Interview: Martin Brudnizki turns attention to the Middle East

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Drawing on his experience of designing some of the most refined and elegant restaurants worldwide, from Soho Beach House in Miami to Le Caprice in New York and Scott’s in Mayfair, London-based designer Martin Brudnizki is now turning his attention to projects across the Middle East.

Sexy Fish at Berkeley Square House features  the largest collection of Frank Gehry’s iconic Fish Lamps.

Sexy Fish at Berkeley Square House features the largest collection of Frank Gehry’s iconic Fish Lamps.

Born in Stockholm, Brudnizki moved to London in 1990 to study Interior Architecture and Design at The American University. After working for a number of renowned architects and designers, he established Martin Brudnizki Design Studio in London in 2000 before opening a New York Studio in 2012.

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He has been described as ‘one of the best restaurant and hotel designers of his generation’ by Wallpaper* and is regularly listed within both the London Evening Standard’s 1,000 Most Influential People in the UK and House & Garden’s Top 100 Leading Interior Designers. Alongside interiors, Brudnizki has designed bespoke product collections, with recent collaborations including work with The Urban Electric Company and The Lacquer Company.

Martin Brudnizki puts his stamp on the Soho Beach House Miami, a former Sovereign Hotel, including the refurbishment and redesign of 48 bedrooms, a spa, a Cecconi’s restaurant, gym and pools.

Martin Brudnizki puts his stamp on the Soho Beach House Miami, a former Sovereign Hotel, including the refurbishment and redesign of 48 bedrooms, a spa, a Cecconi’s restaurant, gym and pools.

DESIGNING IN THE MIDDLE EAST

From The Ivy in Dubai to Rocco Forte hotel in Jeddah, Brudnizki has an impressive current regional portfolio.

“The Middle East has some wonderful architecture, especially modernist, which seems perfectly suited to the climate,” he says. “Pierre El Khoury created some wonderful buildings in Lebanon, as did Karl Schayer. I’m very much inspired by Middle Eastern design history and often use vibrant colours, Arabic patterns and luxurious materials from the region.”

The client’s brief for Rocco Forte hotel in Jeddah, which will open soon, was to create a building that was both classical and comfortable as well as modern and fresh.

“The design is very crisp but with a fun edge; as the clean lines, clear walls and stone floors are punctuated with traditional patterns in the architecture and furniture and colourful materials,” he says.

Inspired by Cuba and South American influences, Brudnizki combines dark timber elements and rich textures in warm colours.

Inspired by Cuba and South American influences, Brudnizki combines dark timber elements and rich textures in warm colours.

“We’ve tried to combine the cool feeling you need in a Middle Eastern interior with the warmth of European design. For example, the high ceilings and doors carry through the public areas into the rooms and suites, however these palatial proportions feel intimate. The grey-stained oak joinery and panelling, the use of blackened steel metalwork on the furniture and bespoke hand-woven rugs laid on top of the limestone floors all create a warm residential feel.”

His studio also designed Le Gray Hotel in Amman, Jordan, which features a private art collection, handpicked by international hotelier Gordon Campbell Gray from various places he has visited around the world.

“I’ve known Gordon for a number of years and always admired his hotels and how he approaches hospitality,” he says. “I’m delighted we’ve been able to work together on the Le Gray Hotel and Residences in Amman. The design will be unique to the city. We’ve taken traditional Arabic motifs and abstracted them to subtly blend into the design without being overly Middle Eastern. Combined with a colourful palette and rich materiality, it creates a very classical and elegant design.”

For the 45 Jermyn St. restaurant, Brudnizki opted for the traditional oak parquet flooring, rosewood tables, neutral swathed curtains and low ceilings.

For the 45 Jermyn St. restaurant, Brudnizki opted for the traditional oak parquet flooring, rosewood tables, neutral swathed curtains and low ceilings.

The Ivy in Dubai, designed by Brudnizki, was opened last year and it has been a great success.

“The Ivy is distinctly British and so when designing The Ivy in Dubai we were very aware of retaining the charm and elegance of the original. The iconic harlequin stained glass windows were installed and we used a similar timber for the panelling and green for the seating. We then installed a few subtle Arabic accents, such as the traditional Middle Eastern lanterns and the colourful cushions which you don’t find in the London restaurant.”

ON A GLOBAL SCALE

If design had not been an option, Brudnizki would be a historian.

“Sometimes you have to look back to look forward,” he says.

Martin Brudnizki.

Martin Brudnizki.

“My mother was a stylist and so our home was always beautifully accessorised. My father was an engineer and so I was always surrounded by architectural drawings. The combination of my mother’s aesthetics and father’s functionality laid the foundations for my interest in interior design.

Dark timber panelled walls complete with antique ‘smokey’ mirrors and low level dividing walls, elegantly divide the restaurant into intimate areas.

Dark timber panelled walls complete with antique ‘smokey’ mirrors and low level dividing walls, elegantly divide the restaurant into intimate areas.

“My advice for anyone thinking of becoming an interior designer would be to gather as much life experience as academic. Knowing how to do accurate drawings is important, but creativity comes from the world around us.”

Having worked on so many inspirational spaces, Brudnizki says it’s hard to choose his favourite.

“I’ve done so many incredible projects it’s hard to choose one,” he says. “Working with the Royal Academy of Arts on The Academicians’ Room was a privilege. Originally designed by Norman Shaw, the space used to be the old architectural hangings gallery and you can still see the nail marks from exhibitions of the past.”

Martin Brudnizki Design Studio has recently redesigned the iconic London restaurant, The Ivy. Known around the world, The Ivy has been synonymous with style and status for almost a century and the quintessential West End establishment’s new look encapsulates those much-loved features that made it famous. From the original stained-glass windows to the focus on the best of British art, those elements which were the essence of The Ivy’s past interior remain. Whilst bringing the restaurant into the 21st century, a central bar and elegant colour palette reinvigorate the space.

Retaining signature characteristics of the original Ivy restaurant in London, the Dubai outpost features timber panelling and green-coloured leather upholstery alongside the addition of glitz and shimmer via huge glass chandeliers.

Retaining signature characteristics of the original Ivy restaurant in London, the Dubai outpost features timber panelling and green-coloured leather upholstery alongside the addition of glitz and shimmer via huge glass chandeliers.

In keeping with The Ivy’s focus on home-grown artistic talent, the new design continues the tradition of installing commissions by a combination of renowned British artists including Tracey Emin, Peter Blake and Damien Hirst; as well as a range of pieces by emerging names from the country’s art scene.

From architecture and interiors to product design, Brudnizki has some exciting work underway.

“I’ve just completed the design for Sexy Fish, Caprice Holding’s new restaurant on Berkeley Square in London,” says Brudnizki. “The interior combines all the sophistication and style of a vintage brasserie with the motifs and patterns of the ocean — in the form of installations from Frank Gehry, Damien Hirst and Michael Roberts. It’s unique in terms of my work and I can’t think of many other places in London that are similar.”

Dark stained timber panelled walls complete with antique ‘smokey’ mirrors and low level dividing walls are a major feature of the interior, insuring intimate space while also allowing diners to look at across the overall space.

The ‘Other Objects’ pieces, launched in October, include a wall light, floor lamp, bookcase, chair and a tall boy.

The ‘Other Objects’ pieces, launched in October, include a wall light, floor lamp, bookcase, chair and a tall boy.

LASTING DESIGNS…

Rather than following trends, Brudnizki looks to the human experience and the telling of tales to create a lasting design.

“Personally, I don’t follow trends. When I design I want to create places that hone in on our emotions or tell a story. I want it to feel part of a heritage. A space should have an enduring quality to it; why design something that’s so current when it’ll just look dated within a year?

The ‘Other Objects’ pieces, launched in October, include a wall light, floor lamp, bookcase, chair and a tall boy.

The ‘Other Objects’ pieces, launched in October, include a wall light, floor lamp, bookcase, chair and a tall boy.

“My tastes are eclectic and so I’m a firm believer that nothing should match.”

Brudinzki is known for his sophisticated and modern interiors, but he also adopts a traditional philosophy.

“I’m very much a believer in the proverb ‘form follows function’ and so approach any hospitality project by looking at the floor plan first, ensuring it works for both guests and staff. The practically of the interior will then guide the aesthetics.”

…AND OBJECTS

Brudnizki has recently launched And Objects, a studio dedicated to his own range of furniture and interior customised products.

“It’s often the case when sourcing furniture that we’ll find a beautiful vintage piece, but it will be five inches too small or perhaps we’ll need six of them, so we end up designing bespoke pieces,” he says. “I’ve spent over 20 years doing just that, designing pieces for our interiors that people then often enquire about. It felt like a logical step to create a product design studio and so I joined forces with Nick Jeanes who used to run the FF&E team at my interior design studio to launch And Objects.”

The ‘Other Objects’ pieces, launched in October, include a wall light, floor lamp, bookcase, chair and a tall boy.

The ‘Other Objects’ pieces, launched in October, include a wall light, floor lamp, bookcase, chair and a tall boy.

The new venture launches alongside the ‘Martin Brudnizki for Drummonds Collection’. Here, Brudnizki’s contemporary take on traditional design melds with Drummonds’ classic, handmade luxury bathrooms. Four pieces of the bathroom collection are currently available, while the complete collection will be launched later this year.

“Drummonds is known for handcrafting very classical bathrooms and so I’m delighted to be able to work with the company and provide a slightly contemporary twist. The pieces really sum up the And Objects ethos in that they combine a beautiful object with a heightened sense of functionality.”

Joining the And Objects family is a lighting collection created with The Urban Electric Co. These pieces were inspired by Urban’s handcrafted approach and location on an old naval shipyard in Charleston, South Carolina, so the collection celebrates the beauty of industry.

The Tyburn bath uses modern composite marble casting to achieve its sweeping architectural curves and silky finish.

The Tyburn bath uses modern composite marble casting to achieve its sweeping architectural curves and silky finish.

“The Pendeen light, for instance, displays a very industrial look, but then surprises as the shade is inspired by the traditional drum pendant shades of classic English interiors.

“Alongside collaborations, we also have a collection of products designed independently entitled ‘Other Objects’. This range shares an approach in using quality materials alongside an artisanal production process. The Wherwell Wall Light, for example, is crafted from hand-blown twisted glass and suspended from a traditional brass mount.”

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