“There should not be anything in your house that you can’t use, drink from, sit on, or eat out of.” -Martyn
The world famous designer Martyn Lawrence-Bullard derives inspiration from travel, is dedicated to the pursuit of the finer things, and has a passion for bringing beauty and serenity into the lives of the rich and the famous. It is only fitting, then, that he would have a Hollywood home with such a vibrant history.
With trademark glamour and a flair for the exotic, Martyn’s clientele includes Kendall Jenner, Khloe Kardashian, Kourtney Kardashian, Tommy Hilfiger, to name a few. The designer has also worked with several premier hospitality properties such as the iconic Colony Palms Hotel in Palms Spring, the Chateau Gütsch in Lucerne, Switzerland, and is currently overseeing hotel designs in Santa Barbara, Istanbul and Miami Beach.
For his home, though, he chooses something a bit more old Hollywood. Originally built in 1924 for a German silent movie director, the house’s first inhabitant was actually the illustrious Rudolph Valentino. Following Valentino’s stay at this Whitley Heights oasis, Gloria Swanson made it her home twice—once in the early 1930s, and then again when she was filming Sunset Boulevard.
Subsequent to Swanson, William Faulkner, playwright extraordinaire and writer, lived in the house, utilizing it as a writing pavilion. It was on Martyn’s balcony that Faulkner wrote the award-winning screenplay for the film All About Eve.
Martyn, an artist in his own right, as well as a former model and classically trained actor, understood the drama, romance and mystique that this jewel of a property held. He came to find “Villa Swanson” while working with world-renowned photographer Tim Street-Porter, who at the time was shooting his work at the Pepsi-Cola Ranch for Architectural Digest.
The home felt “enchanted,” tucked neatly away in a cul-de-sac in Whitley Heights, and possessed an aura of old Hollywood romance that struck a chord with the designer. He purchased the home in 2003, but it became clear that the home would need a complete restoration.
He started by replacing the damaged wood floors with exquisite reclaimed antique wood from an old barn in Idaho. Antique French limestone and terracotta were chosen for the magnificent lush patios’ floors, and in a surprising turn of events, an original 19th century tile was uncovered in the kitchen. The four tiered gardens, hidden nooks, and seamless indoor-outdoor space consistently served as an idyllic backdrop for wildly fantastic themed soirees, as well as intimate gatherings with celebrities such as Cher, Elton John, Ozzie Osbourne, Christian Louboutin, Tamara Mellon, and Christina Aguilera—to name a few!
For the interiors, Martyn felt strongly about allowing the architectural style of the house to act as his guide. Every inch of the space is covered in exotic luxurious objects, although the emphasis of the décor is on 18th century Spanish, Portugese and Italian furniture. The designer meticulously selected each and every item, purchasing pieces from auction houses all over the United States, as well as in Europe. However, the color red serves as a unifying element in the space, and was important to keeping an authentic Spanish-Mediterranean flavor, along with the array of colorful fabric from his personal line.
Tobacco-hued carved woods, sexy vibrant fabrics, and shimmering details of crystal and silver all work in harmony to deliver an enigmatic grounded sensuality that is the hallmark of Martyn’s work. It’s an unusual concept to some, but everyone ought to adopt his philosophy of living: “There should not be anything in your house that you can’t use, drink from, sit on, or eat out of.”
It’s sound advice, and in the case of this residence, Martyn steps back to let the house’s history and heritage shine through. There certainly is a fair amount of glamour here, but it’s welcoming and restrained—as if it takes a quiet satisfaction in knowing its luxury can only be seen with an appreciative eye.