This website uses cookies to enhance the user experience.


Martin Brudnizki: Master of the Grand Fantasy

This designer has added a wonderful dose of whimsy, color, pattern, and sophistication to some of the best hotels, clubs, restaurants, and homes around the world. On this episode, Dan speaks with the Swedish expat on his breakthrough projects, his fears of international beige, and his one bit of advice to any designer.

June 19, 2024 By THE GRAND TOURIST
Photo: Oli Kearon


London- and New York–based designer Martin Brudnizki has added a wonderful dose of whimsy, color, pattern, and sophistication to some of the best hotels, private clubs, restaurants, and private homes around the world. On this episode, Dan speaks with the Swedish expat on his breakthrough projects like The Ivy, whether or not the naturalized British citizen is a true monarchist, his fears of international beige, and his one bit of advice to any young designer.

Listen to this episode


Martin Brudnizki: I was given this chance with Annabelle’s to explore a part of my brain that always wanted to try to do, but never really been given the chance. I had sort of done minimalism, I had done modernism, I’ve done classicism and I’ve, done maximalism. Those are the four pillars, and now when I do product, I borrow from these four pillars and I sort of piece it together, which it sort of becomes a little bit more interesting, more fun.

Dan Rubinstein: Hi, I’m Dan Rubinstein and this is The Grand Tourist. I’ve been a design journalist for more than 20 years, and this is my personalized guided tour through the worlds of fashion, art, architecture, food, and travel, all the elements of a well-lived life. For most of my career, I always saw London as the heart of the contemporary design scene. Then at some point in the last decade or so, the tides began to turn. Craft was in, minimalism was out. People started to enjoy fabrics, some craft, prints and paintings. People wanted comfort and to surround themselves with what they loved, and everywhere started to look like home. Hotels, restaurants, and the newly relevant private clubs. At the center of this vortex of color, whimsy, sophistication, and opulence is one designer I admire more than most, Martin Brudnizki. Based in London and New York, this Swedish expat has the uncanny ability to go over the top while somehow miraculously appearing perfectly sensible at all times.

After studying in London and doing a little bit of modeling, he found himself attracted to interior design and trained under some of the best names in the business like gallerist David Gill and designer David Collins. He started his firm around the turn of the century and hasn’t looked back. If you’ve been to any desirable bar, hotel or private club in the past decade or so, you know his work. He did Annabelle’s in London, the Soho Beach House in Miami, multiple hotels in New York, including the Beekman, multiple Four Seasons, and many, many restaurants from San Francisco to Paris and back again. In 2015, he started, like so many other top shelf designers today, his own line of products called And Objects, which continues to grow at a breakneck pace. In the collection, he’s able to mix and match color, pattern and styles into a single object in a way that would sound utterly bonkers on paper, but appear so utterly chic in real life.

On a personal level, Martin has a dynamic flair and polish of a bond villain. The vision of an expressionist painter, the manners of an aristocratic gentleman, and the approachability of your average bloke. But above all, he’s just super cool. I caught up with Martin from his home away from home in the English countryside to chat about his earliest memories of good design in Sweden, breakthrough projects of his like the Ivy, whether or not the naturalized British citizen is a true monarchist, his spheres of international beige, and his one bit of advice to any young designer.


The Ivy in London. Photo: Courtesy MBDS

But I do want to start from the beginning, and you’re known as one of the Swedish expats in design who sort of fall in love with London and living and working there. But I read that your dad was I believe an engineer or something, and he was German, and your parents are German and Polish by birth. I think your dad was Polish and your mother was German. How did that happen and how did they find their way to Sweden and Stockholm?

So the story goes once upon a time in a land far, far away. So my father lived and grew up in Poland, he grew up in Warsaw. And he was much, much older than my mother, but I think he was born in 1920 and my mother was born in 1942, so there was a huge age gap. But he sort of grew up in Poland during the war, which he sort of safely lived on his grandfather’s estate in east Poland. And there is quite few funny stores when they were trying to make their way back to Warsaw at the end of the war. And there were at the train station and a German offensive sort of pushed across the railway line and the train station so that they hide underneath the benches in the waiting room.

Oh, gosh.

I know. My father sort of always made it sound so incredibly irreverent and funny, but that’s sort of the type that he was. But anyway, moving fast-forward into the 1950s, he felt that he wanted to travel, he wanted a different life and he didn’t want to stay in Poland under communist rule. So he applied to emigrate.

And got that refused, and then immediately applied to take a cruise on the Baltic Sea, and it was approved, funnily enough, quite odd. But it was approved. So he basically sold the possessions that he had and he had actually been quite successful because he had a little private business on the side. He was a engineer.

What kind of private business?

He was a civil engineer, so he did projects basically.

Oh, okay.

So he had made some money and so he bought diamonds and rubies and then got some sort of small heirlooms that he had, some little drawings and things, and off he went onto this boat. And when they arrived in Stockholm, he sort of put on layers and layers of clothes. He cut open an apple, the story goes, and he sort of filled it with the rubies and the diamonds, closed up the apple and sort of put other things in the other pockets that he had and off he went, didn’t come back.

Wow. Back in the day when you could travel with fruit and vegetables.

Indeed, true.

Would never work today.

Never work today, indeed. And then after that he sort of established himself as Stockholm and he got a job, and then he started traveling because that was what he really wanted to do. So he got a car and he drove from Stockholm straight south through Denmark, through Germany, through Switzerland, down to Italy and up again. And then he came to this tiny little town in Germany outside Hamburg called Lüneburg. Lüneburger Heide is quite famous. And he then walked down the street and he saw this beautiful, beautiful girl and he immediately decided that he would marry her. And he literally pestered her until she fell for him. And then she came to Stockholm, came to Sweden.

And it sounds like from what I’ve read that the house that you grew up in was very well put together and your mom worked as a visual merchandiser and your dad sketched and things like that. What would be your earliest memory of interiors or design? Maybe it was in the home.

Yes, it was. But I think I grew up in it. I didn’t really think that much of it. It was very sort of atmospheric because everything was sort of a thing. The walls was sea grass wallpaper. We had beautiful rugs, timber floors, beautiful sort of modernist bookcases and comfortable big leather sofas as you had in the early 70s. A lot of things from Sven’s 10 in Stockholm, which is to this day one of my favorite shops. And I just grew up in that. And the only time when I really realized actually what I was living in was very special was when I visited friend’s or classmate’s homes when you were doing homework. That was the only time when I realized actually what we had was a little bit different. And I remember one time I had to go to someone’s house and to do project the homework, and I had to leave because their wallpaper was so loud and was giving me this headache, so I had to go home.

What was your mom doing, and was she kind of the ruler of the house in terms of the interiors?

Yes, she was. My father was, my father is from a very old aristocratic family. Children is not to be heard as seen. That was his sort of approach to child. So we had to be very quiet and sort in a room, but my mother ruled the whole household in terms of food style, et cetera, et cetera. And my father was sort much more remote figure. And she was beautiful, she was very stylish. Still is today, she’s still around. So I owed my whole sort of way of looking at life through style from her.

And so when you did move back to London, there are two big names on the CV that I think stand out to me that obviously have impacted you. One was David Gill Gallery, a very famous design gallery in London, and David Collins studio, super well-known for his work in hospitality. And what did you learn working during those years?

Let’s start talking about actually the job I did before I went to David Gill, which was Michael Wolfson. Michael Wolfson is an American architect who basically lived in London and he worked with Zaha Hadid, set up her studio. So that was quite an interesting. And at that time I was fascinated by Zaha’s work. And so it was interesting working with him because he did two things. He did things that were very classical because he did a lot of work in Switzerland, sort of interior refurbishment of Chateaux and stuff like that. So I sort of got this experience of classicism, like the hierarchy of elements and what’s important, et cetera, et cetera. Plus I sort enjoyed working on these more sort of fluid forms in furniture, et cetera. That was his sort more artist stuff that Michael did. And then after that I moved on and worked at David Gill Gallery and I did production of furniture, and at is for designs by Garouste and Bonetti.

So they basically made sketches for David that he would then produce and exhibit and sell. So I did that. It was a very short period of six months. Then I was offered this job at David Collins and I stayed there for about four years. That was a very interesting period because that sort of taught me how to run a project. How do you actually build a restaurant, a home, or how do you produce it? How do you procure it, how do you do all these things? That’s what that taught me. At the end of those four years, I think I did six months, I worked for another friend and then I sort of set up.

And can you tell people a little bit about David Collins and his sort of legacy for people that maybe aren’t familiar with him?

Yes. When I started at David’s, he was sort at the peak of his career getting to the peak of his career. And so at one hand he was doing all of these rollout restaurant, I think one was called Cafe Rouge and did 100s of them, which was sort of the base of his success through that he could have had quite a lot business, but a lot, sorry. He did a lot of rollout restaurants and through that he consider to build quite a large internal team, so he had a big design studio. And then on the side of that, he would do these sort of one-off restaurants, and those are the ones that I worked on. As well, he did John Barrett, who just passed away actually now John Barrett, hair salon in [inaudible 00:11:46] Goodman. He was quite prolific in the hospitality business in the UK and sort of started that whole thing about restaurants and being a place to really enjoy. And it’s an experience more than just the food, the whole thing, the interior, et cetera. It’s all an experience.

And when you struck out on your own, what was running through your head? What were your ambitions? What did you want to do?

Well, I think that was something I wanted to continue, working in hospitality. And I actually wanted to, because I spent quite a lot of time in New York at that time, I wanted to actually do some work in America as well, but I decided let’s start and try to work my way back through projects. And so I was very fortunate in the beginning of my studio, and 50% of the work was residential and 50% was hospitality. And I met some people. Some people, I met a client who basically wanted to do rollout of a restaurant brand called Strada, which became one of these big restaurant rollouts, that was very fortunate. So of course I had the experience from David Collins, I sort of knew how to put this together and it was fun, exciting time when I started building this business. And then over time it sort of became 10 years in, I started just doing 100% hospitality. However, today it’s sort of more like, what would you say, 70/30?

And when did the sort of residential part of it all come into play?

So, that happened at the beginning, but then after a while I sort of decided to focus just on hospitality, which it was basically restaurant, hotels and private clubs. And then in, I think, let’s see, where are we now? In 2018 I was asked to do a very, very big residential project for an existing client and then had put together a team for that, a special team to do residential. And then I sort of decided if I’m going to make that investment, let’s do some more residential work. And since then we actually got quite a lot of inquiries. It’s quite interesting you sort of put that idea out there, that thought, and then it sort of comes.

And what was the year that you started your firm?

In 2000.

And when would you say it was the kind of maybe a turning point where I could look at one of those projects and still immediately identified as yours?

Yes, there are three points in my career or there are three projects in my career that are important. That’s what I call lifted the business from one platform up to another. And the first one was in 2006, which is Scots in Mount Street in Mayfair in London, which at the time when I had been close for a number of years and it’s always been billed as the second oldest restaurant in London. And I sort of reestablished that in terms its look, and it was a fantastically fun project to do and gave me a lot of recognition.

What did it look like?

So basically it’s an oak paneled room, sort of Art Deco inspired but much more modern that doesn’t have any sort of overt classical details. It’s much more sort of stripped back and sort of simple. Elegant chair, simple bar, nice materiality. So it was done very much of that time of the early sort of noughties. But it stood the test of time today. It still is so popular, everyone loves it, it’s amazing. And the second project is Soho Beach House in Miami that I worked on with Nick Jones. And that was a fantastic project to do. Quite stressful, I remember. It was fun and it gave me a lot of recognition in the States.

And then the third?

And the third one is Annabelle’s. The new Annabelle’s.

Yes. Which I would love to talk to you about. But back then, today you’re known for this sort of traditional aesthetic bent to things, but the fact that you kind of started your career mostly in restaurants and private clubs was a little bit unusual back then, unlike it is today. Is that something fair to say?

Yes. Yes it is. I think especially the private membership club is something that’s become, I think quite popular just in general.


So yes, and I think I have, it’s quite funny. One potential client reached out and said that we were the only firm who actually has on our website a section where it says private clubs.

And what would you say is the key, why do you do private clubs so well? It’s still something that I think to an American audience especially, we just think of it as kind of like a hotel meets a private home in some sort of way, but we don’t have too many of them in the States, so it’s not something that we’re totally familiar with. What do you bring to the private club that you think has made you so successful?

The thing with a private club is actually it’s not a hotel and it’s not a restaurant. It’s actually is an activated space that might have a lot of ingredients of different type of food offers and bar offers and in terms of spaces, and it might be a nightclub in there, it might be a cinema. But then to knit all of this together, you need to have events, you need to have a quite strong events schedule. Many, if you look at Annabelle’s in London, so they have all of these yoga, they have talks, they have all of that stuff, but then they have these enormous big parties. So they have the Halloween party, the Christmas party, and they dress up the whole club. It’s an event. And I think that is what really a club is. It’s quite hard work if you own a club. It’s not just like, “Oh, I have a little bit of, have a restaurant of food, people will come,”

No they won’t, because you can go to any restaurant. Why would you pay a club membership to go to those restaurants where you can actually just dine out if you know maitre d’s and know the people who take the bookings in the restaurants? Is sort of ridiculous, a lot of people think. But I think the whole thing with the club is it has that whole other life to it that is about events getting preferential, sort of, not treatment, but you get this little preference that you can meet people, you can meet actors, you can meet someone that’s made a film, they do talk, et cetera. So it sort of opens a different type of world to you if you’re a member of a club.

And what would you say, what do you bring to it and why do you think you’re good at it?

An American client who I’ve just finished a hotel on Fifth Avenue, 28th street called the Fifth. He says that I am the master of the grand fantasy. And I think that tells you why, because I can create this fantasy. This is what I do. I sort of think about how do you want to feel when you walk into this space and what’s the narrative of it? And then it’s this a complete immersion into that will just take you away from your daily life. That is what I do and what I bring to the table. I just don’t do another nice space. It’s easy to do nice spaces, but these spaces should transport you. You should walk into them and just go, “Oh, my God, I’m going to have the best time here ever. The atmosphere is just prepared for me to have the best time.” And when you start an evening with that mindset, I think you’ll have the best time.

And how is your studio set up today? Paint people a picture of how your business looks.

Well, it’s quite large now, so I think we’re over 100 people.

Oh, gosh.

Split between London and New York.


And then I have my product business as well, And Objects. And we have opened a shop in London and we have a showroom in New York that’s part of my design studio space. It’s big. We work everywhere.

Before we talk about the products and things like that, to me, one of your big breakthroughs if I were to add to the list, was the Ivy in London in 2015. And because I think it was something that anybody could just walk into, especially if you were a journalist visiting London, you could just meet somebody there and sort of struck a chord in terms of it’s the aesthetic and the vibe and the feel. It’s sort of like a return to a sort of traditional aesthetic. For those who aren’t familiar with the Ivy, can you explain a little bit about what that meant and how that project came to be?

So the Ivy is sort of part of theater land dining, and is where you dine before or after the theater. And it has been very, very, very popular for many, many years. And of course that’s where all the actors would go after they finish the play or something, they would sort of hang out, have dinner together as you could see famous people. And they sort of got into people’s imagination that the Ivy is this very special place. And truly it was. However, a client of mine then acquired this restaurant group and for years, the years continued, but then slowly restaurants normally do they start, not disintegrating, but being less popular when there’s much, much more on the market for you to enjoy. So my clients sort of thought it was time to refurb it. And I remember at the time people were like, “Oh, my God, why are you changing the Ivy? It’s not needed.”

And I would ask people then when they said it to me, like, “When did you go last time?” “Oh, 10 years ago.” It’s like, okay, I think it’s time. So when we redid the restaurant, of course it had some sort of very strong notes traditionally, which like the timber paneling, timber floor. So all of that idea was kept, it was redone, but it was sort of kept the idea of the timber panel walls there, sort of diamond glass windows, all that was retained.

And then I sort of wanted to change it because it was really about making the bar the center feature. It’s almost like a theater in the round. So the bar is in the center of the room and everyone is sort of sitting around it. And for the people that come and dine, because the Ivy was famous that you should be able to dine at the bar, they can sit on the counter, they can sort of see the whole room and see all the people and see all the famous actors, et cetera, et cetera. So that’s sort of what it became, the big bar, the seating all around it. And it sort of worked very well. It sort was very well received and people thought it was giving a new lease of life.

And then at what point Annabelle’s comes into to play?

So my client who acquired the Ivy had as well acquired the Burley group, which Annabelle belongs to. And then there was this opportunity because Annabelle’s at that time was only a nightclub in the basement space and that was it. And my client had this ambition to make it something bigger, basically a night and a day club. And then a site became available to doors down in Barkley Square. So he snapped that up and we embarked on this journey to create Annabel’s. And of course were all like, but what is that? Because Annabelle, the look of Annabelle’s as it was is this sort of country house look, and it’s like a home. And when you look at London, look at Soho House, look at the Arts Club, you look at all of these sort of places and they’re all based on a home. That’s the sort of premise of it.

It’s like your home from home. So it’s very comfortable. It’s like drawing room aesthetic, et cetera, et cetera. So I thought, well, I’m not sure that we should take that route because Annabelle is one of many others. And I then started creating this narrative and it was really my experience from my client who is Richard Kerring, who is he as a person? There are two things that he loves, and one is nature and the other is animals. That’s why the narrative became about flora and fauna. And that was the overarching idea for the whole property. And then of course we started to sort break it down. So when you sort of start on the ground floor, you sort enter into this what we call the rose room because from the rose room you go into the terrace, which is this beautiful garden terrace. And the rose room is to respond to that with this beautiful hand-painted murals on the walls of roses, of parkland views, et cetera.

So there’s quite sort of English in that sort of way. We wanted it to feel sort of very, very English. And then sort of going up the floor, you get up into this is the more colonial in a way, this sort the Indian Room, and as well as more exotic based in Brazil. So they’re both called the Elephant Room and the Elephant Bar was slightly based on the animal elephant and was sort of done with beautiful Degone wallpaper, et cetera.

And that sort of slightly more eastern feel to it. But more exactly the nightclub was the big thing. What do we do about that? And the idea became about Paradise Lost, the fall of man, that always happens at the end of night. So we sort want to build it around this jungle idea, et cetera, et cetera. So we had so much fun, it would have this internal design meetings and we would think, say, who can come up with the most ridiculous idea? And that’s what it was. And it was fun. We did it in a year and a half, but the only reason it worked out was because we had so much fun doing it.


The nightclub at Annabel’s in Mayfair, London. Photo: Courtesy MBDS

And that brings up a good point. If you had to compare some of your hotels or private members clubs or even some of the products, some of them, they’re colorful, they have a very unique bend to them. In some cases you could say they’re over the top in the best way possible, but for some reason you tend to always make it something that feels so right and so perfect in a way. And so I’m kind of wondering what is your secret sauce, if you will? Why do you think that you can pull these things off doing a sort of jungle aesthetic for Annabelle’s or whatever it is, and think of, “I’m going to come up with the most outrageous thing humanly possible and have it to all be so successful and not a train wreck,” which I think a lot of other designers, if they were to do that or to attempt that add would ruin it, basically.

Well, there’s a couple of things that makes it successful. The first thing to understand is about color and patterns. If you talk about color first, color all has to hang together tonally. You can put blue, red, yellow, green, pink, orange, you can put it all together in one room as long as tonally, they all correspond together tonally, they’re the same tone, it’ll work.

And when it comes to patterns, it’s important that you don’t put a floral next to a floral, next to a floral. You do like a floral next to a stripe, next to a Italian flame stitch next to a geometric. And that’s how you build up this interesting relationship between different patterns. As well, it’s quite important that the materiality has to somehow work. So you want to do perhaps a beautiful cotton stripe that’s been printed next to a beautiful silk that is embroidered. It’s about that sort of materiality and how they all sort respond to each other is what I call the high and the low in materiality. So you can, for instance, have a beautiful, let’s say alabaster side table that sits against the wall where you have fake malachite, hand-painted by an artist. It’s that sort of thing that sort of makes it fun, the high and the low. It’s sort of more interesting. We’re not trying to be, everything is a thing. Everything is expensive, it’s this sort of play.

And do you consider yourself a brave designer or a bold designer? Do you think of yourself in those terms?

Brave? Yes, absolutely. You have to be brave. I say to him, you have to be brave if you’re going to do this. And I think it comes with experience as well. In my life, perhaps 10 years ago I wouldn’t have been able to do it, but I was given this chance with Annabelle to explore a part of my brain that always wanted to try to do, but never really been given the chance because whenever I sort of spoke to clients about this, of course they were horrified. But Richard Caring, he sort wanted something different. So he sort of really said, “Do it, do it, do it.” So I think that sort of helped.

And by doing Annabelle’s, I have shown the world actually how you can do this. And it’s sort of been very helpful. And I sort of say now, that was the last, I should never say the last of my design journeys, but I had sort of done minimalism, I had done modernism, I’ve done classicism, and I have now done maximalism. Those are the four pillars. And now when I do project, I borrow from these four pillars and I sort of piece it together, which it sort of becomes a little bit more interesting, more fun.

And you once told Christie’s that there was one project you’d love to redesign, which would be Argyle House in London, which is an 18th century brick house once owned, I think it was owned by a Duke, and then it was owned by Civil Colfax, a decorating legend in the UK firmament. Tell us a little bit about this house and why something like that kind of intrigues you.

Funny you say that because—

The owner of Argyle house is [inaudible 00:32:22].

No, no, no, not at all. But I was having dinner, was it last week, in London, and Rita Koenig, who is a friend, she’s actually doing that house.

Oh, okay. Wow.

Yes. She told me, very exciting.

Did you kick her under the table?

No, didn’t do that, she’ll do a great job with it. But it was fascinating because it’s just the most beautiful little perfect sort of balance, the sort of Georgian classical details with a little portico. And it’s so chic that sort of sits on King’s Road, and I always loved that house. Well, it’s been done by someone else now, so I can tick that off my list.

Well, 10 years from now, you never know. And you’re in, I think West Sussex at the moment, in your own very sort of traditional flat with some beautiful yellow walls, I think would be kind of Georgian-ish, color-wise.

Yeah, it sort of is. It’s actually quite contemporary in its approach. It’s like Mitch Owen, who wrote a piece for Architecture Digest about my home, sort of said it’s like John Fowler on acid. And that’s sort of what it is. It’s like perfect because all the colors hang together, but I’ve done it in a way that you would never do a traditional country house. It’s much more fun.

And what I’d love to try to get into a little bit is to kind of try to crack the nut or figure out your thoughts on you’ve managed to take a sort of the English country aesthetic and merge it with something else and create something completely new that is completely, people are really fall in love with it in the UK. And now when I think of British design, I think of you, and the British Interior, I think of you. But being from Stockholm and having those experiences at Sven’s 10, the amazing shop which I’ve been to, which is everyone’s favorite place in all of Sweden, for anyone who knows design, where do you think that sort of person ends and the English-ness begins? Where is that line? Does that line exist? I don’t know.

That’s an interesting question, and I think it does. I’ve been here for 30 years now, and when it comes to design, this is sort of where I grew up. I grew up being a designer in this country. And I love reading, I love history and I sort of immerse myself in looking at all of these different parts of the 1920s and 30s when everything changed with Bright Young Things and all of these new artists, and Cecil Beaton and Rex Whistler and Oliver of Messel. And there’s just so much. And that’s why I sort of loved it.

That’s why I love the UK because it just has this wealth of interesting approaches, the time when everything changed. And I think it’s learning about that. But the interesting part of this story is that before actually I bought this, and actually even before I did Annabelle’s, I probably would’ve done this in a very much different way because Annabelle’s is this project that sort of made me, for a year and a half, I could explore one part of my brain that I had wanted to explore and I explored it and, it sort of just release and open up. So I really think a lot of this goes back to that project, even how I did this house.

And what would you say, first of all, I’m curious, are you a British citizen today?

Yes, I am. I am today, yeah.

Okay. And on a scale of one to 10, when it comes to the Royals, how much of a monarchist are you?

Well, I think I’m a monarchist, but I think within reason. I mean, we all sort of love the whole sort of pomp and circumstance of what they sort of do and what this country can produce that very few monarchists can do anymore. And for me, I think they have a role, and the role is to smile and wave. That’s what we want them for, I think.

And is there any part of your day-to-day lifestyle that is so very much Swedish that just has never truly adapted?

Not really. I don’t think so. I think the only thing, there’s a little bit, it’s tricky though because I grew up in a sort of Polish-German household. And so we didn’t really, it was not until I went to school and had friends that the mix was there. But I can sort of remember after my parents divorced, my mother had a boyfriend, and we went for Christmas to his house and I think with his parents. And I was in shock. I was in shock because here were all these grown-ups dancing around the Christmas tree, pretending to be little frogs, basically singing a song of being small frogs. And I was just like, what’s going on?

Is that a Swedish thing? I’ve never—

Yeah, there’s a thing Swedes dance around the Christmas tree and there’s a song where they sort of pretending to be small frogs and I was just like, what’s going on? What’s going to happened?

Maybe there was a dessert you didn’t [inaudible 00:38:14].

Didn’t partake it or something, yes.


The gardens at the La Fantaisie hotel in Paris. Photo: Jerome Galland

And one of the reasons why I love your work so much is that obviously I see a lot, and obviously there’s a lot out there that I called “Terracotta Cult” once in Departures magazine, and you similarly told somebody once that one trend that you hope never returns was international beige, which was, I’m actually not familiar with the term international beige per se.

International beige.

First of all, tell me what that is. And second of all, now that you do kind of see it everywhere and it is kind of a thing, it kind of helps you stand out also in a way. I mean it kind of makes you even more singular.

True. I remember when I started studying, and the program director of the interior design course called Anthony Feldman, I think he was South African, actually. And the first thing he said was, “Everyone is afraid of color. And that’s why we have international beige all around us.” Or as some of my friends call it, [foreign language 00:40:18].

Wow. Is international beige or kind of specific type of beige?

No, I think it’s just beige or grayish. Anything where it basically has no personality. But actually you arrive in this space that could be a hotel or a restaurant and you could be anywhere in the world if you were transported there through some sort of beam and someone would ask you, where are you? And you would just not know where you are because it’s the same everywhere. It sort of lacks any sense of place. And I think that’s sort of crucial when you do, especially when you do hotels in other countries, sense of place.

I always look for the wall sockets. That’s always reminds me of where in the world I am. What plug do I use for my laptop? And today you have a rather large office in New York and you have your own products out of the business called And Objects. And I remember when you first pitched me this idea of And Objects at a cafe not far from where I am now actually, which is now grown. It’s this full-blown furniture line, and you have two showrooms and one that’s a retail actually you could walk in London. And tell me about that and why go through all of this?

Oh, gosh, that’s what I ask myself sometimes, but I think I have this sort of ambition. I always wanted to do product and we started in 2015, and then we started in 18 working on this, quite a big collection of 20 pieces. Then the pandemic happened and we were supposed to have launched this in January, 2020. Then, we didn’t know what was happening or what we were going to do, but we decided that in January 21 that we were going to launch it then online. Had no idea how would this work out.

And it did work out extremely well when we did it. But I think at the end of the day, because it is product of a certain price level, people want to see it, perhaps touch it. So the question was then for London, what do we do? Do we do a showroom? Do we do a shop? And then suddenly, miraculously, this opportunity came up to sort of do this shop in Newsons Yard, which is on Pimlico Road, which is this new little development by Grosvenor, who is the landlord. And this sort of perfect space, and we just thought, let’s do it, let’s try it. It’s a whole new way of thinking, right? A whole new way of thinking, and it’s like we’re all learning on our feet, so it’s fascinating and let’s see how it goes. But so far so good.

And who are your clients? Because I mean, again, you’re not selling beige, you’re not selling white vases or you’re not selling basics in a sense, you’re not selling something that would work anywhere. How is that going? Do you get feedback of people saying, look, I’ve put your chair here in a grayish box? What is that experience like now dealing with an open public?

It doesn’t bother me at all. We show this as my world and if you want to use it in a much simpler way, I think that is fine. And we do see our projects, we see our products in projects, they get published. And it all looks great and it all sort of works, it’s depending on the designer on how they want to do it. And our client base very wide. We have a lot of American clients, which is super exciting. And then we have a lot of British, both the designers and people who buy it for their homes. And at the moment we’re developing a lot of new products, which is more accessories to take home, picture frames, candlesticks, and all of these things. So that’s sort of exciting that we’re going to have a lot of stuff that people can enjoy.

And you also recently completed the Broadwick, which is your first hotel in London that’s top to bottom all completely yours, if I’m not mistaken. Tell me a little bit about that.

Yes, so that was very, very exciting, actually. So it took us, I think it was six, seven years, and it’s done. I’m very happy with it. Everyone seems to it. Everyone that goes thinks it’s a wonderful experience. Again, it’s completely immersive, and the way we approach the design, it’s basically Studio 54 meets your godmother’s townhouse in Soho. That’s the narrative of it, and that’s what it really is. It’s like you go there, it’s slightly hidden away. There’s a fabulous restaurant called Dear Jackie, and it’s eclectic, it’s layered, it’s lots of color, it’s a lot of patterns. But it all works, it all hangs together. And it’s again, you would walk in and if you let into what’s called the Nook, which is this little residence lounge, I mean it’s just the most fabulous little space in the worst part of this hotel that you would think would never work. But it sort of becomes one of the best parts because architecturally it’s like in the back of the building. That’s just some sort of weird little skylight, but it’s sort of just really works.

And when it comes to doing things like the products and things like that, what is that vision that you alluded to? When you say go through it, there’s so many designers now that are producing their own product and they’re not going through a traditional licensing model anymore. They just want to do things on their own. Why do you think that is? I mean, why this trend?

The internet has really opened up. Instagram, internet in general has just opened up that you can actually do business. And I’ve approved it through in the middle of the pandemic. I launched this collection and it just went extremely well. So I think it is possible, and that’s why you can just get on with it yourself. But for me, for what we do, it was just very important to have a place where you can come and see it, touch it, feel it, and as well make it a little bit more of a retail business, which I sort of quite interested in doing. I’m glutton for punishment, but it’s fun to do something where it’s actually about me and my business partner, Nick. We make the decision on what we’re doing and what the look is, et cetera. There’s no one else.

And what’s next for you? What’s next, new on the horizon for you next year?

Next year? Well, we had a very exciting end of the year, or exciting 12 months. We opened five hotel projects. That was not supposed to have happened, but it’s just the way it went. So it would’ve been nice to have a little bit of a breather. But my main thing that I’m really focusing on is the shop, is And Object, that brand and what we do with it and the product we’re designing. And to go back to that question that you had about what is the next thing for And Object is really based going through the different rooms of the house. So we design things for the sitting room, drawing room, and now we’re going into the dining room, dining table, et cetera, et cetera, and all the accessories that go with it. That’s sort of how we are approaching it.

Tabletop and and some

All in the works.

All in the works. Good to know. There’s always room for more.


Indeed. If I were to ask you, do you have any hard rules that you give to the young designers in your studio that may come and work for you, now that you have 100 people? When someone is new and comes to work for you in your studio, what do you find, maybe, is there a maxim that you use again and again that you kind of like to remind people about that maybe they could use in their own practice, whether they’re a designer or chef, or who knows?

Don’t be afraid. I think that’s what I always say, don’t be afraid, be brave. Just like you have to just put ideas out there. And I always say, you might give a lot of ideas out there and we might say, no, no, no for six months. And then suddenly if you’re not afraid, you continue doing it, you will develop, and then suddenly one day it’s just like there it is. The most best idea you could ever come up with will happen.

Is there a best idea that you’ve had that has not been realized yet?

I have a few. I have a few, but it’s sort of quite interesting how these things happen. The good idea happens as you’re working on something. It’s usually, for me, it’s really about details. It’s all about details really, like in And Object, the shop that we did, we have this cream creamy sea grass wallpaper, and then I decided to put double piping using one of my fabrics between at all the edges to the skirting, to the little sort of cornice detail. But when they meet the horizontal, I did this little knot, like a Turkish knot as you’re doing cushions. And I like that sort of thing. A little bit different, little bit unexpected. I think that was a great idea. Small, but small things are usually great, great ideas I think. I respond well to that.

Is there ever a brave idea that you had that really just didn’t work out?

Gosh, there’s so many of them. When we were doing Annabelle’s, there was at the end, I think Richard was, I think when it came to the entrance, because we were coming up with all of these fantastical things and he sort of thought, no, let’s just pair this back because people might not want to walk into this. So I think that was the one thing that didn’t work. I mean, he probably was right at the end of the day, we were just in the flow of things when you’re just coming up with these crazy ideas and it’s just like, it was good to have him there who say stop. Perhaps you just simplify this one.

And you and your partner are married, correct?

Not yet, but—

Oh, okay.

Will be.

You will? Okay. Congratulations in advance. At home, does he share your sort of sense of adventure when it comes to all things interiors? Lifestyle related?

I mean he does. He does. He does love it mean. He is younger and he has a different approach to things, but he does love all of that, so it’s great. But what he does is the art. He’s an art curator, so he works on my projects doing the art base. So at Broadbeck Street, the hotel that he was launched, he did all the art that very successfully. So that is sort of his thing. So when we did this house, I did the interiors, he did the art. That’s how we sort of split it up. But we always talk about things. I always show him what I’m doing, what I think it should be, and he can always comment and vice versa.

I like how

He could always comment.

He can always comment. Yeah, exactly. I think I know exactly what you mean by that. But is there anything that you collect? I’m curious.

Oh, I collect a lot of things. I don’t have this sort of thing. I mean I like to collect ceramics. I like to collect sort of oddities, almost like-

What kind of oddities?

I mean, I saw this little ceramic statue of this sort coral holding a shell. Probably a lot of people think it’s nothing, but I think, oh, how wonderful I buy that. So it’s quite, and I was in Birmingham, Alabama in September and I found this beautiful little toleware vase. It’s absolutely perfect now. I didn’t need it. Got it home. And then I realized actually I did need it to put all the firelighters in and all that stuff by the fireplaces. Anything. It is just the things that I see that I love, the shape of the color, the finish, those are the things I collect because they’re sort of quite sort of inspiring. Especially now doing products, I try to buy things that actually can use for inspiration.


Thank you to my guest, Martin Brudnizki, as well as to Lizzie Baxter for making this episode happen. The editor of The Grand Tourist is Stan Hall. To keep this going, don’t forget to visit our website and sign up for our newsletter, The Grand Tourist Curator at, and follow me on Instagram @danrubinstein. And don’t forget to follow The Grand Tourist on Apple Podcasts Spotify, or wherever you like to listen, and leave us a rating or comment. Every little bit helps. Til next time!


Meet the greats.
Listen to The Grand Tourist.

newsletter illustration