Dining by Design with Martyn Lawrence Bullard

Pull up a chair and dine with us, while we enjoy the company of Martyn Lawrence-Bullard. You know and remember, Martyn, right? He’s pretty unforgettable – one of the Million Dollar Decorators from the Bravo series – who happens to be quite the looker too! He was blessed with Hollywood-style glamour, in the league of Cary Grant, Marlon Brando and current-day eye catchers, Antonio Banderas, Enrique Iglesias and Colin Farrell. See what I mean? 

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It is only fitting that he run in the same circles too, right? Not! It isn’t luck or good looks that got Martyn to where he is today. Luck is often confused with opportunity. Martyn Lawrence Bullard was present for opportunities, some call that luck. Hard work and talent, not luck, is what is required to turn that into success.
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Recognized as one of Architectural Digest’s top 100 designers in the world, it is Martyn’s cup-runneth-over design talent and sincerity which has positioned him as a sought-after designer to some of the hottest celebrities we know today. As he told the gals over at The Skirted Roundtable,
"Cheryl Tiegs told me, 'I just clicked with you. I don’t know what it is but I felt I could trust you and together we could create something amazing' and that is something that I’ve taken with me for my entire career as the way forward."
It worked. He's been working with Cheryl for his entire career and has only added to his impressive roster since. In fact, he designed the home for one of my would-love-the-chance-to-dine-with mentions, Cher, along with Elton John, Tamara Mellon and a celebrity-client list that goes beyond impressive to a mouth-dropping WOW!  

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I was tickled pink when Martyn responded that he would love to be a part of my Dining by Design series, given his schedule. His work does not end with his celebrity client list. He is preparing for the 2nd season the Million Dollar Decorators, designing two fabric lines - his own collection and another collection for Schumacher - a furniture division and working on licensing partnerships that we are not even privy to yet!

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This man has a lot on his plate - no pun intended! How he finds time to sleep is beyond me, so agreeing to be here with us today is a huge honor. He is every bit as gracious as he is successful! I know you are going to enjoy this personal peek.

Can you share with us one of the most memorable dinner affairs you’ve been to? 
I’ve been lucky to attend so many wonderful events and dinners, but surely dinners on the terrace at Elton John and David Furnish’s south of France villa have to be amongst my most favorite. Each meal is served with different china, glassware, and table scape- a visual treat, as much as a culinary one.

Martyn also cherish's his friendship and time spent with client-turned-friend [which seems to be the way it always works with Martyn], Ellen Pompeo, and has graciously shared a favorite summer recipe of his, he got from Ellen after enjoying it during dinner at her home.
What was dinner like for you at home while growing up?
Dinner was always a family affair and we were always seated together to share and enjoy the end of day conversation. Sunday lunch was always my favorite and a weekly treat. My parents loved to entertain and always did so with vigor and pride, setting beautiful tables and always serving fresh home-style fair.

Do you prefer to be the guest or the host?
I love the role of both, guest and host. As far as cooking, I prefer to be cooked for! I love to entertain. I am sadly not a good chef, but love to experiment. I do, however, adore setting tables and making dinner scapes.

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 Weekly, I host a dinner of some sort, from pizza and movie night to a chic set dinner with all the trimmings. Comfort food is the fastest track to my heart so it’s my favorite to serve. I love fried chicken especially and of course, a traditional Sunday Roast Lunch. Yum!

What makes a great dinner party?
A combination of good food and good conversation is always the best recipe for a memorable dining experience. Fun loving guests with passion for life and all topics fresh and modern. No politics please! …And let’s not forget the wine! 

An eclectic mix of guests, with at least one new blood, makes for a great party. I adore small intimate dinners of 6 to 8 over larger affairs. That way you get to talk to all the guests and intermix fully. Laughter is what I hope for. Humor is everything and more delicious than any entrée.” Yes we eat for nourishment, but dining should also be an experience. Dining should be a complete pleasure. It’s the most intimate ritual that creates happiness and contentment.

Do you prefer formal and tie-required or barefoot-in-the-backyard?
I love both, depends on the venue, season and theme. I do adore a good dress up dinner though, especially themed dinners like Murder Night or Halloween.

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No surprise, given his love of fashion! Dressing up provides the opportunity to go all out!! Did you know that Martyn co-owned a clothing store at the young age of 17? Yes, he and his sister opened a store, Temptation, which he decorated to the nines. In Martyn’s words, “our store sadly didn’t last that long but my passion for fashion hasn’t faded and my passion for interiors has actually turned out to shape my life and career”. That is for sure!

When you arrive at a dinner party, what is the first thing that you take note of?
The effort of the host to make everything a beautiful feast for the eye and the lighting, which is essential to create a mood. I believe that flowers and candles are vital, but don’t follow any rules.
 
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I have many collections and love to use them on the table as decorative objects, from beads to sculptures to sea shells and coral. You should be adventurous and let your imagination guide your table theme. I love to mix table settings. I believe the table scape should show personality and honor your guests with the effort put into their creation.
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What do you consider the 3 “must-haves” a good host(ess) should never forget?
Never forget candles, plenty of wine, and always, a sense of humor. He has said that everyone should, “make sure to take time out of everyday to laugh. Laughter cures all.” It is clear from watching Million Dollar Decorator and from seeing images like the one below, that Martyn is someone who truly lives this philosophy.
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Some quick tips for creating a memorable dining experience?
  • There should be at least three courses to the meal; four if you want to add a palette cleanser. More than that is overkill.
  • Friends are always the vital ingredient to a successful party. The palate, the place…vital too, of course, but secondary to the people you invite.
  • Music always, but carefully selected. It should never be too loud or too fast. Ambient, sexy and mood enhancing: Billy holiday, Marvin Gaye, Robyn Thicke, Adele.
  • Flowers [or centerpiece] are a must. Only one color per container and what’s fresh and in season always looks the best.
  • Dessert? Always! From fresh berries with sorbet to molten chocolate cake and crème anglaise!
What wine, beverage, or cocktail do you recommend?
Sassicaia is my favorite red or a rich Barolo and for white, I like a simple, soft Pinot Grigio. I love crisp white wines, especially Pinot Grigio and Sancerre. Always Pellegrino served at my table as a palette cleanser. Veuve Cliquot is my favorite everyday champagne choice, Ruinart Rose for special occasions. Before dinner, a good dry martini always wets the appetite, and Pimm’s Cup #1 with cucumber and lemon slices in the summer is delicious.

And after dinner, Chateau D’Yquem is my ultimate dessert! Forget the pudding!


So, who do you - [readers] - think Martyn would like to share a seat at the table with?
Given Martyn’s earlier comments about "mix of guests and laughter" as being essential to an enjoyable dining experience, I can see some reasons for the eclectic trio he responded with: David Hicks, Oscar Wilde, and Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor[all deceased]: 

I’m not surprised at all with David Hicks being on that list. Hicks, who passed away in the late 90’s produced some of the most respected work in Interior Design in our generation and continues to inspire many designers today. His work was noted for bold use of color, talent of mixing antiques and modern pieces, favoring tailored lines and contemporary elements. Sound familiar? I can see some sharing of philosophy between Martyn and Hicks. He also has a design, fashion and theatre background, so I see similarities there, as well.

David Hicks, A Life of Design
Oscar Wilde is well-known for his writings and traveled the globe presenting a lecture series on aesthetics. More than that though, he most definitely would provide much humor to this dining trio. You probably recognize some of his quotes, even if not knowing where they hailed from. One of my favorites:
“Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.”
So how does all this translate to planning the perfect dining area?
Let me sum it up! From viewing Martyn Lawrence-Bullard’s designs and hearing his thoughts on the dining experience, we can easily extrapolate the critical design considerations that can be applied to every home and any budget:

Consideration #1: Deep benches, upholstered seating or cushions.  Create a space people want to laugh and linger in! Remember those times you were stuck at a dining table, inside your head you were screaming, beads of sweat running down your forehead,out of pure frustration and discomfort? I do! Think comfort!

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Consideration #2: Don’t fill the room with so much furniture that guests feel restricted. You want the space for a little liveliness, if you have the space to afford it. Box people in and their personality is contained too. Yes, that can be a real party killer! Select seating and tables that can be adjusted for the size of the group.

Give people room to easily get up and move around so the thought bubble above their head is not screaming, "when can I get out of here?" Think space!

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Consideration #3: Be playful, express your personality and go with a scheme that will work for the types of gatherings you plan to host. If you entertain often and enjoy thematic events, a more subtle scheme will allow for those changesThink about how you want the space to feel and use that to guide your decisions. Think color & pattern

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Consideration #4: Remember, the dining area is the space for coming together. Aside from eating, it's an intimate space for conversing, laughing and sharing. Music is essential, but should not be obtrusive, so plan to have it piped in or hidden-away so that the music fills the space without detracting from it. Think music!

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Consideration #5. Consider the option of elegance but design the room to offer a style that can be dressed up when needed, but offers a casualness that you won't be afraid to utilize everyday. Think flexible elegance!

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Consideration #6: For any design to be influenced by Martyn Lawrence Bullard, "mixing it up" is a definite must! Notice how Martyn mixes patterns, woods, styles and textures in all of these spaces. Experiment and bring in pieces that truly have meaning to you, catch your eye or make your heart sing, combined with the purely functional aspect of what the room needs. This is what makes a space interesting. Think fearless!

Want more of Martyn Lawrence-Bullard in your home?
Pick up a copy of his book, Live, Love, Decorate and look for his table top collection that will hit the stores soon. You may not have Elton John or Cher sitting at your dinner table, but you can certainly apply Martyn’s style to dress it for the celebrities in your life so go ahead, Live, Love and Decorate !

Bon Appetit ~ Sarah
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