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How to Integrate Brazilian Midcentury Modern into Your Home, According to Star Designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard

The California designer to the stars says it's all about scale.

Martyn Lawrence Bullard Joe Seer/Shutterstock

Interior designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard, whose work includes hotel, restaurant and residential projects, shares how to mix earthy, organic Brazilian midcentury modern (BMCM) into your current ecosystem.

How have people taken to the integration of BMCM?

I’ve introduced clients to Brazilian makers for my last three jobs, and they’re all obsessed with them. We’re working on a beach house in Hawaii right now, and because we put a Sergio Rodrigues piece in two of [his] other homes, [this client] now wants to add that as a sculptural moment in his Maui residence. Once people understand it, they really get hooked.

What makes these pieces so desirable?

It’s something your neighbor can’t copy. I sometimes take my clients with me shopping for them—we’ve been to Paris and London—and it’s a treasure hunt to find that crown jewel for your living room or kitchen. That journey connects people to a piece. It creates an individual home with real personality.

Furniture by Sergio Rodrigues Atelier

Pieces by Sergio Rodrigues Atelier  Courtesy of Sergio Rodrigues Atelier

Who are some of your favorite designers?

Sergio Rodrigues and Jorge Zalszupin, both Brazilian, are two. I love their use of exotic woods. Not only are the pieces architectural but they’re very comfortable as well.

How do you tend to work with these pieces?

I always want to have some highlight pieces that anchor a space. I hate anything that’s too sparkly or new; by adding something that has a bit of vintage flavor, you give a space more integrity, more depth.

What are a few of your go-to shops for this kind of work?

1stdibs and Chairish are two. Dering Hall is a good one, because it not only shows vintage, but also reproductions. Even eBay. It may seem too obvious or too within reach, but a lot of dealers from the Midwest post on eBay who don’t necessarily have the reach or means of those in LA or New York to sell what they’ve got.

What are some common mistakes people make when staging this kind of furniture?

Scale. A lot of midcentury furniture is lower in the seat, so if you’ve bought yourself a big RH sofa and you decide to juxtapose it with a pair of ’50s club chairs, it’s going to look off.

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