British interior designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard is the toast of Hollywood. Perhaps best known as the star of Bravo’s Million Dollar Decorators, the award-winning designer's work has been published in thousands of publications throughout the world. His A-list clientele includes Christina Aguillera, Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne, Eva Mendes, and Kid Rock, just to name a few. Bullard's design expertise is so sought-after that he recently published a book, Live, Love, & Decorate, just to keep up with public demand. We recently caught up with the crazy-busy designer—in between a hectic Bravo press junket in New York, parties hosted in L.A. and his many client meetings—to talk about how to create, in his words, a “super glam glam” kitchen on a realistic budget.
Cher's Moroccan-inspired kitchen. Photo: Courtesy of Martyn Lawrence Bullard
CULTIVATE: You have an impressive client list that includes some of the biggest names in pop culture. What are some of your favorite kitchens you’ve designed for celebs?
MARTYN LAWRENCE BULLARD: For Cher’s Hollywood penthouse, she wanted a kitchen that looked like a living room, so I gave her this turn-of-the-century Moroccan palace-like space that has all the appliances and the large island she needs for it to function well. When it’s not in use, the kitchen completely disappears behind these Moroccan fretwork panels. When the induction cooktop isn’t needed, her carved tray and Buddha statues can be placed over it, making the island function as an art display.
For Elton John, I created this open-plan kitchen with beautiful biscuit-colored lacquered cabinets. Again, it had to work as part of the living experience, so I added this grand chandelier that once hung over the reception desk of a Milan hotel.
Distinctive artwork in actress Ellen Pompeo's kitchen. Photo: Courtesy of Martyn Lawrence Bullard
CULTIVATE: What gives a Martyn Lawrence Bullard kitchen that je ne sais quoi?
MARTYN: Unexpected touches, darling! I accomplish this mostly with lighting. It could be one strong, cool fixture over the island, chrome sconces on either side of the sink or a gorgeous chandelier in the center of the room. In [Jimmy Choo founder] Tamara Mellon’s home, I installed a chrome plate on the ceiling that was practically the size of the island. From it, we hung 18 smoked glass globes grouped together like a galaxy. It gave a glamorous 1970s edge to an otherwise traditional kitchen.
Another touch I always like to add is art. In Ellen Pompeo’s kitchen, for example, we blew up a Sebastiao Salgado black-and-white photograph of Churchgate Station in Mumbai that serves as the room’s focal point. In a space you spend so much time in, why not turn it into a beautiful art gallery?
Photo: Courtesy of Martyn Lawrence Bullard
CULTIVATE: Are you seeing the same sorts of trends in celebrity kitchens as you are in the rest of the country?
MARTYN: Lacquered cabinets are big for everybody right now. I love them; they’re amazing. And they’re available in every price point, starting with Ikea all the way up to the top-of-the-line brands like Aran Cucine. I’m also seeing that everyone loves dishwasher drawers because they allow you to conserve. If you only have one or two people in a home, using a single dishwasher drawer is a greener alternative to running an entire load.
Wall art from west elm. Photo: Courtesy of west elm
CULTIVATE: What suggestions can you offer everyday homeowners who want incorporate more style into their kitchens but don't have a celebrity budget?
MARTYN: The first one is art. It can be as simple as enlarging and framing a favorite family photo. Places like west elm are also great resources; they’re stocked with all sorts of reasonably priced art. Another easy way to incorporate style is to create a lovely ambiance. A dimmer switch will cost you less than $20 and will change the entire feel of the kitchen. Add some candles, and you’re set. There’s no reason a kitchen has to be glaring.
Next, go out and find yourself some new kitchen accessories. Add, say, red tea and coffee jars, and matching striped towels that drape over the oven handles, and you’ve got a new pop of color that’s fun and affordable.
Martyn's must-have blender, the Vitamix. Photo: Courtesy of Williams-Sonoma
CULTIVATE: You’re all about efficiency. How do you design an efficient kitchen that’s still "super glam glam"?
MARTYN: A beautiful double sink is important because it allows the home chef and sous chef—perhaps the wife and husband—to work side by side without stepping over each other. I can’t stand a messy kitchen, and a double sink can alleviate much of that problem. An island is essential, too. It helps direct flow and affords the room so much more storage. It can house appliances such as the fridge, dishwasher and compactor. And with an overhang, an island allows for an eating area as well as a homework station for the kids.
Another tip, which I’m crazy about giving as a gift at the moment, is the Vitamix. It’s extraordinary. It blends at the speed of light and makes everything else obsolete. I suggest people throw out their old blenders right now and buy themselves one of these.
Photo: Courtesy of Martyn Lawrence Bullard
CULTIVATE: You love color. We love color. What are your tricks for making a colorful statement in a kitchen without overdoing it?
MARTYN: It’s very tempting to buy that extraordinary red or lime green lacquered cabinetry you see in the showroom, but it’s expensive and you’re going to become very bored of it. I prefer to do a kitchen in neutrals then add color to the walls, or line the shelves and counters with colorful mugs and jars. These smaller details can make a powerful statement, and they can be changed out when it’s time to move on to another color.
CULTIVATE: What cabinetry and countertop trends are you loving right now?
MARTYN: I adore the Aran Cucine line of cabinetry; the details are gorgeous. I have it in my own kitchen. If you don’t mind blowing your whole wallet, the La Cornue line of cabinets is to die for. And I can’t forget to include Christopher Peacock’s custom cabinetry and hardware. I love their products.
As far as countertops go, I’m a big fan of using Carrara marble. People are often afraid of it because they fear it will stain, but with a honed finish, you can lightly sand a surface blemish out and make sure you seal it once a year.
Martyn's own kitchen. Photo: Courtesy of Martyn Lawrence Bullard
CULTIVATE: Tell us about your own kitchen.
MARTYN: I live in a 1920s villa that I’ve restored to its original era with that Old Hollywood vibe. My kitchen is white with black detailing and vintage tiles. It’s got Carrara countertops and a backsplash that makes the kitchen look fresh. My Waterworks farmhouse sink fits right to the period, as does my restored O’Keefe & Merritt stove that works like a dream. I’m crazy about my Fisher & Paykel dishwasher drawers and, of course, my Vitamix. My breakfast nook is painted in black and white, with great black-and-white photography to match. One of my favorites is a photo of Bette Davis shot by Greg Gorman in her apartment, which is just down the street from me.