Celebrating 21 Years of Innovative Design with Martin Waller

As interior design guru Martin Waller celebrates 21 years of innovation, The Resident quizzes him about his inspirations and top transformational tips (spoiler alert: a lick of paint goes a long way)

As perhaps one of the biggest Indiana Jones fans going, I think it would be a pretty great compliment to be compared to the legend that is – something that renowned interior designer Martin Waller gets regularly as people dub him the modern day Indiana Jones.

Since 1978, Waller has been at the forefront of global design and it’s the way in which he shines a light on hidden cultures, provides a stage for discovery and celebration, and cleverly fuses his love for travel with his passion for design that earned him the nickname. His designs showcased through Andrew Martin Design have the power to transfix and transport you to locations all over the world.

‘Design has always been about more than just attractive patterns,’ says Waller. ‘It is about reflecting a personal view on a subject. For me, this has often been about describing a love of various places or people. It was in Thailand that I first saw the miracle of silk yarn production and the laborious work of Ikat weaving, which can take a day to produce just a single metre.’

Martin Waller

Martin Waller

This year welcomes the 21st anniversary of the Interior Design Awards, established by Waller to draw more attention toward interiors and influential design that he felt wasn’t getting the publicity that it should do. The impressive comparisons don’t stop at Indiana Jones for Waller either, as the awards are also quite fabulously referred to as the Oscars of the design world by those within and even outside of the industry.

Drawing attention to people who deserve merit within the world of interiors is certainly something that Waller has achieved. The likes of Kelly Hoppen, Kit Kemp, Nicky Haslam and Rose Uniake have been among the winners of the prestigious title.

Each year the very best work from global entrants is honoured with publication in the Interior Design Review, a book that accompanies the awards. The Review, also referred to as the Bible of interior design over the 21 years of its being, has become a cultural catalogue of design, illustrating social and political movements and cultural lifestyles, much like the awards themselves.

‘It feels like an incredible phenomenon to be celebrating this,’ smiles Waller. ‘It’s got much bigger and more international over the years. This year we have an astonishing mix of ideas. If people ever wonder what interior design is bringing to the party, this book is the answer. Everyone in the book this year brings different solutions to the table – and they are actually startlingly different.’

Surprisingly, design wasn’t really something that Waller was immersed in as a child, but when he was a teenager, he tells me how he loved stores. ‘There was an iconic store in Kensington High Street called Biba and I thought it was the coolest thing ever,’ he says. ‘It was an incredible experience and I think that more than anything else inspired me to take the interior design route.’

A design in Soho House Miami

A design in Soho House Miami

The Andrew Martin design ethos centres on individuality. ‘It’s something that is impacted on by cultures from around the world and all sorts of multi-led influences such as music, movies and travel,’ he says. ‘It’s a look that screams comfort, not in the sense of squashy comforts, but in that your home represents who you are.’ I’m keen to hear about whether Waller feels that social media today and the popularity of sites such as Pinterest have meant that people rely on trends too much, instead of seeking out their own style.

In every decade of this century you go from arts and crafts to Art Deco, to modernist and brutalist for example. Every decade has a new look

It’s refreshing in a world of modernity that he doesn’t see a negative impact though. ‘Trends were always there,’ he insists. ‘If you look at the introduction to the new book I talk about how in every decade of this century you go from arts and crafts to Art Deco, to modernist and brutalist for example. Every decade has a new look – it has always been that way. But we don’t like to succumb to the tyranny of certain taste.’

It is true that mastering the art of interior design is not an easy feat, especially considering the high level of rentals today and lack of period features in many homes. So, aside from Pinterest, what advice would Waller give as the simplest way to breathe life into your interiors?

His designs take him all over the world

His designs take him all over the world

‘The simplest tip is paint,’ he says. ‘It’s transformational in a space. It costs no more to paint it a wonderful rich blue than to paint it magnolia, so take risks.’

Travel is also something that Waller pays particular attention to for inspiration. ‘I’m designing a big retailer in America’s stores at the moment so spending a lot of time there,’ says Waller. ‘I’ll be paying attention to Chicago, and then I’m in India and China after that!’

The simplest tip is paint. It’s transformational in a space

Even though travel is at the heart of his designs, Waller loves spending down time at his home in Notting Hill too. ‘I love the place,’ he says.

‘A good example of design, although a bit of a cliché, but I’m just in awe of the British Museum. I love touching history and past cultures. London is the quintessential international city, the Alexandria of antiquity.’As the chronicle of design in our century, what end note does Waller want us to remember?

‘We are always changing,’ he says with a smile. ‘As we get older, we are constantly on a journey with things that impact on our character. Embrace that.’

To find out more and purchase the book, visit andrewmartin.co.uk