We shape our homes, and then our homes shape us.
This past September, I met up with the acclaimed British interior designer Martin Waller the founder of Andrew Martin over a FaceTime chat in his red-painted library at his country house in England. This room is filled with his collection of antiques and artifacts, including a charming nineteenth-century German Noah’s ark, antiquities from ancient Egypt such as funerary mask, and a pair of antique Chinese silk embroidered shoes peeking out of book-lined shelves.
Our chat covered an array of subjects ranging from color to the history of interior design, and an intriguing idea of forgoing the kitchen for space. This notion will raise eyebrows. The revered late British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid didn’t have a kitchen. Martin aptly pointed out that not everyone wants to eat the same thing. One might like Thai and another Italian, and today we have delivery services like Uber Eats that make ordering in a piece of cake. I found it a refreshing acknowledgment of our increasingly busy lives. It certainly would free up space, time, and money.
We discussed the ever-changing tastes in art and what is sought out today for pleasure and investment. Today, a painting by Basquiat would outperform by far a Gainsborough at auction. One hundred years ago, Gainsborough's Blue Boy shattered auction prices selling for USD 778,000 (roughly USD 9.29 million today). In 2017 Basquiat’s Untitled sold at Sotheby’s New York for USD 110,487,500, and in 2011 Gainsborough’s Portrait of Mrs. Villebois at Christie’s, London sold for a mere USD 10,515,792. Of course, a work of art’s value is far more than just its price.
Martin is fickle about his taste for color and his current mood favors bit orange which was popular in the 1970s. Martin noted that we are now looking at the 1970s with fresh eyes, and it is no longer necessarily seen as the decade that forgot taste.
This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Andrew Martin International Interior Designer of the Year Award and the edition of Andrew Martin: Interior Design Review - The Definitive Guide to the World’s Top 100 Designers. The 2021 recipient of the award is -Thomas Jayne, an interior designer based in New York.
Below, I’ve included Martin’s favorite interior designers drawn from history of interior design. This list was featured in Andrew Martin: Interior Design Review - The Definitive Guide to the World’s Top 100 Designers. volume number 16.
Martin’s Top Ten designers of all time.
- Liu Bingzhong
- Charles le Brun
- David Hicks
- Robin Adams
- Elsie de Wolfe
- Le Corbusier
- Thomas Jefferson
- Billy Baldwin
Let’s get to know Martin a bit better.
What are three things to look for when hiring an interior designer?
Look for someone you like and who likes you.
If you weren’t an interior designer what would you do?
Spend more time hunting for treasure.
What is your favorite design period of all time?
Now. As Newton said, “We stand on the shoulders of giants,” and we are incredibly lucky to have the whole of history to inspire us.
If you were offered a Gainsborough or Basquiat which one would you prefer to have?
Basquiat; Anger, and exuberance, joy and despair wrapped up in a single package.
What should every home have?
A good reading lamp.
What can make or break an interior?
Listening to everybody else’s advice is a road to disaster.
Do you believe that art can be a good investment?
$400 million for the Leonardo. I think so!
What is your greatest extravagance?
The children, and the expense never goes away.
How do you pick your judges for the Andrew Martin International Interior Designer of the Year Awards?
We find successful people from all spheres of life who can drag us out of our preconceptions: from Ronnie Wood and Twiggy, to Gordon Ramsay and Jo Malone.
Is there something you learned that is invaluable from your judges insights on interiors?
Nothing is certain.
Where will the twenty-fifth Andrew Martin International Interior Designer of the Year Awards take place?
We are hoping to have the 2021 celebrations at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
What do your judges look for when selecting the winner?
Someone who is accomplished, brings a distinctive look, and something new.
Where should one stay when in New York for the awards or when in London?
Kit Kemp’s hotels are still my favorite (Kit is a previous winner of the Award).
Do you have a fantasy interior design project?
It’s all about people. There are lots of people who I would like to work with but I won’t embarrass myself by naming them.
If you could only own one piece of furniture what would it be?
A fully stocked bookcase.
What do you consider the most overrated current design trend?
All trends are overrated.
Where would you like to travel to next?
Do you prefer the city or the country life?
What are your favorite books?
Eric Newby’s A Book of Traveller's Tales, 1066 and All That (W. C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman), anything by Bernard Cornwell.
What is your most treasured possession?
What is the future of the home?
Homes have always.
The Andrew Martin flagship store is on Walton Street in London’s glamorous Knightsbridge neighborhood. The interior of his flagship store sizzles with its eclectic mix. An over-scaled deity reigns on a console table, a vintage child’s toy car accents a lacquered coffee table, white upholstered sofas are a comfortable respite and a place to take it all in, and a dash of neon ties it all together. I look forward to seeing what Martin Waller dreams up next. In the meantime, I will keep my kitchen.