As a 12-year-old, Martyn Lawrence Bullard used his pocket money to collect decorative trinkets from local flea markets and junk shops in London. Every Saturday, he would display these “treasures”—cups, saucers and silver spoons—on a lace tablecloth in a stall at the antiques market and wait for American tourists to buy them. “All of that hustling and scrambling around with a torch to find pretty things—that was my education,” Bullard tells host Dennis Scully on the latest episode of The Business of Home Podcast. “That is what has given me the knowledge today of how to put two things together and make them really beautiful.”
Bullard used the money he made selling antiques to put himself through drama school, eventually moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting. Shortly after being cast in a movie, he was asked to decorate the producer’s new office. His work caught the attention of supermodel Cheryl Tiegs, who ended up taking a chance by hiring Bullard to decorate her home in Bel Air. “Nine months later, we had the cover of six different magazines around the world, and my career was born,” says Bullard. Thirty years later, he has built an impressive, star-studded portfolio, working with celebrity clients including Elton John, Machine Gun Kelly, Kourtney Kardashian, Cher and Sylvester Stallone.
For Bullard, having the confidence to follow his heart when working with rock stars and red-carpet regulars was crucial to his business success. “I really believe that intuition helps enormously with things,” he says. “If you believe in yourself, other people are going to believe in you, and when people believe in you, they’re going to pay you.” Bullard also notes the importance of not selling yourself short as an interior designer, especially when it comes to charging, because “it’s not just about adding fabric and flowers to a room—it is about changing the way people live; it’s about bringing so much joy to people, and you can’t put a price on that.”
Something that Bullard has put a price on is licensing products, which he has with companies ranging from Christofle to The Shade Store. Two decades ago, the designer mapped out his licensing game plan with his business manager on a napkin at a cafe in West Hollywood—creating a “pyramid strategy” of starting at the top, collaborating with couture design houses first (French crystal house Daum, porcelain producer Haviland) before broadening his scope to include to-the-trade brands like Schumacher, The Rug Company and Ann Sacks.
Most recently, Bullard expanded into making products for the everyday consumer with companies like San Diego–based luxury wood flooring manufacturer Duchateau. “I’m still not at the bottom of my pyramid, and there are still things I can do that are more mass-market,” says Bullard. “There are amazing stores like CB2 and Williams-Sonoma offering incredible designs at really great prices, so maybe that’s the next genre, but … my dance card is full right now.”
Elsewhere on the podcast, Bullard discusses his love for the fresh energy of a new hire, the ins and outs of working on celebrity projects, and why he’s a fan of online consultation platform The Expert.
Homepage image: Martyn Lawrence Bullard | Courtesy of Martyn Lawrence Bullard