked with?

Martyn:
I mean, I think that, you know, I— I end up— I love so many things that it's so hard for me to define it, is number one. But yes, I have been so lucky to have worked with the most extraordinary people and people that have wanted, you know, wonderfully different interiors. And so that has allowed me to— to tap into all sorts of different parts of my decorative soul, as it were, to bring that out. So, yes, I think certainly my clients have helped really shape the unshapen-ness of my style. I mean, people say to me, you know— They can see, you know, even if they look at my most modern interiors and the most traditional, they say that they can always see a style somehow that flows within them. I think, you know— Listen, I love colour, I'm never scared to mix pattern, I'm never scared to mix period or style of anything. If they— If it's 18th century and it's 21st century and they work well together, then I love to put them together. You know, people use eclectic a lot to describe themselves and their style. I would certainly say that I am eclectic because I, again, love such a concoction of items, but I just want my style to be ever-evolving. I don't ever want to be boxed into one look. And so that's that— And that's who I am.

Jon:
Where were you the last time you were inspired with a great idea?

Martyn:
Oh, my goodness. Well, I'm actually in the process right now of— I have four new collections that I'm designing, and so I'm really in that phase of trying to be inspired on a daily basis of new and different things. And I'm doing a kind of a whole accessory line at the moment, which is all these wonderful inlays and quite complicated and interesting new designs. And literally this morning, I mean— I opened the drawer this morning to find a pen and I found a card that I had bought— Some amazing postcards when I was in Egypt last year because they had all these sort of geometric patterns on them. And I found a card this morning that literally is— sort of it's lit a light bulb for a design that I was struggling with. So it's a postcard I bought in Cairo last November that has just struck a chord with me this morning and it has inspired a new tray I'm about to develop.

Jon:
Thank God you opened the drawer!

Martyn:
Thank God I opened the drawer.

Jon:
And why is living beautifully important to you?

Martyn:
I mean, living beautifully, if we can, for all of us, should be our mantra. And I know it's not easy everyday or for everyone, but for me, it's— it's so important to be in a space that inspires me, a space that lifts my spirits, that keeps me, keeps me going. And so for me, it's very important that all of my environments I make around me are useful to me. But living beautiful isn't just about— about having a pretty velvet sofa and a great chandelier, living beautifully is about the way you live. It's about the way you interact with other people. It's about your— your whole being and the way you look at life. And for me, I think it's also about being gracious and about being generous of spirit. And so I strive to live beautifully in my own way everyday. And again, some days it's not that easy. And certainly, during these pandemic times, it's been a couple of days where I didn't feel like I was living very beautifully that day. But in general, you know, for me, it's really important to to be positive in life and to think, let's make this a beautiful day. Let's enjoy everything that's around us and everyone, and let's give something back to the world.

Jon:
And last, but by no means least, A Question of Taste. Our quickfire round where we ask you ten questions about taste. So first, at what age did you have the worst taste?

Martyn:
Well, I guess some might say now! I mean— You know, I think maybe some of the outfits I saw myself in my teenage years could be described as bad taste. Yeah, there's some— I mean, I— It's funny because I have loved forever design and style and, you know, even my kind of like 11 year old little boy bedroom, I had— I had stolen a staple gun and some fabric and kind of tented up the whole room. And so maybe then— maybe— maybe like around ten or eleven, I don't know. Certainly around 16 for the fashion choices.

Jon:
And at what age do you believe you will have the best taste?

Martyn:
Oh, I hope— I hope that my taste keeps evolving on a daily basis. I mean, maybe we have our best taste the day we die. Because we spent a life cultivating and refining it.

Jon:
What's the most tasteful object in your house? You've got to pick a house first, obviously.

Martyn:
Yeah, I mean, there are many things that I love that I consider to be tasteful, I guess. You know, it's random, actually, because it's something that doesn't really go in any of my houses, but somehow it does. I have a very, very beautiful 18th century—might even be 17th century-marble stone carved— It's a monk, basically. It looks like a buddha, but it's really a monk—it's a Tibetan monk statue— and it has a patina from age on it and the look on its face and within the resonance from the stone and the gleam on this item that is so beautiful, so beautifully age worn and such an extraordinary symbol that it's— it's something that I think is a timelessly tasteful item and would look amazing wherever you put it. So certainly I think that would be on that list.

Jon:
So going from clearly the sublime to the ridiculous, what's the most tasteless object in your house?

Martyn:
I have the most hilarious ice bucket that looks like Carmen Miranda. The lid is a giant hat of bananas and oranges. I actually— I actually don't have it out on display, but I do bring out occasionally a little pool party fun.

Jon:
I think that deserves to be brought out regularly. So sticking with tastelessness, what's the most tasteless thing you've ever worn?

Martyn:
Oh, my God.

Jon:
Are there are a lot of contenders here?

Martyn:
There are definitely a few contenders here. I think— I think in my early years what I thought was to be a pop star, I had a few mad ones. I can think of one right now, in the 80s that was black leather that had kind of slashes on the legs and the arms that revealed silver lamé and the shoulder pads were so big I used to have to turn sideways to get through the door.

Jon:
Sounds like a sort of Cameo look.

Martyn:
It was very Cameo-inspired, yes.

Jon:
It's coming back. It's coming back. What's the worst thing you've ever tasted?

Martyn:
Oh, God. Anchovies. I detest the taste of anchovies. In fact, once I was— because I love chocolate. And at one point I was eating way too much of it. So I went and got hypnotised by Paul McKenna to stop eating chocolate. And he replaced the taste of chocolate with the thing I hate the most which is anchovies. So for about six months, every time I went near a piece of chocolate, it tasted like— like an anchovy. It was horrendous.

Jon:
Salty fish chocolate—who doesn't want that?

Martyn:
I was not a good taste or— or the look on my face after tasting it.

Jon:
Which restaurant serves the best tasting food?

Martyn:
Oh my God. Well, there's— there's a restaurant in L.A. called Jon & Vinny's, which is not a particularly smart restaurant, but it's the most unbelievable pasta pizzeria joint. And, you know, my mother's Italian and so, for me, my favorite comfort food, the thing that feel it makes me feel so good, is spaghetti bolognese. Well, actually fettuccine bolognese is really my favorite. But Jon & Vinny's makes makes us spaghetti bolognese that tastes just like my mum used to. And so, for me, that's my ultimate food with a— with a good douse of parmesan on top of it.

Jon:
Which interior designer, aside from your good self has the best taste?

Martyn:
Wow, that is that is hard because there are amazing interior designers out there and amazing people who have incredible looks and vibes to them that I consider to be, not only great taste, but great adventurers within their look and their vibe. You know, I'm— Not necessarily that I could live within some of those interiors, but Kelly Wearstler, as a modern-day designer, has been one of the most adventurous people creating and recreating looks that have constantly turned the design world up on its head. And so I think her taste is amazing in the fact that she's been so individual and wild to— to follow her dream of what that taste is. And then on the far other extreme, there's a friend of mine, a guy called Tim Whelon—Timothy Whelon—who's not a terribly well-known designer worldwide, but he has the most beautiful, kind of more quiet, restrained, sort of classically modern taste. It's very beautiful and very, very kind of liveable and simple.

Martyn:
You know, there are so many designers that are out there that have amazing taste that to pinpoint one, particularly for any one reason, would be hard for me, because, as I've already explained, I like so many bits of everything that it will be hard. You know, on a completely other extreme, I can say Jacques Garcia for his extraordinary hotels and opulent lifestyle. Or Jacques Grange for those amazing interiors he created for people like Yves Saint Laurent or the Rothschilds. I mean—It's too hard for me to pinpoint one.

Jon:
What's the most tasteful historical period of design?

Martyn:
I think, you know, for me, I really love sort of the mid 18th century, just for the beautiful kind of almost like the Palladian and the neoclassical renaissance of that period were furniture was so elegant and so beautifully appointed and the rooms were so spectacular. You know, I do think that one of the great, great periods of— of life, of decorating life.

Jon:
And what's the least tasteful historical period of design?

Martyn:
I think for me, kind of the late Victorian era where everything was mounded upon mound on mound. I find that really not— There's nothing appealing about that sort of over the top Gothic layered look to me— it's way too much.

Jon:
What's the best taste you've ever acquired? Clearly not anchovies.

Martyn:
Oh. You know, one of the tastes that I absolutely love is— is vintage Perrier Jouet champagne. I'm not sure if that's because I knew it was Oscar Wilde favorite tipple.

Jon:
Sounds like a dangerously expensive acquired taste.

Martyn:
It's a dangerously expensive one, yes, but a rather fun one– a rather fun one to indulge in now and again.

Jon:
Which country, out of all of those you visited, has the best taste?

Martyn:
I love Italy. I love everything about Italy. I love the people. I love the history. I love the architecture. I love— You know, there's so much extraordinary beauty in that country from the very richest to the very poorest of the layers. And so for me, you know, I find that Italy offers the ultimate delights.

Jon:
What is the number one crime against good taste that people commit in their homes?

Martyn:
Too bright of a light bulb.

Jon:
You spoke earlier about the fact that there's a very fine line between good taste and bad taste. So when is bad taste actually good taste?

Martyn:
Well, sometimes, you know, when things— Sometimes when things are very kitsch, like my Carmen Miranda ice bucket, used in the right way could become— That can look like the best tasteful thing ever. So— So, you know, that's when— I think that sometimes things that are very, very kitsch, that you're kind of horrified to look at, sometimes when put into the right place at the right time can become the most playful, most fun, most tasteful moments. So that's really kind of about an adventure of being playful within design.

Jon:
And when is good taste actually bad taste?

Martyn:
Good taste is bad taste when there's too much of it. Meaning when somebody, you know— They could be a— For instance, sometimes you see people with the most extraordinary art collections and yet they mount— They put 20 of them all together on one wall just to kind of impress everybody that they've got one each of the greats. And that becomes, to me, bad taste because each of those art pieces would be the most beautiful, finest works of art, but if they're not hung properly or if there's too much of it in your face, as it were, that becomes bad taste to me.

Jon:
Who is your taste icon? Aside, of course, from Carmen Miranda.

Martyn:
Um... Taste icon? Listen, I— I happen to love Tom Ford. I love Tom's— the way he dresses, I love the clothes he makes. He's created some incredible interiors along the way. I mean, he's kind of— he's kind of really, again, formulated an extraordinary look and a taste palette, for the last two decades, that has been kind of an amazing thing to see. So I think Tom would be up there for sure.

Jon:
And finally, why does taste matter?

Martyn:
Again, taste is a very individual thing. You know, you may think I've got fabulous tastes, somebody else might think I've got terrible taste. It's a very, very personal thing. But because it's such a personal thing, it does become something that matters. It becomes something that— that is fun to talk about, is fun to experience. Taste is an experience for all of us. You know, we love to look at beautiful things and we love to look at ugly things because we can comment on them. And at the end of the day, that's what it is. Taste is an emotion and all emotions are important.

Jon:
Martyn, thank you so much. Where can people find out more about you?

Martyn:
martynlawrencebullard.com is my website and, of course, @martynbullard is my Instagram where you can catch up with me daily with my mad thoughts and fantasies. And, of course, I have several books—Live Love and Decorate and Design and Decoration, all available on Amazon worldwide. So— And soon to be back on the silver screens. We're in the middle of a— of filming some new TV shows and there's even a little little bit of a movie thing on the boil right now about design so— So watch out—I'll be coming to a to a living room near you soon!

Jon:
Thank you so much again. It's been a really, really fun and fascinating chat.

Martyn:
Thank you so much. And it really was fun to talk to you. And stay safe and stay well, everybody. And thank you for— for listening in to me.

Jon:
That wraps up this episode of The Tastemakers. Thanks for listening. If you'd like to be notified of new episodes, please subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and, if you enjoyed the show, please do rate and review us. You can discover related images, articles and products in our show notes at LuxDeco.com where you can also shop over 150 of the world's finest design brands and subscribe to our online magazine, The Luxurist. I've been your host, Jon Sharpe. You can follow me on Instagram @jonsharpe—that's J-O-N-S-H-A-R-P-E—and follow LuxDeco at @luxdeco. I'll see you next time. Until then, live beautifully.

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