Choosing one word to succinctly describe Martyn Lawrence Bullard, celebrity interior designer and co-star of the hit Bravo show, Million Dollar Decorators, is a difficult task I’ve given myself, but the definitive answer has to be "darling."
OK, I lied about the one-word part. And I could easily, so easily keep adding to my “cheat list.”
Many other adoring fans have attempted to encapsulate their impressions of Bullard, particularly his clients and now dear friends, after more than 18 years of his dedication to their personal sanctuaries and to the interior design world itself. Here are just a few examples of admiration they extend in concise but sincere terms.
Any peeks into the upcoming shows? Bullard responds, “I can’t share a thing, I’m so sorry. All I can say is that it’s bigger and better than last season, if you can imagine.”
Elton John writes in his foreword to the designer's new and first book, Live, Love & Decorate, how Bullard transformed his apartment in Los Angeles to share with partner David Furnish and their son Zachary into a "floating jewel box."
Cheryl Tiegs, for whom he completed his first true design job, sums up in the same book the designer’s completed Bel Air bungalow creation for her as "my magical Balinese paradise.”
And then there's Cher, who sends her love and kisses to Bullard for his creativity and for his sensitivity to her esthetics: "I never get tired of coming into these beautiful, peaceful rooms."
Determine your own descriptions (and send them to us!) of the designer after his Live, Love & Decorate book signing and keynote address set 11 a.m. Tuesday in Suite 229 at The Houston Design Center, 7026 Old Katy Road, when he’ll kick off HDC’s Spring Market. Space is limited for his presentation and reservations (they're free, as is the entire market) are required by calling 713-864-2660.
Details are available on the center's website.
“My Hollywood Tale in Reverse”
As a young boy, Bullard began collecting anything he thought was “pretty” with the help of his late father and selling the treasures at a stall at the Greenwich Antiques Market in South London. He began to dream of acting, his father’s original career, and moved to Los Angeles where he studied drama at the Strasberg Institute and took a bit part here and there, all the while collecting and selling decorative items and jewelry.
A Hollywood Film Works producer loved what Bullard had done with his own West Hollywood house and invited him to decorate executive office spaces for the production company. Soon afterward, he did the same for Warner Brothers and Paramount Studios.
Job and social invitations began to overflow, and the designer found himself delightfully seated next to Tiegs at a dinner party. She asked him to look at her recently purchased 1950s bungalow . . . and to reinvent her abode. The buzz began.
His work is now highlighted in almost half a dozen interior design coffee table books, and he was named one of the world's top talents in architecture and interior design by Architectural Digest in 2010. That same year, he received the Andrew Martin International Interior Designer of the Year Award.
Bullard's fans grew by leaps and bounds with his regular appearances on Million Dollar Designers, for which he and fellow cast members are now filming the second season. Any peeks into the upcoming shows? Bullard responds, “I can’t share a thing, I’m so sorry. All I can say is that it’s bigger and better than last season, if you can imagine.”
The success of his furniture and textiles collections, as well as wallpaper and flooring, has been “extraordinary,” he says, with all lines available through Martyn Lawrence Bullard Design and some through the to-the-trade David Sutherland showroom at Decorative Center Houston, where Houstonians in-the-know are loyal customers. He designs candles for purchase on the Internet, specifically through OpenSky.
“So many people started asking me, ‘When are you going to do a book, when are you going to do a book?,’” Bullard says during a phone interview. “It is a wonderful way to portfolio yourself, but at the same time, I had to eliminate so many of the jobs I love. And I love them all. And my clients do, too. I decorate for my clients.”
Live, Love & Decorate, by the way, is in its third reprint within a space of about 16 weeks of release. The coffee table/art book also climbed to No. 1 on the best-seller list in the interior design genre.
Cheryl Tiegs: “A Model’s Life”
“We sat on the floor together looking at this dated bungalow,” Bullard recalls in his book, “and I listened as Cheryl described her dream to make it into a Balinese pavilion. Neither of us had been to Bali at that point and really didn’t know what that meant.”
“I shop constantly,” Bullard tells CultureMap. “I get inspiration from where ever I go. I have shipping containers full of fabulous objects."
Now a world-wide shopper (“I shop constantly,” he tells CultureMap. “I get inspiration from where ever I go. I have shipping containers full of fabulous objects”), Bullard completed his “assignment” with much gratitude from the super model and has continued his relationship with Tiegs as a designer and a friend.
Elton John: “Piano Man’s Pad”
David Furnish approached the designer to help find and decorate a home base for the singer when he was playing in Los Angeles. The interior designer discovered a three-bedroom apartment, which he immediately had renovated into an open plan for easy entertaining, and then filled it with choice finds on the clients’ supported trips around the world. Artwork by Damien Hurst, Dale Chihuly, Keith Haring, Willem de Kooning, Andy Warhol and more notable artists are at every turn, even in the enormous, rock star-style closet.
Photos from the “Piano Man’s Pad” are not released for reprint by Rizzoli New York, the publisher, but make a spectacular splash in the 14 pages dedicated to the project.
Cher: “High-Rise Haven” and “World Tour”
Live, Love & Decorate highlights two homes on which Bullard collaborated with Cher — one a Hollywood penthouse and the other, an entire villa in Malibu.
“I love all things exotic, Babe, Oriental, Zen and magical,” Cher told the designer during their discussion about the penthouse, so he first bought a 19th-century ivory-painted tablet depicting an Indian deity, a small piece but inspiration for what was to come: A heavily carved arched entryway reclaimed from a Rajasthan palace to create the backdrop for her bed, followed by hundreds of objects from India, Tibet, Turkey, Sri Lanka, China, Indonesia, Morocco and Syria.
More A-list clients’ homes showcased in Live, Love & Decorate include Chris Cortazzo, Kid Rock, Joe Francis, Damon Dash, Jimmy Choo, Ozzy and Sharon Osborne, Ellen Pompeo and Tamara Mellon.
He includes a chapter featuring his own fabulously decorated West Hollywood residence, former home to Gloria Swanson and William Faulkner. “I use my home as palate for ideas,” he says. “I could change my living experience every day.”
While his customer base is extremely impressive, Bullard admits he has a couple of “dream clients” he would love to work with. “I have met Lady Gaga at Elton John’s, and she is wonderful and amazing,” he says. “She is so advant garde in her dress and iconic in her style. She’s true to her vision. And, can you image the fun?”
He quickly adds Johnny Depp to his “wish list.” “I understand that he has unusual collections of things. “And he’s so quirky. It would be very interesting.”
And, for the million dollar question: Price points? “Our projects range from $750,000 upwards for residential to $500 million for commercial. We charge a design fee that is customized to each project and client, ” he says.
Bullard's design tips
Collections. “I love secluded areas where you can highlight a collection of items and groups in multiples,” he says. “Objects are powerful in groupings together.”
He displays that design technique in Live, Love & Decorate with white pillar candles of various sizes accenting Tiegs’ bungalow, antique gongs lining passageways in Cher’s penthouse, colorful eye-catching vases filled with fresh flowers throughout Tamara Mellon's New York penthouse and in Sharon Osborne’s home, where he expanded on her love of crystal-topped, cross-bejeweled vases into a theme in her Hidden Hills mansion.
Cushions. “The easiest fix,” he continues, “is with cushions, for the bed, a chair, a couch. Patterned or solid-color cushions can change the entire look of a house and really move your home through the seasons. And they can be purchased at very reasonable prices.”
Throws. “There’s nothing more luxurious than a throw at the end of the bed or at the back of a chair, a simple way to surround yourself in softness.”
Comfort. “My entire design process is very much about comfort. Today is your day to enjoy the best of everything you own, including your grandmother’s china. Don’t leave it in the cupboard. Bring it out and enjoy it every day.”
And, as Bullard captures in a few words his own philosophy: “That’s my passion: Live, love and decorate.”