Few designers can truly be considered “celebrities” these days. While Martyn Lawrence Bullard is known for his work for a high-profile clientele, he himself has renown. As one of the stars of the Bravo show Million Dollar Decorators, his projects and personality are larger than life, drawing us in every episode. He’s particularly adept at creating grandiose spaces that are particularly tailored to his client. His work is anything but standardized.
This winter, he’s being honored with Las Vegas Market’s Design Icon Award, putting him amongst designers such as Frank Gehry and Barbara Barry. Market attendees will be able to join in on his presentation and Q&A on January 27th. But since that’s a few weeks away and we tend to be a little impatient, we took the opportunity to have a chat with Martyn to ask him a few of our burning questions.
Congratulations on receiving Las Vegas Market’s Design Icon Award! After years of hard work, does it feel like you’ve achieved your goals?
It is a great honor to receive such an award and really makes me proud of all of my achievements. I have worked extremely hard over the last 27 years to reach this point; however, each day brings with it a new challenge and each challenge is welcomed as a new way to grow, learn, and expand my design knowledge and ability. I am so very blessed to do a job that I love every day. The ultimate goal in life is to love our work and to get to do something that feeds the soul. That is what I have, and that is the ultimate prize.
You started out selling antiques – where did your eye for unique pieces come from?
I really don’t know where my love for antiques and decorative objects came from. I have been obsessed with them for as long as I can remember and have gained knowledge because of that passion. I started selling antiques by the time I was 12 at an antique market on Saturdays in London using my allowance money to buy small decorative objects that I thought were pretty, arranging them nicely on my stall and selling them for a profit. This hobby turned into a real education of the decorative arts, also providing me with business knowledge and an ability to pair things together in an attractive way. Those early years have influenced me into who I am today, and that knowledge is the backbone of my career in interior design.
Today you run a multi-faceted company with your own product lines, books, and interior design firm. Looking back at the beginning of your career, on your first projects where your first few clients were Hollywood producers and celebrities, did you ever worry about how they’d turn out?
I have always believed in myself. I think that is the greatest talent one can possess. Because of that I have moved fearlessly forward, and yes, I have occasionally second-guessed myself, but I try to never do that and often go with my gut instinct. My designs come from the heart and are customized for each individual and their individual project.
What is something that maybe we don’t know about you as a designer?
Probably the most shocking fact about me to many is that I have never had any formal training or indeed any design training whatsoever. I am totally self-taught in my trade and knowledge. I have won so many international awards and honors, which is beyond wonderment to me as almost all of my peers have major training or worked for a master designer before creating their own businesses. I literally fell into my career with only passion and a love for design to guide me.
Besides being a celebrated interior designer – where you’ve transformed the homes of Khloe Kardashian, Kourtney Kardashian, Tommy Hilfiger, Cher, Ellen Pompeo, and Eva Mendes, to name a few – you’ve also designed collections for brands such as The Rug Company, Schumacher, Frontgate… Tell us about your process for product design. How do you come up with fresh, new pieces?
I love product design – it has become a major part of my business and a great personal joy to me. It really came about because I custom designed so many pieces for all of my projects and clients over my entire career. We have made furniture and fabrics, lighting, tabletop, and even paint colors exclusively for specific projects to provide a desired look tailored for that interior.
I started my own fabric line using designs I had created for clients’ projects, selling through trade showrooms around the world, and then that exposure opened the door for other manufacturers to reach out to me to do lines with them. Suddenly, I was designing fabric and wallpaper collections for Schumacher and Cole and Son, silver for Christofle, crystal for Datum, porcelain for Haviland Limoges, tiles for Ann Sacks, mattresses for Custom Comfort, lighting for Corbett and the Hudson Valley Group (which you can view at this Las Vegas Market) and rugs for The Rug Company.
All of these products are an extension of my brand and passions, along with looks and styles that I love. Most importantly, it is rewarding to see how others integrate the products into their own homes and lives. To see these items used by designers, making them their own in beautiful interiors, is such a joy and honor. It’s really the ultimate compliment to my career.
How have you enjoyed attending Las Vegas Market in the past? How has it been a good resource for your work?
The Las Vegas Market is such an amazing resource. You can find literally every element of design here, something for each space, room, home, and office. It’s always inspiring and oftentimes heralds new trends and innovations. Many of my own collections have debuted here including my latest additions to my Corbett Lighting collections this season. Vegas market is an important place for designers to visit, retailers and interior buffs alike. There is inspiration at every turn.
Lastly, Las Vegas has plenty of great restaurants and bars to try – do you have a favorite?
Vegas is always fun to visit with some amazing shopping, restaurants and shows to keep even the most sophisticated palettes interested. The Joel Robusson Restaurant in the MGM is one of my favorites for a real blow out, Michelin Star fine dining treat. I also love the NoMad Restaurant with its famous truffle chicken and wonderful selection of wines. In addition, to satisfy my Italian roots, Carbone on the strip is a luscious delight of pasta and meatballs in a fantastic old-school ambiance.