Martin Waller aka the ‘Indiana Jones of Design’ shares how he spends his work days
SEP 28, 2020 | By Aman Mehta
An itinerant connoisseur of culture and craft, Martin Waller has been at the forefront of interior design for over 40 years. A pioneer of the travel inspired aesthetic, the Britisher has ensured that Andrew Martin, his 1978-established home furnishings brand, continues to set the industry standard year after year. The brand’s showroom is a fusion of stories—a theatre for the world’s kaleidoscope of hidden cultures, eras and origins that romanticise travel.
Nicknamed the ‘Indiana Jones of Design’ for his sourcing and designing trips to faraway places—which translate into a seamless mix of comfort and escapism in his collections—Waller is also the publisher of 23 editions of the Interior Design Review. The voluminous books document the ever-changing global design environment and are supplemented by the Interior Design Awards, which is founded by Waller to bring attention to interiors.
He is also responsible for designing hotels, including the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, Marbella Club and El Lodge in Spain, film sets (Gladiator, Tomb Raider, Harry Potter, Christopher Robin, etc) as well as a number of private residences. His clientele includes Victoria Beckham, Tom Ford and Samantha Cameron, wife of former UK prime minister David Cameron, who have often been spotted in the iconic Walton Street showroom.
The ‘Indiana Jones of Design’ gives us a glimpse into his lifestyle—hunting for mammoths in Siberia and lost cities in Guatemala as inspiration for his designs.
5:30AM I’m an early riser but a slow starter. I like to read the paper and watch the morning news. It takes four espressos to get me out of the door.
7:30AM I arrive at work. I have always loved the theatre of retail, the activity of early deliveries, merchandising and setting up.
9AM Our flagship showroom opens for business, and every day feels like the first.
10AMAt any given time, I have a number of ongoing projects—hotels, restaurants, offices or homes. So much of design is about the organisation and I have a tendency to ask the same question repeatedly to ensure that things are on schedule. My bête noire is: ‘I sent an email’ (which must be the least reliable form of communication invented). We all get so many, and often so much of it is trash, so things inevitably get missed.
11:30AM I have a mid-morning coffee at Lady Carole Bamford’s wonderful Daylesford Organic. To my great joy, they have opened an outpost around the corner where I have focused discussions with colleagues.
12:30PM Design is a completely moving target, and it’s essential to have an escalator of new products moving up all the time. At Andrew Martin, this means creating new furniture, lighting, fabric and wallpaper collections. There is so much to do that diet cola is required to keep me alert.
4PM Andrew Martin is responsible for the International Interior Designer of the Year Award, and I love writing about these inspiring creatives. The annual cycle of judging, publishing and presenting is endless. Design also needs inspiration, and for me, that comes from exploring far-flung destinations. I have hunted for mammoths in Siberia, lost cities in the jungles of Guatemala and the Ark of the Covenant in Ethiopia. I have even traded with the Tuaregs in Timbuktu and headhunters in Nagaland.
6PM I travel for over 100 days a year, so I’m usually rushing to the airport. I read a book or watch movies. I firmly believe that movies have been the greatest art form of the 20th century. It is now the turn of video games. If you check the credit at the end of them, you’ll see they involve hundreds of artists—the next generation of super designers!
11PM I sleep better on planes than anywhere else.