Two of Hearts


Editor-in-Chief Lindsey Shook discusses two new books with design icons, accomplished authors and dear friends Kathryn M. Ireland and Martyn Lawrence Bullard

Kathryn M. Ireland at home (photo by Sue Hudelson)

I could have sat for hours listening to many astonishing stories from both Kathryn M. Ireland and Martyn Lawrence Bullard—tales of the careers that brought them to design, including Kathryn’s fascinating time producing music videos or Martyn’s surreal experiences working with iconic celebrity clients like Cher and Elton John. Beyond their legendary lives, what makes these two even more special is their lasting friendship and love for one another. Most recently they both debuted new books—A Life in Design by Kathryn M. Ireland and Star Style by Martyn Lawrence Bullard—which chronicle their respective design styles and breadth of work. Here, I speak with the pair about the books, their friendship and more.

You are both already accomplished authors. So I must know the truth: Have you read each other’s books cover to cover?
Martyn: Well, I can’t say I’ve read Kathryn’s books cover to cover, as she has so many of them, but I have certainly looked at all the pictures and had the great pleasure of seeing many of those interiors in person. In fact, being the best friends we are, I’ve heard all the stories firsthand, so really I didn’t need to read them!

Kathryn: Martyn’s books are visual literature. That old saying “a picture tells a thousand words” couldn’t be truer here. There is so much to take in, so my eyes have “read” his book cover to cover. Pictorially, that is, our tastes are complementary but have a different point of view.

“A Life in Design” by Kathryn M. Ireland (cover image by Trevor Tondro), now available at

-Why do you think this book is the best reflection of your work?
Martyn: My latest book, Star Style, is all about that. It’s a celebration of the amazing people I’ve been very privileged to work for and with over the years and especially shows the many different styles I’m able to work in. For me, it’s all about creating an interior that is a mirror image of my client’s personality. It’s about being able to make their decorative fantasies come true, whether it is an Irish castle or a surf shack in Maui. My work is not about a formula or a certain style. It is purely created and customized to reflect both the clients’ personality and how they want to live. We are all individuals, and my book shows that no two interiors are ever the same.

Kathryn: A Life in Design is a culmination of my 30 years of decorating—the journey I’ve gone on, the houses I’ve owned and the houses that I’ve saved for this retrospective that have never been seen before. These books are such labors of love that it’s hard to decide what to include. From my reader’s point of view, it was important to show new work and things that I think are inspirational. This is my seventh book, and all of them have different stories to them. A Life in Design is a retrospective and it shows my work before being a textile designer, it shows my love of colors, the layered look I’m best known for, and mixing global design, which is an important part of my work—focusing on artisans’ work and respecting the history of a place.

Martyn Lawrence Bullard standing in the doorway of his own home (photo by Douglas Friedman)

-Many designers want to know: what is the biggest challenge you face when producing and marketing a book?
Martyn: I believe a book is the very best business card a designer can have. With that being said, it’s vitally important to display your work and design ethos in a way that is the most complimentary to you and your style or that of your clients. Hire the best photographers and stylists you can to make sure your work sparkles. Choose the publishing house that speaks to you, that has the kind of books and quality you love. The print quality is very important to the final product, so make sure you are hands- on at every stage of this process. Be sure to always be your own best promoter. Don’t just let the publisher handle that; take hold of the power of the press and make sure you use it to its fullest extent. Your book is a mirror of you and celebrates your career. Make sure that the celebration is not only fun but a personal triumph.

Kathryn: Books are a wonderful and important tool for self-promotion. They require a lot of work, especially when putting together a retrospective. Telling the story of a house, as I’ve done in Creating a Home and Summers in France, has beginnings, middles and ends. In this book, I wanted to show the broad range of my work, from clients’ primary residences to summer guest houses. Staying focused is the hardest part of compiling a book when there is so much to choose from.

“Star Style” by Martyn Lawrence Bullard, now available at

-Your respective book themes are very different. Martyn, your book gives a collective look at your iconic work with some of the world’s most celebrated figures and Kathryn, your book celebrates your history in this business and your impressive body of work. How do you think each other’s books will inspire other designers?

Martyn: I am always inspired by Kathryn and her work. She is so natural with the way she creates. Her interiors are immediately welcoming, feeling like a home from the get-go. She’s a master of making it look effortless and creating interiors you gravitate toward. I believe the viewer will be thrilled to see her cozy, chic and distinctive interiors in the pages of this new tome. I also love that the book covers the 30 years of her sparkling career with the highlights of many ravishing interiors.

Kathryn: From both our books, there is so much to pull from. Martyn’s is chock-full of ideas on a large scale, and I feel my work focuses on pops of color, whereas Martyn is the master of design. We both share a love of travel, and our ideas that come from these journeys have been reimagined on these pages to make all our projects exciting and new.

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