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This week in Miami, one of the new spots to stay in and be seen at will be the Thompson Miami Beach. It officially opened last month, but a few weeks before that we got to speak with its interior designer, Martin Brudnizki. He’s behind some of the most luxe lounges and restaurants in London, as well as the Soho Beach House (which has been the place for parties in Miami the past few years).
Here’s our interview with Brudnizki, published in Whitewall‘s winter 2015 Luxury Issue (out this week).
WHITEWALL: You’ve said that the key part of interior design is understanding the client and what they do. So how would you define your most recent client, the Thompson Miami Beach, which opened just a few months ago?
MARTIN BRUDNIZKI: We wanted it to be fun and youthful, yet with culture. Art, a library, a great restaurant; all this creates an atmosphere in the hotel for people to relax, chill, and have a good time.
WW: The chef of the hotel’s restaurant is Michelle Bernstein—a big name in Miami and in the culinary world. How did you work with her on the restaurant?
MB: We designed a very classic restaurant. We conceived a beautiful chamber-paneled restaurant that was very elegant and reminiscent of the fifties. We knew if we were going to try to get some great local chef involved, we felt we wanted to create a very classic restaurant that wasn’t themed. Michelle said to me a couple of months ago that she has always wanted me to design a restaurant for her and she was very excited when she was asked to work with this restaurant.
WW: How did the location of Miami Beach affect your approach? The other project you’ve done in the area—actually, right down the street—is the Soho Beach House.
MB: The first thing we look at is the building. There were three buildings, one made in the forties, one in the fifties, and one made in 2007, and we needed to put these all together. We decided we were going to base the concept on the fifties. Interior-wise, there was nothing left. We had to design the features and sort of make them up. The exterior is very Art Deco, but also relaxed. It had this big, smooth 1950s glamour, and that’s what we wanted to put back into this very glamorous beach resort, but in a city. We wanted to create the feeling that when you arrive you want to take your shoes off and walk around barefoot. All the material elements beautifully flow from the inside to the outside. We have an eclectic mix of old furniture and cushions and patterns and colors.
WW: When we first visited the Soho Beach house, we were struck by how comfortable it felt in comparison to other hotels on South Beach which are a bit loud in terms of interior design with lots of grand, over-the-top gestures. Do you think design in Miami is moving away from that flashy look?
MB: Soho Beach House was sort of a turning point in creating a more comfortable experience. The way we approach all of our design is to make things very comfortable, whereas in Miami a lot of times its all about that one big chandelier or the big conceptual statement, but after that it falls flat because there is no follow-through. You need to take your resources and spread them evenly throughout the project and make sure they are seamless throughout.
WW: You’ve worked with art collections in hotels and restaurants before, where the art is not just meant to match the sofa or isn’t commissioned for the space. It’s art for art’s sake.
MB: I don’t like it when things perfectly match the room. I like for art to be high and low, which is also how we do the interiors. The elements are very chic and elegant with beautifully designed prints and sideboard with marble, metal, and mahogany, but then next to it you have a chair that we found in a flea market.
At the Thompson there is a mixture of photographs. There are also some sketches and various brochures from the 1950s that we’ve framed. So that’s what I mean with the mixture of high and low.
WW: Have you always been interested in contemporary art?
MB: I’ve always liked abstract art because I can read into it what I want. Now, as I’m maturing in my life, I’ve started recognizing other types of interests, like portraits. My moods and hobbies change the more I see. I love going to the National Portrait Gallery in London because I leave quite inspired. Most of that is because I’ve just moved into a new apartment in an old Victorian apartment building and I designed everything very classically. With that came a different way of looking at everything around me.
WW: What initially drew you to interior design and architecture?
MB: Ever since I was a very young boy, I’ve always loved sketching. I would draw everything, from people to rooms. My mother was my intro into design. She worked as a visual merchandiser in a department store and then she worked as an interior designer. I was always surrounded by art and interior design. I would wonder, “What am I going to do? What is my life calling?” I remember I had a friend who went to London—and this was when I was living in Stockholm—to study interior design. When he got back, he showed me everything he had done, and I remember looking at it and thinking, “I can do better than that.” Then I enrolled, and it was fantastic and I’ve enjoyed it ever since.