Cool as a Cucumber
As London restaurants and clubs expand to the U.S., Martin Brudnizki is their style ambassador.
Kate Sekules -- Interior Design, 10/1/2010 4:26:00 PM
You can no longer describe Martin Brudnizki as a London designer. Not only on account of Martin Brudnizki Design Studio's satellite office in New York but also because, lately, his highest-profile hospitality projects are in the U.S. Following on the heels of Le Caprice New York and Cecconi's West Hollywood, the Soho Beach House hotel, with another Cecconi's, has opened in Miami Beach. All that makes him the favorite designer of fashion billionaire Richard Caring, whose Caprice Holdings has been snapping up famous London restaurants and clubs and turning them into international brands. Here, Brudnizki talks about user-friendly interiors, risqué details, and why he won't countenance marble in Miami Beach.
You describe your work as "minimalism deluxe"?
Yes, indeed. It's a bit of a contradiction in terms, but it does get people's attention. It's about the architectural envelope, looking at volume and light. Most people don't know why they feel comfortable in a space, but that's the feeling we create through precision detail and extraordinary quality in furnishings, finishes, and materials.
How involved is the client in your process?
Not everyone knows exactly where to take their brand. But clients like Soho House founder Nick Jones-they are the brand. Even though he sold most of his share, Soho House is his DNA. He's still involved with everything, and he's very clear about his brief, right down to the food in the restaurant. You look at the the menu, and you know where he's pitching it.
When Soho House opened the Dean Street Townhouse hotel in London, who came up with the risqué artwork?
The incredible artist Johnny Yeo asked me, "Do you mind if I include a couple of porn things?" And I said, "Actually, I want it all to be porn." Because everyone in London knows Soho is a former red-light district. Sometimes it's good for a place to have something specific that draws people in. To have them saying, "Have you seen. . . ?" It generates massive free publicity and awareness.
Do you approach the U.S. differently from Europe or the Middle East?
I've worked in America since the end of the 1990's, so it's not alien. But, yes, the terminology is different, for a start. Does a lavatory mean a toilet or just a washbasin? But, seriously, usually the quality of finishes is very good in America, sometimes better than in Europe.
How do different cities influence your design decisions?
Climate influences you a lot. The light in Los Angeles! It plays beautifully off the blue leather at Cecconi's.
In New York, it's really about the density, 1.6 million people all on the same island. And the neighborhoods. Le Caprice, at the Pierre hotel in Midtown, is big hair, fur coats. Betel, in the West Village, is intimate.
Did you bond with Miami Beach?
It's interesting how many rebirths it's had. When was the Delano? Since then, everything's looked like the Delano. The Soho Beach House was a seminal moment for me. I realized we could change everything. We decided on 1940's grit and glamour. Everything looks real. We have 25 fabric colors and patterns in the restaurant alone. I said to myself, "Don't think about it too much. Don't overdesign it. But do make a story run through it." So there's Cuba, Argentina, and Brazil-especially Cuba. Strong blue, green, yellow, red. But no marble! Miami Beach is swimming in marble. After this, people will start to look at the city differently.
You've sometimes been accused of designing coolness. Do you care?
I don't really think about it too much.
Is sustainability in your vocabulary?
It's very important. Someone showed me a bit of nylon netting the other day. I said, "What are you doing?"
Who are your design heroes?
Carlo Scarpa was an absolutely amazing architect. Dorothy Draper I love. And Peter Marino truly adapts. You can look at a project and not realize it's him.
What's your advice for reinventing an icon?
Not to be afraid. Then look at the components. At Caprice, it's black and white, it's chrome, it's 1930's, and it's David Bailey photos. Four things, that's it. And that's a terrible space at the Pierre, very narrow, so we made the vertical seem taller. Always move things along. Don't create a pastiche. Just take the essence.