Call it a V.I.K. — Very Important Kitchen. Decades before Martyn Lawrence Bullard purchased this circa-1920s home in the Hollywood Hills, it was the literal toast of Tinseltown, with a list of former inhabitants that reads like a Kennedy-era Oscars after-party. To name-drop but a few: In 1963, Dennis Hopper and Brooke Hayward moved into this home, hosting several art-world luminaries—Andy Warhol bunked here for a time—and celebrities like Jane Fonda and Tina Turner. “The mad thing is that I decorated this house 20 years ago for Craig Kilborn, who was then hosting The Late Late Show,” says Bullard of the home he now shares with his partner, Michael Green. “The second I saw it, I just loved it.”
By the time he bought the house for himself, it needed a few nips, tucks, lifts, and injections to revive its star quality. The makeover kicked off in the kitchen. “I cannot cook,” Bullard says, “but we have a wonderful chef and know great caterers.” The couple entertain twice a week: “One night is casual at the kitchen island, and for the other, I dress up the dining table for a more done-up dinner.” In this space, both are divine.
My jaw dropped when I heard that I’d be visiting a house with this backstory—it’s just too much! How did you get your paws on it?
I’m lying in bed on a Saturday morning, I turn on my iPhone, and immediately this house pops up on a realty site. I was like, “Oh my God, I know that house!” They got me in to see it the same day, and nothing had changed. I told the broker, “I want it, I want it, I want it!” Within 24 hours, I put in an offer and sealed the deal.
Were you aware of its glittering perch on Hollywood’s social register?
I knew that Dennis Hopper moved here in 1963 with his family. Literally a
week after I bought it, I got a phone call from a writer at Vanity Fair, who said the magazine was doing a story about the house — it basically gave birth to the Pop Art movement here in Los Angeles, because Hopper supported all these young artists like Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol and Keith Haring. He put on these amazing exhibitions, and the house was filled with incredible art. Warhol even decoupaged soup-can labels in the little room that is now my bar.
I sense that the glamour is only just beginning. Your remodel on this kitchen is heart-palpitating!
It was all kind of, like, scumble-glazed when I bought it. Obviously, when you’re doing the Kitchen of the Year, you want to do something that people haven’t seen, while still honoring the period and the Mediterranean style of the house. I truly believe the kitchen is where we really live, so it should be sexy.
How do you achieve that in a utilitarian space?
When you add a touch of Moroccan, particularly to these Mediterranean homes, you get instant sex appeal. I used zellige tiles, made since the 16th century with vegetable dyes, which give them beautiful color variations. I wanted a tailored look, so I worked with Christopher Peacock on cabinetry with Moorish-style paneling and, for extra depth, distressed solid brass sheeting behind the doors, so it appears aged.
Why did you choose green?
Green is a sanctuary color. It just soothes you. And in this setting, where we’re surrounded by beautiful lush gardens, it brings the outdoors in, which is so California. I grew up in a big old Victorian house in London, and our kitchen had all old brass fixtures, so I also love this move back to brass.
You have hidden appliances in here that Martha Stewart would envy.
Yes, we installed the new Thermador Glass Care Center dishwasher — it’s perfect, because it cleans crystal beautifully. I love to dress a table and have seven different collections of glassware! The island houses Thermador under-counter refrigeration drawers, which are just brilliant, because you can have things at different temperatures.
What’s your advice for entertaining?
It’s all about lighting — every single light is on a dimmer, including in the kitchen, where guests are coming no matter what. If it’s too bright, you’re uncomfortable. You should feel good, attractive, sultry...the most important ingredient in a dinner party is to make the guests feel delicious.
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