Martyn Lawrence Bullard on Building Drawbridges, Gold-Leafing Garages, and Designing Beds For Six

Curbed

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Photo courtesy of Martyn Lawrence Bullard Design

When Martyn Lawrence Bullard made his Bravo debut two years ago as one of the six stars of Million Dollar Decorators, things promised to be interesting. And quite a lot's happened since: Oct. 18 has officially been declared "Martyn Lawrence Bullard" day by the mayor of West Hollywood, the British-born, Los Angeles-based interior designer opened his home for the pages of Elle Decor, and he published Live, Love & Decorate, a Rizzoli tome with a foreword written by longtime client Elton John. In fact, Lawrence Bullard is one of the few designers who's never been shy about speaking grandly, and with specifics, about his ultra-famous clientele; he once described for the New York Times how "Cher wanted to live in an Indian fantasy—she wanted to feel like she was the first wife of a maharajah" and how celebrities, more than regular folk, "want to live out their fantasies." With "a few hotels on the horizon," according to his firm, and a new line of wallpapers for Schumacher set to make its debut this spring, Lawrence Bullard talks to Curbed about Cher's "outrageous" bed, what it was like to step foot in Yves Saint Laurent's Paris apartment, and how hoisting a 3,000-pound custom marble dining table by crane through a Manhattan townhouse window is really just another day on the job.

What's it like being the poster boy for high-end decorating?
It's really fun actually. On of the great things with my career is that I work with extraordinary celebrities. Celebrities like to live out fantasies and be more adventurous and I get to make these things happen. That has been an incredible experience. It is amazing part of my career. Now that I am the poster boy that's really fun.

What kind of fantasies to you get to create?
For example, Cher, when she bought her town apartment, said to me, "I want to be an Indian princess." So I got to make all these wild and eclectic pieces of Indian furniture and scour all over the world to build for her a mini Indian palace.

On the Season 2 premiere of Million Dollar Decorators, you hoisted a $50K custom marble dining table into the Manhattan brownstone of your longtime client Tamara Mellon. What other crazy things have you done to ensure the safe delivery and installation of high-end custom pieces into your clients' homes?
Interior design: people think it looks glamorous, but at end of the day this is a service industry and I want to make sure that—however difficult it is—I can pull whatever it is the client wants off. I was installing at a castle, up a huge hill and there were major torrential rainstorms and it was a disaster. We had to build a drawbridge across just to bring furniture in. It was like being on a medieval crusade. I did a bed for a famous client that was wrapped in python. I ordered it and then found I couldn't get python into California. I had to make the piece in another state and have it flown in a private jet to California.

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The living room of Tamara Mellon's Manhattan apartment. Photo by Tim-Street Porter/courtesy of Martyn Lawrence Bullard Design

If a home were to have only one truly high-end piece of furniture, decor, lighting, fabrics, etc. etc., what do you think it should be?
The most important things in your house are the things you are going to use the most. That is your bed. Out of 10 years in your life you spend three years in bed. You need to have an amazing mattress that works just for you. You need good quality product. I love Vi-Spring—it's the number one organic bed. Really fabulous high-end mattress and put in a beautiful bed frame and it is everyone's sanctuary. And then secondly invest in your soft furnishings pieces. It is something you sit on and curl up on and make out in, and it's a really important to your home and how you live.

So what's the most outrageous bed you've ever done?
Cher's bed is just incredible. A flat-screen comes out of the bed and sweeps off to the end of her bed. The whole thing was placed on a stone platform so she has complete views of the city. Another one was for Tamara Mellon. She and I went on a shopping trip to Istanbul and we found an early-19th-century—what we thought was a tapestry. It was embroidered with pure gold thread that depicted tree of life. I convinced her to buy it to use it as her headboard. I used these incredible silks from India to finish the rest of the bed. Later, we discovered the tapestry was actually a circumcision ceremonial cloth.

What's the craziest custom piece you've ever designed?
A notorious client of mine asked me to design a bed where he could sleep six. I am not sure it was exactly designed for sleeping.

Anything else?
I have been asked to design a 20-foot outdoor circular sofa that was to look exactly like a piece in the inside of the house, except it was to live in the middle of the lawn. We had it custom built out of teak and wrapped in outdoor fabric.

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Left: Lawrence Bullard's own home in L.A., which was recently featured in Elle Decor. Right: Tamara Mellon's Manhattan bedroom. Photos by Tim Street-Porter/courtesy of Martyn Lawrence Bullard Design

What's the most ridiculous request, price wise, you've ever received from a client?
I had a request to gold leaf the interior of a garage. To waste so much money on such bizarre thing—there are certain limits that I abide by and use my own judgment of what is right and what's wrong.

So with that in mind, what are your thoughts on mass-market furnishings and decor, in otherwise, not custom pieces?
The American public is very educated to design these days and in some cases it is being done incredibly well. It's incredible that place even stores like Marshalls or Target have incredible home goods. That still comes back to the world of interior design because not everybody knows how to put it together. You can walk into Restoration Hardware and you can point to things and bring them home, but it doesn't fit in your space or you can't put it together. You have to be able to understand scale, color coordination, and how to group furniture in a room. There is always going to be a market for interior design.

What's the most beautiful house you've ever stepped foot in?
To be honest there are many different houses that I have been lucky enough to be in. I was lucky enough to visit Yves Saint Laurent's Paris apartment before everything was auctioned off. The way the things were put together and the way things were mixed high and low. I will never forget that apartment. I've just come back from Hawaii, where I had a private tour of Doris Duke's house, Shangri-La. It's filled with the most amazing art and unbelievable rooms and tile. So very sexy, with low-slung sofas—you can imagine her wondering around. It conjures absolute fantasy and it's absolutely breathtaking.

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Photo by Tim Street-Porter/courtesy of Martyn Lawrence Bullard Design

· Martyn Lawrence Bullard Design [official site]
· All Martyn Lawrence Bullard coverage [Curbed National]
· All Whale Week 2013 posts [Curbed National]

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