As the world’s first model with vitiligo, Winnie Harlow has grown accustomed to breaking barriers. She first came onto the scene in 2014, and in the nine years since, she has appeared on runways and in ads for dozens of brands, served as a judge on Making the Cut, launched her own beauty line, Cay Skin, and collaborated with Puma on a collection of sportswear.
A few years ago, after a lifetime in rented apartments, Harlow was ready to find a more permanent place to call home. Having relocated to Los Angeles for more space during the pandemic, and with her lease in New York City about to end, she thought, Why not just stay? “Me being a Caribbean girl, I wanted hot weather, sunshine, and a really beautiful pool,” she says. House hunting soon became Harlow’s main quarantine hobby, and by the end of the year she closed on an expansive newly built five-bedroom property.
As far as starter homes go, 4,847 square feet is a lot of space to work with, but Harlow was up for the challenge—and turned to the pages of AD to find someone who could help refine her vision and curate a home she would feel proud of. “I started looking to see who was working on the houses that I’m obsessed with, and that’s Martyn,” she says of AD100 designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard. “He came to the house, told me what he loved—and what he hated—and I could just tell that we were going to click.”
Bullard, who celebrates 30 years in business this year, has long worked with a roster of A-list celebrity clients including RuPaul (AD, June 2023), Ellen Pompeo (AD, January 2023), and Kylie Jenner (AD, March 2019)—all of whom will be featured alongside Cher, Elton John, and many more in his forthcoming book, Star Style, to be published in October by Vendome Press. The model and designer both describe their immediate rapport as “love at first sight,” and so began a nine-month process of transformation. “Because I felt such a strong connection with her, I wanted to do it,” Bullard recalls. “I wanted to make it a special place.”
When she worked with other designers in the past, Harlow admits, they weren’t always aligned. “I feel like a lot of people would misunderstand my sense of glamour,” she says. “My house should have a calm energy, but I want a sense of glamour as well.” With that in mind, Bullard set out to create a space fully customized to the model’s lifestyle that looked sexy but also felt like a sanctuary. “Her home is truly a home,” the designer emphasizes. “She fills it with friends and family, so it was very important to make it super comfortable and not pretentious.”
Since the property was new and structural modifications weren’t necessary, Bullard maintained the white, neutral base, layering soft colors, alluring materials, and soothing textures on top. Black accents add drama to the kitchen, celestial ceiling lights punctuate rooms, and sculptural furniture in luxe fabrics invites lounging. Stepping into Harlow’s bedroom is like walking into a cloud. Marble tables, bouclé-clad chairs and footstools, a Turkish faux-fur rug, and a velvet-upholstered bed set the scene for this 1930s Hollywood-inspired oasis. “A bedroom should be a space that you get to star in yourself,” Bullard asserts. “So these are the props to allow Winnie to do that.”
Throughout the house, Bullard and Harlow embraced a mix of vintage statement pieces—a pair of brass palm-leaf floor lamps by Tommaso Barbi from the 1970s stand in the living room—alongside items from CB2, Soho Home, and The Shade Store. As the designer notes, “There’s great design on every budget; it just takes weeding it out and finding the right fit.”
If it were up to Harlow, there wouldn’t be any pictures of herself on view, but Bullard felt it was important to weave her into the design narrative in creative ways that would “capture the joy of her career.” For instance, one powder room is covered in a custom wallpaper made out of Harlow’s test sheets for Zac Posen’s spring 2020 campaign. And while the glam room features a display of many of the magazine covers she’s graced, it’s the drawing of Harlow by an admirer, London artist Kelvin Okafor, positioned on the living room mantelpiece that means the most to her.
“I kept pushing back because I hated that idea,” she laughs, but she eventually came around. “The cover wall was interesting because it turned into more of a moment of gratitude and appreciation for how far I’ve come.”
To avoid turning the house into a Harlow hall of fame, Bullard deployed photographs of fashion icons like Beverly Johnson and Grace Jones throughout as an homage to the Black models that came before her. “I didn’t want it to be just me, so I thought it’d be beautiful to be able to walk around my house and feel inspired,” says Harlow. “These amazing Black women are people who made pathways for me to walk. I get to wake up every day and see those trailblazers on my wall.”
Harlow has learned so much from Bullard on this journey, and his guidance throughout the process has been unparalleled. “It’s the first house I’ve ever lived in and it is a lot of work,” she says. “Nothing is ever done. There’s always something to do—something to fix or build—but I am up for it all.”
Winnie Harlow’s Los Angeles home appears in AD’s Style issue. Never miss an issue when you subscribe to AD.