Swedish designer Martin Brudnizki talks to Effect Magazine about creating stunning commercial spaces designed for those looking to escape the mundane.
“I get asked what my favourite project is a lot of the time, and truthfully, I cannot pin one down,” Martin Brudnizki tells Effect Magazine. It’s hardly surprising – as the creative force behind the likes of The Ivy, London’s Sexy Fish, The Beekman New York and Soho Beach House Miami, to name a few, the Swedish-born designer has created critically acclaimed interiors for some of the world’s most prestigious commercial and residential addresses, and his empire just gets stronger by the year. “Each has their own identity and personal story behind them,” he adds.
Growing up with a fashion stylist mother and engineer father with a strong problem-solving mindset – “the combination of the two has certainly influenced me over the years,” he says – it could have been expected that Brudnizki would choose a life of design, and following his Interior Architecture and Design studies at the American University in London, the designer, who now splits his time between the British capital and New York, founded his eponymous brand Martin Brudnizki Design Studio, or MBDS for short, in 2000.
Kicking things off by working with high-street household names including Côte Brasserie, Las Iguanas and Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurants, it wasn’t long before the studio was snapped up by Caprice Holdings, and Brudnizki went on to get his first big break. “They enlisted us to work on Scott’s in Mayfair, which was an extremely exciting opportunity for us,” he explains. “We were very conscious of its reputation and provenance so wanted to design something sensitive that still allowed us to create freely.”
As high-end hospitality projects started to flood in, Brudnizki was quick to learn that commercial projects were where is passion lay, and today he can be found on the speed dial of some of the industry’s biggest players. “I love hospitality design because it offers the opportunity to design dreamscapes and places of escapism,” he says. “You’re charged with creating spaces that are used for enjoyment and excitement rather than homes that need to be lived in all the time. With that in mind, you can push the boundaries and create spaces that exude glamour, seduction, whimsy or artistry.”
You’re charged with creating spaces that are used for enjoyment and excitement… With that in mind, you can push the boundaries and create spaces that exude glamour, seduction, whimsy or artistry.Martin Brudnizki, designer
And push the boundaries he does. Perhaps the studio’s most ambitious project to date, Brudnizki transformed London’s A-List haunt Annabel’s back in 2018 into a maximalist paradise with an Asian garden – Garden of Eden – and, on the ground floor, a real garden with retractable glass roof. “We were inspired by gardens and the English love affair with entertaining,” he says. “You arrive and you know you are going to have the best time ever.”
He also cherry-picks one of his most recent projects, The Pendry in West Hollywood, as a particular career highlight, where he conjured an over-the-top oasis complete with Murano glass, bespoke de Gournay wallpaper and an unparalleled art collection, including a Picasso in the entry way. “We were inspired by the glamour of Old Hollywood, and have used the concept of LA Dusk and Ocean Waves as the basis for our colour palettes and material use,” he enthuses. “It’s the studio’s first full hotel on the west coast of America, and is special in that sense as it’s a new territory we are leaving our mark on.”
Denmark is the next country set to get the magic Brudnizki treatment when 25hours Hotel Indre By, the first 25hours hotel in Scandinavia, opens its doors in the next few weeks. Situated right in the heart of Copenhagen, the building itself dates back to the 19th century, and Martin was keen to pay homage to its previous purpose as a university and place of learning “We were presented with a fascinating building that had many guises over the years, and we were especially interested to learn that the building was once a printing works and paper mill. Not only did this feed directly into our idea of knowledge and learning, it also gave us an opportunity to be creative and design something unexpected,” he says. As such, guests are greeted by a sculpture crafted from books as they enter the reception area – a direct reference to the building’s paper mill heritage.
You could say complementing a building’s rich architectural history is Brudnizki’s USP, with the designer relaying that this is the first thing he looks at when imagining a project. “We always try to ground every project to its location, and often the building is the starting point,” he says. “We’re lucky to work with a number of old and interesting buildings.”
We always try to ground every project to its location and often, the building is the starting point.Martin Brudnizki
Case in point? For the Beekman Hotel, he converted a New York office building originally built in 1881 into a must-stay destination for stylish New Yorkers and its visitors in Lower Manhattan, while for London’s Scarfes Bar, he drew on the both the building’s beautiful Edwardian architecture as well as its neighbourhood’s strong sense of history to create a drawing room-meets-gentleman’s club that still managed to preserve the building’s original features. “The surrounding area is just as important to us, and we are sure to research interesting cultural figures or moments in history which have influenced the area in which we are working,” he adds.
Though Brudnizki might be famed for his colourful, eclectic approach, he is quick to add that he doesn’t like to be pigeon-holed into one particular style set. “I’ve done all the trends – classicism, minimalism, modernism and now maximalism – and I think everything comes full circle for a reason,” he explains. “I just like to have fun with design, and my projects just tend to always be full of colour and pattern because that’s what brings me joy.”
It’s this same carefree ethos behind the new Sussex countryside home that the designer shares with his partner Jonathan Brook, who heads up the communications department of MBDS. “It’s full of colour and texture,” he says joyfully. “I wanted the house to feel alive and I wanted to smile every time I walk through the door.” The result is a mismatch of lampshades piped with ruffles, thickly-flowered fabrics, exuberant wallpapers and a gilded Georgian chimneypiece that commands attention. “I think when people first walk through the door, they feel a little overwhelmed as it’s very bold and bright and you may initially feel it doesn’t all work together,” he adds. “I’ve found within half an hour of sitting back in a sofa, however, it mellows and everyone feels cocooned and warmed by the style.” With his first London hotel on the horizon (Broadwick Soho is slated to open in late 2022) as well as two in New York, another in Paris plus numerous upcoming restaurant openings across the US, it doesn’t look like things are going to be slowing down for Brudnizki any time soon. And from what we can gather, that’s just the way he likes it.
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