The first time Cheryl Tiegs and Martyn Lawrence-Bullard met, they sat on folding chairs inside the fixer-upper she’d just bought.
It came with sticky aluminum doors, small louvered windows and worries that she might have to raze it.
That was 14 years ago. They gutted the house, raised the roof and, in 14 months, turned a five-bedroom teardown into a fantasy home – “a beautiful Balinese paradise with British Colonial touches,” says Tiegs, 63.
The model’s home was one of Lawrence-Bullard’s first jobs as an interior designer and still ranks as one of his favorites. At 43, he travels the globe to work and shop, and to this day keeps Tiegs’ tropical tastes in mind.
Lawrence-Bullard talks about friends instead of clients. He has spent the last three Christmases with Cher, toasted every New Year since 2005 with Elton John and vacationed in Paris with Ellen Pompeo.
“I love to travel with clients because we get inspired together,” he says.
And they reciprocate. Tiegs threw Lawrence-Bullard’s 40th birthday party.
More people than just his clients are impressed. Earlier this month, Lawrence-Bullard received the Andrew Martin Interior Designer of the Year award, an Oscar-scale honor for a decorator.
In January, Architectural Digest magazine listed him as one of the world’s top 100 designers.
“I am an enabler,” he says. “What makes my job exciting is that I can help people live out their fantasies.”
At her Malibu home, Cher wanted Oriental and Orientalist. For her Los Angeles duplex, she wanted an Indian fantasy: a maharani palace with a slight harem feel to it.
“Cher has fantastic tastes and ideas,” Lawrence-Bullard says. “Her interiors are almost like stage sets and become a further extension of her personality. Her extraordinary dress sense in everyday life is very rock ’n’ roll sexy, she loves that leather and lace vibe.”
On stage, he adds, she incorporates all her fantasies, “from the gypsy look to the American Indian to her sleek, ’70s Halston-y vibe.”
Fantasy ideas accumulate over a lifetime, but some decorating decisions come quickly, Tiegs says.
She and Lawrence-Bullard were up in the attic when they decided it would take $2,500 and one day to scoop out all the ceilings at the fixer-upper in the toney Bel Air section of Los Angeles.
Now, the Great Room – “that’s capital G and capital R” – with its 35-foot ceilings is home to a picnic table from Bali that can seat two or 24, a pool table, a cozy spot by the fireplace to sit and read, television space and room to exercise.
“I was afraid it would become like a gymnasium,” Tiegs says. “But when I walked in I burst into tears, I was so happy. It was so beautiful. It was so warm and so inviting.”
She says she can see first-time visitors take a deep breath: “It has the calmest, sweetest, most serene vibe of any house I’ve been in.”
Lawrence-Bullard has freshened up Tiegs’ Great Room four times over the years with upholstery, pillows, plants and other accents.
The transition in her son’s room has been a bit more extreme. Zack Peck’s room started full of friendly stuffed animals when he was 4, took on lifelike tigers and cheetahs when he was 8, and became a rock star’s room when he was 14 and Lawrence-Bullard converted it to zebras, rock stars and music legends.
Lawrence-Bullard insists on a splash of red and something green or living in every room.
It also has to be clutter-free. Tiegs tends to leave books sitting around. After Lawrence-Bullard visits, she will find them all put away.
She has a little Balinese lamp at her front door.
“It’s very feng shui. That’s my red,” Tiegs says.
“I’m trying to green up my house as much as possible. I’ve put Cambria all over my kitchen, which is a natural quartz countertop, which is a green product. That was pretty major.”
Besides Tiegs, Cher, John and Pompeo, Lawrence-Bullard’s client list includes Eva Mendes, Kid Rock, Ozzie and Sharon Osbourne and Keenen Ivory Wayans. The decorator’s current workload includes projects in six countries.
He has his own fragrance, and candle, furniture, fabric and wallpaper lines; this year’s colors are saffron yellow, lilac and turquoise. And he has designed a series of rugs for The Rug Co.
He has turned down only one interior decorating job.
“I said no to gold-leafing the interior of somebody’s garage once,” he says. “I found that to be somewhat vulgar and not something I wanted my name attached to.”
A building’s history should guide its restoration and decoration, Lawrence-Bullard says.
His own home, which has a 1920s Italian vibe, was built by silent-movie star Rudolph Valentino. Over the years, it also was owned by actress Gloria Swanson and author William Faulkner.
Lawrence-Bullard took up flooring, restored antique fireplaces, turned a fountain that Valentino had installed into a marquee part of the house, and decorated the dining room around a chandelier that Swanson had put in.
Born in London, Lawrence-Bullard says he originally moved to Hollywood to become an actor. He had a brief modeling career and once was dressed as the debonair Valentino.
His fantasy job? Decorating the 28-room, Los Angeles castle that Johnny Depp bought after filming “Ed Wood.”
Or “any house for Lady Gaga,” he says.
“She is the ultimate amazing icon of this decade, for sure. As an artist, she is an extraordinary woman in whatever she does,” says Lawrence-Bullard, who met the singer at one of John’s parties.
“She was unbelievably sweet and gorgeous and intelligent and sensitive. I think that actually comes through in her music.”