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April 11, 2024updated 17 Apr 2024 12:09pm

Martin Brudnizki: the interior designer extraordinaire on Annabel’s, whippets and ‘not being boring’

Stephanie Bridger-Linning meets Martin Brudnizki for lunch at Bar Jackie, at the flamboyant Broadwick Soho

By Stephanie Bridger-Linning

‘Shall we order before we start?’ suggests Martin Brudnizki as he takes his seat across the table at Bar Jackie, a lively, Italian-inspired café, bar and terrace. He is ‘starving’ and has rushed from a nearby client presentation, but there is nothing flustered about Brudnizki: this is a man who exudes quiet composure.

[See also: Bacchanalia Mayfair: the bare cheek of Richard Caring’s newest restaurant]

No names, but there are clues the ‘client’ might be Richard Caring, the man with whom Brudnizki’s career as an interior designer extraordinaire is most closely associated. Caring’s kingdom of sceney restaurants and private members’ clubs – the Ivy, Harry’s Bar, Sexy Fish, Bacchanalia, J Sheekey and others – is built upon the fantasy created by Brudnizki’s opulent interiors.

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Regulars of these haunts will recognise what Brudnizki, 57, calls his ‘handwriting’ – the visual language that runs like a thread through his global portfolio, from Fortnum & Mason Hong Kong to Soho Beach House, Miami.

‘I try not to be boring’

Bar Jackie at the Broadwick Soho
Bar Jackie at Broadwick Soho, designed by Martin Brudnizki / Image: Broadwick Soho

Side by side, two Martin Brudnizki projects might appear ‘like chalk and cheese’, he observes. But there’s a ‘shared approach’. ‘The whole thing is, I try not to be boring.’ Anyone who has admired the gilded de Gournay wallcoverings or pink onyx sinks at Annabel’s is unlikely to imagine Brudnizki could ever be accused of this.

‘There is a thing Cecil Beaton said that really encapsulates how I look at the world,’ he continues, pausing briefly to Google the exact quote (as with his designs, Brudnizki is all about the detail). ‘Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary,’ he reads, adding: ‘There is just so much tediousness in so many different forms. And we [counter] that with beauty and joy.’

[See also: A night in Soho’s newest – and most flamboyant – hotel]

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Beauty and joy abound at Bar Jackie, which serves up a slice of la dolce vita from the ground floor of Broadwick Soho, a hotel designed by Martin Brudnizki Design Studio (MBDS) that opened to much fanfare in late 2023.

Power players including Mark Hix phoned to tell Brudnizki the Broadwick – his first full London hotel – was the ‘best work he had ever done’. For MBDS, it was the last of five hotel openings in 12 months, following La Fantaisie and Le Grand Mazarin in Paris and the Fifth Avenue Hotel and Hôtel Barrière Fouquet’s in New York. ‘We didn’t plan it like that,’ Brudnizki explains. ‘Two hotels took 10 years to build, one six years, one eight years, and they all finished within months of each other. It was a busy year.’

The rise of Martin Brudnizki

Born in Sweden, Brudnizki moved to London in 1990 to study at the American University, following in the footsteps of a friend. ‘When he showed me his work I thought, “Oh my god, I could do better than that.” So off I went. I’ve always had a certain confidence.’ After graduation he worked for architect Philip Michael Wolfson, gallerist David Gill and interior designer David Collins before founding MBDS in 2000.

[See also: Annabel’s at 60: charting the life of the legendary club]

Caring and Brudnizki first crossed paths in 2005, shortly after Caring took ownership of the Ivy and Caprice Holdings. A string of successes followed, including Scott’s and Annabel’s, which Brudnizki names as two of the three projects that have defined his career thus far. (The third is Soho Beach House Miami.)

‘Scott’s, in a sense, was a classical restaurant, but it feels very contemporary. Annabel’s – that was a completely different approach to a members’ club and it’s become more iconic than it ever was before.’

Another Richard Caring/Martin Brudnizki collaboration might soon be on the horizon: Caring is preparing to relaunch Le Caprice (made famous by Jeremy King and Chris Corbin) at the soon-to-open Chancery Rosewood hotel that will occupy the site of the old US embassy on Grosvenor Square.

[See also: How to join Annabel’s  Private Members’ Club]

MBDS now has 100 employees at its New York and London studios. Although he keeps an eye across the business, Brudnizki believes in delegating to his senior management team. ‘The creative side is my strength,’ he admits. ‘That’s what I should be doing. And other people can deal with the financing and all of that.’

Bacchanalia
Richard Caring’s Bacchanalia, with interiors designed by Martin Brudnizki

Bar Jackie’s menu of bomboloni and aperitivo classics is designed to share, but it is mutually agreed that after a starter for two (burrata served with quince, castelfranco and hazelnuts) we will part ways for the mains: spaghetti puttanesca and tomato and mozzarella pinsa.

Between sips of tomato juice, Brudnizki reaches out to feel a nearby curtain, running the fabric between his fingers. ‘I’ve been here before but I just like to see how they look after it,’ he says. ‘Sometimes clients do, sometimes they don’t.’

There is a feeling he wouldn’t mind either way. ‘It’s not mine; I don’t own this. I was here to help them become successful – that’s my job – but then you’re done. I think when you’re a young designer it’s different – you get emotionally very involved and it can be quite a comedown when it finishes. But because we do a lot of projects, and because I’m a bit older, for me it’s different.’

[See also: The best interior designers in 2024]

Much of the work MBDS takes on – ‘we’re fortunate we get quite a lot of good enquiries’ – is for major international names such as Four Seasons, Belmond and Soho House, but the studio also works on a select number of private residences. Caring has previously revealed he partnered with Brudnizki on his home. ‘These are really major residential projects, everywhere in the world,’ Brudnizki says. ‘They are big projects with clients that are extremely discerning.’ Among the current projects is a ‘royal palace’ overseas.

Proximity to such high-profile names could bring Brudnizki fame of his own. But while he is a regular fixture in Architecture Digest, Elle Decor and House & Garden, the designer is happy to stay out of the spotlight. ‘I think people don’t really care because it’s interior design – and that’s a good thing!’ he laughs. ‘I’m quite a private person. I do have Instagram but I don’t post my life on it, really.’

Escape to the country

Featured in the few personal snapshots he does share are his partner, Jonathan Brook, an art adviser who works at MBDS, and their beloved whippet, Zenon. The couple own part of an ‘old country house’ in Sussex where Brudnizki spends much of his time.

‘Moving to the country was one of the best things I ever did, because living in London it got to the point where it was very draining. Now, living in the country, I get so much joy from being with my dog, going for walks, working in the garden.’

[See also: Jeremy King is back to reclaim his crown]

The couple enjoy entertaining friends including artist and designer Luke Edward Hall and his partner Duncan Campbell. Indeed, Hall and Campbell are at the centre of a plan to breed Zenon. ‘We want him to have a little friend,’ Brudnizki says. ‘That would be amazing. There’s just something beautiful about walking two whippets.’

And Objects

Recently, Brudnizki has been busying himself with the launch of And Objects: a retail store selling his furniture collection. Conceived with Nick Jeanes, a former MBDS director with a background in product design, it is the result of a long-held ambition. ‘I always wanted to do product from the beginning,’ Brudnizki says.

Jeanes and Brudnizki started by working with industry heavyweights such as Urban Electric, George Smith, Drummonds and Porta Romana before deciding in 2017 to produce a full collection. After the planned launch of spring 2020 was delayed by Covid-19, And Objects launched in January 2021 as an online-only brand. Some pieces, like the £3,800 Easton chair, sold ‘very, very well’, Brudnizki says, but others languished. ‘We had this beautiful [£10,000] shell table in pink and we’ve only sold one ever because people didn’t really understand the scale of it.’

[See also: London’s best private members’ clubs: the definitive list]

It was felt And Objects needed a permanent home where customers could come and engage with the product. The shop opened officially on Pimlico Road, near Sloane Square, in autumn 2023. ‘Suddenly, there was more interest.’ Highlights of the collection include a £22,000 Binderton sofa, £15,000 Waltham console and a £28,000 Hambledon bookcase.

‘They’re all investment pieces,’ says Brudnizki. ‘It’s not something you buy and get rid of the following year.’ There are also light fixtures – including the £1,200 candy-striped Hursley wall light on display above our table at Bar Jackie – and ‘entry level’ pieces such as throws and candles.

Business is booming. Yet Brudnizki has half an eye on the long-term future of MBDS. He hopes the company will live on when he is no longer at the helm – even if that time is still ‘years away’. ‘It would be nice, after all the effort that I put in, that it would survive and it would continue.’

www.andobjects.com

This feature was first published in Spear’s Magazine: Issue 91. Click here to subscribe

Spear's Issue 91: cover image
Introducing Spear’s Magazine Issue 91 / Artwork: Diego Abreu

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