DESIGN & ARCHITECTURE
Actress Ellen Pompeo and interior designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard combined their skills to create Pompeo’s globally influenced, sublimely chill home.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY: TIM STREET-PORTER
As a leading actress and a celebrity-endorsed interior designer, Ellen Pompeo and Martyn Lawrence Bullard met at a stereotypical starry set-up – the front row of a Paris fashion show. Best known for her role as Meredith Grey in the medical drama Grey’s Anatomy, Pompeo was there with her husband, music producer Chris Ivery, at the same time as Lawrence Bullard. “I was meant to be at Christian Dior with Cher, but she was late and had to sit on a folding chair at the back, while I ended up next to Ellen on the front row,” he laughs. “I later discovered she was a neighbor of mine back in LA, so I invited her to a dinner party I was throwing, and she asked if I could help with her new house.”
Pompeo had fallen for Lawrence Bullard’s laid-back yet glamorous style. The British designer moved to LA over 20 years ago as a would-be actor determined to live the Hollywood dream. The dream was quickly shattered, but one fortuitous film role – as Eartha Kitt’s toy-boy – led to his first job as a decorator. “The producer and his wife came back to my tiny pad one day and loved it so much they asked me to decorate their offices. I thought it might lead to another acting role, but before I knew it, a second decorating job came my way, and the next thing I knew, I was working with one of the very first supermodels, Cheryl Tiegs. Within months, the house I decorated for her was featured in six different magazines!”
Lawrence Bullard’s easy English charm, as well as his talent, has served him well in La-La Land. His stable of celebrity clients is mouthwateringly A-list: from the Osbournes and Tamara Mellon to William H Macy and Sir Elton John, he’s as big a fan of them as they are of him. “The thing I love about celebrities is that they are not afraid to be bold and individual – to live out their decorative fantasies,” he says. “These people are creatives themselves, and working with them allows me to feed off that creativity and become the best that I can with each collaboration.”
Pompeo’s house had to be completely redone. It was a classic 1920s Spanish colonial revival hacienda, one of the first of its kind, built as part of the sophisticated and arty commune living in the Hollywood Hills. “An LA version of the Chelsea set lived here then because it was close to the film studios, and it had this super cool vibe,” explains Lawrence Bullard. “It’s remained a hip place for artists and moviemakers to live in today.”
While sympathetic to the house’s Mediterranean roots, neither Lawrence Bullard nor Pompeo has allowed them to dictate its interior style. Architecturally, the layout was already perfect, but both felt it would benefit from a laid-back, globally influenced, family-friendly makeover, albeit one that oozed an effortless sense of style and luxury. “Ellen’s a very easy, relaxed person who likes her home to be easy and relaxed as well,” says Lawrence Bullard. “There’s none of that star-diva craziness. She showed me cuttings she’d collected from French interiors magazines like Côté Sud as a starting point. She loves the whole bleached wood, natural linens, and earthy tones look.” Lawrence Bullard favors the more exotic flavors of Istanbul, Marrakesh, and Tangiers, so a melange of different styles evolved between them.
On the ground floor, a living room, family room, dining room, and kitchen are where Pompeo and family spend most of their time, hanging out together and with friends. The living room is exceptional, with its 6.5m-high ceiling and vast windows, one of which frames the iconic Hollywood sign, nestled into the hills beyond. “I used some very simple unlined drapes in an ivory fabric for these windows. When you’ve got an incredible view like that, why hide it?” says Lawrence Bullard. “Plus, I’m a great advocate of natural light. We’ve got plenty of sunshine here in California, so let it in!” Custom-made Moroccan mirrored panels, 1920s Spanish wall lights, and Edwardian tub chairs grace one end of the space, while 18th-century Italian chairs, an Afghan rug, and a beaten metal Parisian tray table populate the other. Some pieces, such as the set of four mirrors above the fireplace, are Lawrence Bullard’s own designs.
The casual family room features a low-slung sofa, re-covered in natural linen and scattered with a riot of Ikat fabric cushions. Beyond this is the dining room with its rustic Italian farmhouse table and simple bench seating illuminated by a trio of Moroccan metal pendants. Initially designed for Cher’s house, an extravagant stud-framed mirror has also found a home here, propped casually against a wall.
Pompeo made it clear that she wanted a proper cook’s kitchen to indulge her passion for Italian cooking. The result is a soft/ industrial space with a rough-luxe decorating aesthetic. “We’ve gone for lots of modern steel, roughened up by reclaimed 19th-century French terracotta floor tiles and open-flow cabinets in walnut so that you can see and access the piles of plates, dishes, pots, and pans,” explains Lawrence Bullard. “One of my tricks is to incorporate artwork into a kitchen. The big story here is a photograph of a train station in India that apparently inspired the final scene in Slumdog Millionaire. A major piece of art – in a kitchen. I love that.”
On the upper floor, there are four bedrooms and bathrooms. The master bedroom has been kitted out in midcentury furniture and embellished with glamorous adornments, including a tapestry wall hanging from Egypt, which, at a bit over 8-feet-tall, acts as an extended headboard behind the bed. Vintage lacquered side tables, antique brass lamps, local designer pieces, and others from places much further flung cleverly bring the look together. “This one-room references everything else in the house,” says Lawrence Bullard. “It celebrates the architectural spirit of the place and its ethnic sensibility. I stayed true to what I really like with this project, and this is the result. Thankfully, Ellen likes it too.”