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Seeing stars: Interior designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard on making it big

Renowned interior designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard is right at home with all the top celebrities - he shares his experience of getting into the industry

 

Martyn Lawrence Bullard is a lucky man. The 45-year-old American has an intimate knowledge of Eva Mendes' bedroom. He has also spent considerable time in the private boudoirs of Ellen Pompeo, Christina Aguilera and Cher, to name but a few of the celebrity starlets who probably had him on their speed dial, once upon a time. Far from being an incorrigible playboy, however, Bullard is more respectably known as the "interior designer to the stars".

The California-based designer hasn't always been so fortunate. "My career really did just happen by accident," he admits. In 1995, Bullard was a part-time actor in Los Angeles, and was cast as Eartha Kitt's pianist in a movie. He befriended one of the producers, who stopped by his homefor dinner and was blown away by Bullard's design style and taste.

The producer later asked Bullard to decorate his new movie production and edit suites, the impressive results of which attracted the attention of the president of Capitol Records, Liz Heller, who asked the soon-to-be ex-actor to design for her as well.

"From there on, I started working for supermodel Cheryl Tiegs, and all the rest of the celebrities followed suit," says Bullard, whose glittering clientele includes musicians Sir Elton John and Kid Rock; actors Edward Norton, Felicity Huffman and William H Macy; film industry professionals Aaron Sorkin and David Furnish; model Rebecca Romijn, and entertainers Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne.

"It has been an amazing journey and one I would call fate," he says.

In addition to Tiegs' home, a Balinese-style abode inspired by the supermodel's dream of living on the Indonesian island, Bullard is also behind a number of celebrity homes, which vary widely in terms of look and feel. Among these vastly distinct interiors are singer and actress Cher's exotic "Maharani's Palace" and the arty, edgy apartment of former Jimmy Choo co-founder Tamara Mellon.

"My personal style is certainly eclectic; I love so many styles from so many periods," the designer says. "I find that the perfect interior blends together pieces from many centuries that have a common thread - in either colour, form or mere beauty."

In Mellon's arty New York apartment, for example, Bullard sourced a mix of 1940s, '60s and ' 70s furniture pieces, which he paired with contemporary art and edgy installations against a backdrop of vivid colour. While this may seem a risky aesthetic for the average homeowner, Bullard says that most of his clients have proven to be very open to more unusual ideas.

"Celebrities tend to be wonderful to work with because they are very creative and want to live out their decorative fantasies," he explains. "It's a wonderful thing to get inspiration from their personal creativity." He adds that his A-list clients are, nevertheless, no different from any of his other clients in that they all get highly customised interiors tailor-made to who they are and what they do. In Mellon's case, this process may have been easier than most, given that her relationship with Bullard extends beyond that between a client and designer. "I have known Tamara since we were transfers partying together on the London scene, and we remained friends for many years," Bullard recalls. "When her business took off and she bought her first major property, she asked me to help her design the space. [She was] very conscious of her brand and how her home and lifestyle must connect with her designs and the feel of Jimmy Choo."

Mellon wanted this particular property, a 4,500 sq ft home in London's Notting Hill, to be a sanctuary for her and her daughter Minty, a place to entertain, and a "calling card for her brand, to show the world that she lives and breathes her brand and its style", Bullard says.

The property had the architectural makings of a beautiful home. Its impressive scale allowed for a sophisticated grand entry with ample flow to the hallways, which led to the expansive living room in which Bullard experimented with an eclectic mix of styles and looks.

The designer managed to balance a glamorous feel with a subtly elegant look throughout the home. In the bedrooms, for example, "where luxury runs with abandon", Bullard incorporated a headboard converted from an early 19th-century Turkish wall-hanging that was embroidered with gold thread.

Meanwhile, the drapery and bedding had custom-embroidered silks with silver and golden metal threads from India.

When it came to the public spaces of the home, however, Bullard opted for a more subdued look. He chose a palette of beiges, ivory, taupe and antique white for the drawing room and family room, which make for a chic, muted backdrop. Nevertheless, the details are unmistakably Jimmy Choo. A hand-stencilled leopard rug, for example, features a Jimmy Choo exclusive print. More subtle touches include Jean Michel Frank-inspired sofas in deep chocolate velvet, 1970s furniture in mixed metals, and Serge Roche's 1940s mirrored consuls, which hint at the luxurious and polished materials used throughout the years in the shoe designer's collections. In their quest for one-of-a-kind, memorable designs, Bullard and Mellon even had a run-in with Madonna. The pop legend had her eye on the Adnet dining chairs, Bullard's favourite pieces of furniture in the home, which bring together vintage leather with brass and black metal legs, lending a distinctly dignified and contemporary presence to

the dining space. "We found them in a small vintage store on London's Pimlico Road and narrowly beat Madonna from buying them," the interior designer recalls with relish.

Not everything was a walk in Hyde Park, however. "The biggest challenge," Bullard says, "was her closet". As the designer of a major fashion brand, Mellon had more than 800 pairs of shoes and 300 handbags, a collection that was constantly expanded and tweaked every season. "Finding the room to house this and her vast couture wardrobe wasn't easy," he recalls. Bullard decided to strip out the home's bedroom wing and furnish it with wall-to-wall cabinetry designed to house her clothes, shoes and accessories. One whole wall is dedicated entirely to bags and purses, while large marble topped islands display the fashion designer's scarves and jewels.

"The home was to be a complete reflection of Tamara's brand," Bullard says. "It shows how … fashion and interiors go hand in hand." From the rich hues and luxurious materials to the highly distinctive animal prints, leathers and skins, this home is the residential equivalent to Jimmy Choo's stylish, provocative designs.

It's no wonder that Bullard seemed to savour every moment of the creative process. "A true designer's dream is when you can combine fashion and interiors into one," he says.

Jacqueline Tsang

 

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