Bravo's 'Million Dollar Decorator' dishes out inspiration, advice

Lawrence-Bullard is star of Bravo series and designer to the stars

  • Designer and TV host Martyn Lawrence-Bullard appears on Bravo's 'Million Dollar Decorators.'
Designer and TV host Martyn Lawrence-Bullard appears on Bravo's… (Handout, Baltimore Sun )
February 16, 2012|By Susan Reimer, The Baltimore Sun

Martyn Lawrence-Bullard left his home in England for Los Angeles 20 years ago, determined to be a movie star.

The acting thing didn't exactly work out. But in one of those delightful turnabouts in life, he is now the interior designer to the stars. Ed Norton, the Osbournes, Cher and Kid Rock top an eclectic list of clients.

Lawrence-Bullard has made the Architectural Digest and Elle Decor lists of top designers. He is a principal on Bravo TV's "Million Dollar Decorators." He has a new book, "Live, Love & Decorate," with a foreword by client Elton John. And he has just produced his first line of decorator fabrics.

Not bad for a kid whose only movie credit is a bit part in a film written by Ed Wood and produced two decades after his death — as Eartha Kitt's love interest. He stumbled into interior design when the movie's producer liked what he'd done with his West Hollywood house, which he had decorated with flea market finds.

Lawrence-Bullard will take a break from preparations for the second season of "Million Dollar Decorators" to appear Tuesday at the Washington Design Center, where he will speak to members of the trade about the launch of his new fabric collection.

We asked the designer who helped Cher realize her fantasy of rooms decorated to fit the first wife of a maharajah to talk about his inspiration, how he splurges and whether you really need a million dollars to have a beautiful home.

You came to the United States to be an actor and instead became a world-famous designer. Did you see that coming?

I really didn't expect to become this famous designer. Interior design has been in my genes all my life, but I just didn't realize I could manifest it into a career — certainly without training. It has been not only a surprise to me, but it's the absolute joy of my life. To be able to be creative every day of my life — and get paid for it — is my ultimate dream come true.

You are poised for a second season of "Million Dollar Decorators" on Bravo. What did you learn in the first season that might influence the way the team approaches this season?

Season One taught me not only the power of television, but it has shown me the true passion the world has for interior design, and how wonderful and supportive all the fans have been. What I want to show in Season Two is more of the process. I want to let the fans into my life a bit more and open up the understanding that this business is a hardworking, high-stress job that is not all glamorous.

The "drama" on the show might scare away homeowners who are thinking of taking on a major redecorating project. Is this kind of work always that fraught?

When you're dealing with a client's home, it's a very personal space to be in. And when you're spending their hard-earned money, that's even more of a touchy situation. The show has portrayed some of this, but truly, there is nothing more rewarding than creating a special, individual space for a client: a place for them to call their own and be proud of. This is my goal, and hopefully the show lets people see the joy that's at the end of the process. After all, Rome wasn't built in a day.

Does anyone really need a million dollars to decorate a house? What would I get for say, $10,000, versus $1 million?

You don't need a million dollars these days. You can find amazing things that are very reasonable from stores such as Restoration Hardware, which copies and reproduces amazing European antiques and decorative items at very competitive prices. Also Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, and West Elm are amazing with their decorative trends at a fraction of designer prices. The main difference is, with a large budget you can incorporate great works of art and, of course, totally customize the interior by making one of the pieces scaled especially for the space and scheme. With a good sense of personal style, however, you can achieve a fine, fun and individual space for yourself on a very small budget.

The focus of the show is, of course, on the design work your group does for celebrities. Are they easier or more difficult than "regular" clients?

Celebrities live their lives in the spotlight. As such, it's vital for their homes to be sanctuaries — places for complete relaxation and privacy. My one great joy with my celebrity clients over the years has been their passion to live out their fantasies, be it an Indian palace in Hollywood, a Tuscan villa in Malibu or an English country cottage in New York City. I'm here to be their enabler and make these fantasies into decorative reality.

If I wanted to give my house the "celebrity" treatment, what decorating items are must-haves?

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