Martyn Lawrence Bullard – Designer to the Stars
Following the success of his latest book, Star Style, the Los Angeles designer favoured amongst celebrities catches up with Dolce for a tale of origins and his latest endeavours.
Famous for his sophisticated takes on comfort and bold expressions of design — and his client roster that could fill the Hollywood Walk Of Fame — Martyn Lawrence Bullard is the modern-day designer to the stars.
Destined for stardom, the UK native hit his stride as a designer only after his first ambition had a setback. Bullard told Dolce his dreams led him to Los Angeles, where he’d hoped to pursue a career in acting, “ I came to Los Angeles when I was 21 with the idea I was going to be an actor — I flailed around in an very small movie but ended up being mostly cut out of it.”
As fate would have it Bullard’s career would go on to be forged in stardust. He landed a gig decorating the offices of the Hollywood Filmworks Company following a dinner hosted at his small West Hollywood home for producer Victor Ginzburg and his then- fiancée, who were captivated by Bullard’s eclectic style on a budget. This meet-cute unknowingly became responsible for his meteoric launch into the world of interior design.
He has worked with some of the most notable names in the industry, from A-list clients like Elton John, Ellen Pompeo, Kylie Jenner and RuPaul to royalty, designing photo-worthy interiors that have gone on to grace the covers of numerous publications, including Architectural Digest and Vogue Living.
Bullard’s 30 years of expertise working in a wide range of styles means that he can adapt to each individual’s taste and vision. “Interior design is very personal, but the universal thing that people want today is comfort,” he told Dolce, noting that it’s the key factor when he designs for his clients. “Modern luxury definitely equals comfort.” That it does.
An artist in his own right, Bullard gets inspiration from anything and everything every day. In the foreword of Star Style, the designer’s latest book, the music icon and EGOT award- winner Cher writes how Bullard sourced “the façade of an Indian palace that had been torn down in Jaipur,” artifacts and pieces that would later be incorporated into the furnishings and elements of the singer’s home, including her regal bed set.
Passionate about creating the ultimate for each project, Bullard leaves no region unexplored, from the flea markets of Paris to the souks of Cairo and the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul — with his award- winning talent, carefully melding a client’s style with an overarching theme that is both culturally rich and artistically significant.
His own palace, situated in the Hollywood Hills, is a historic villa once home to luminaries Tina Turner, Andy Warhol and blockbuster icon Dennis Hopper, and holds tales as star-studded as the key that turns its lock; Bullard’s latest property is a project of his from 20 years ago, with the Californian home being that of a past client, Craig Kilborn, who once hosted The Late Late Show.
Star Style takes readers through some of the most breathtaking and massive projects in the designer’s portfolio and shares insights and quotes from clients including Rupaul, Ellen Pompeo and Cher.
Q: Are there any specific design principles or philosophies that guide your work?
A: Two most important things: you want the home to feel like the client and achieve a sense of place — you want to make sure your design feels correct for where you are. I think that’s a very important element to interior design.
Q: How do you balance functionality and aesthetics in your designs?
A: Understanding somebody’s character, what their dreams are made of. Rupaul is a DJ — he loves to DJ and dance. He had a huge room and it made sense to me to put a disco ball in there — 26, in fact.
Q: Can you share a design project that challenged your beliefs or pushed you out of your comfort zone?
A: I hope that every project challenges me — if you are comfortable, it means that you are not being newly inspired, it means you are repeating something that has already existed. I think the day you stop challenging yourself is the day you stop learning and the day you stop learning is the day you die.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring designers who want to make a name for themselves in the industry?
A: Travel. Make sure you travel — you’ve got to see the world, you’ve got to understand cultures, you have to understand styles, you have to understand history before you can create eternity. Meaning seeing and experiencing new things, going to museums, doing things that will enrich your decorative soul is so important — the real world is the best education you can have as a designer.
Q: Can you tell us about any upcoming projects or collaborations that you’re excited about?
A: We have about 20 projects currently. We are in the middle of Sylvester Stallone in Palm Beach, Machine Gun Kelly in Los Angeles, we have P!nk, a couple of hotels on the go — I’m finishing the Four Seasons in Los Angeles, there’s a lot of work and lots of new collections coming next year.
Q: How would you describe your idea of la dolce vita? What does it mean to you?
A: My dolce vita is travel, it’s experiencing new places and new cultures — if I didn’t have to work I literally would just travel the world because there’s nothing more exciting than seeing new places, meeting new people having new experiences — they are the threads to life’s tapestry and I would say for me that is the ultimate dolce vita.