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Five Minutes with Edward Bulmer

19th May 2020

Having spent thirty years working with some of England’s finest historic homes, Edward Bulmer is a renowned architectural historian, as well as award winning interior designer. From his restored home – a Queen Anne house and organic farm in Herefordshire, Edward, along with his wife, Emma have also established a hugely successful range of natural paint. With so many hats to wear, we were fortunate enough to steal five minutes of Edward’s time to find out more about his work, passions and how he and his family are excelling at the Getty Museum Challenge!

Edward Bulmer
Edward Bulmer

Edward Bulmer Interior Design
I grew up in a Georgian house which my parents restored and furnished over the years. They supported my artistic leanings but instead of art school I studied History of Art at UEA. There I explored the great wealth of historic architecture in Norfolk and developed a passion for the country house in particular.

My first job was for David Mlinaric at Spencer House and then I worked as a freelance researcher for the National Trust before joining Alec Cobbe, a picture restorer who did many creative projects including rehanging pictures and redecoration.

Edward Bulmer Natural Paint
When working at Goodwood in the early C21st I was asked to ensure that I used healthy and environmentally responsible materials. Paint was my one problem supply. It was neither healthy nor environmentally responsible, so I sourced natural paint from a firm in Germany. It was beautiful and I was converted. However, there was no one offering it in the mainstream way, other than Earthborn but the limitations of claypaint and their palette was a problem for me. So we decided to commission our own colours – 25 to begin with. Edward Bulmer Natural Paint now offer 102, with a further 60 lighter shades.

Our paints grow in popularity exponentially as we have so much to offer. Every interior shown in our colours inspires others to choose them, every article about chemical sensitivity points to mainstream paints as a contributor and environmental concerns increasingly question any product that is made from petro-chemicals when it could be made from honestly declared natural ingredients.

Colour man
I work with 12 pigments, basically the same as a picture restorer. They form my basic grammar. We have created a vocabulary from this that gives you varying tones of the primary and secondary colours. All of our hues work as a tonal family as we use earth pigment to ‘season’ each recipe, giving them a softer and subtler appearance.

Colour and historic homes
Colour is crucial as these interiors comprise a mixture of hard finishes, soft furnishings, works of art and furniture that call for a unifying aesthetic. Using the same repertoire of natural pigments gives our colour range a head start and provides the tonal linkage that is required. Modern needs are no different – we still combine natural hard finishes with fabrics, furniture and pictures to create comfortable interiors and the tonality of colour is key to this.

"The tonality of colour is key" - Edward on colour in historic and modern homes. "Cuisse de Nymphe Emue" in Edward's bathroom
"The tonality of colour is key" - Edward on colour in historic and modern homes. "Cuisse de Nymphe Emue" in Edward's bathroom
Edward Bulmer Natural Paint Gladstone
"A unifying aesthetic" - Edward on colour in historic homes. Edward Bulmer Natural Paint "Gladstone"

Advice for aspiring interior designers
Make things. It is so satisfying to work with craftsmen. You create individual pieces and you hone your own design talent.

Designing for historic buildings
The first consideration is always the architecture. It is the foundation and no amount of decorating will make up for a missing detail or a bad alteration. Correct these and then consider what can’t or shouldn’t be changed – this may be a chimneypiece, or it may be tapestries tailored to the room in the C18th or just missing door furniture…

It is fun and flattering to make the front cover of House & Garden but most of all rooms should work for your clients’ everyday life.

Favourite room to design
Any room where I can do the above! Larger rooms give the opportunity for interesting picture hanging which is a passion of mine, particularly in rooms to be lingered in like sitting rooms.

Favourite room in your home
Our Music Room is the centre of life here when our three daughters are home. We designed it from scratch, made most of the furniture, decorated it with our colour Pomona and use it every day.

Favourite piece in your home
I inherited a George II clock in the form of a mahogany bracket clock on a marbled pedestal. It is the only striking clock in the house and the movement is by John Pyke a royal clockmaker. I pass it every day and wind it weekly we have a mutually supportive relationship!

Edward Bulmer picture hanging
"Picture hanging is a passion of mine" - the entrance hall in Edward's home
Edward's much loved music room in "Pomona", one of the Edward Bulmer Natural Paint range
Edward's much loved music room in "Pomona" from the Edward Bulmer Natural Paint range
Beautiful panelling painted in Edward Bulmer Natural Paint "Duck Egg Blue"
Beautiful panelling painted in Edward Bulmer Natural Paint "Duck Egg Blue"
Edward's George II clock on a marbled pedestal
"a mutually supportive relationship" Edward's George II clock on a marbled pedestal
Edward Bulmer and family Getty Museum Challenge
Edward and his family excelling at the Getty Museum Challenge

Must-have home comfort
Wifi, I have hard wired it into the house and have a booster, but have also run LAN cables to every laptop. This means that every room has become a work station and communications/entertainment hub! When I embark on work in established homes, I always start by surveying and reorganising what is already owned. Many things can be moved and don’t have to be where they are. New positions and combinations can often improve the look and function of your rooms.

While away the hours
#gettymuseumchallenge is fun!

Where are you most looking forward to visit post lockdown
The homes of friends and family, followed by those of my clients!

Brass curtain tieback Edward Bulmer Collier Webb
The Morant curtain tieback - part of the Historic Range of hardware, curated by Edward and handcrafted at the Collier Webb Foundry
Historic hardware range by Edward Bulmer and Collier Webb
Left: Gillow tieback from the Historic Range by Edward Bulmer Right: more pieces from the collection

How did you come to work with Collier Webb?
Through a cabinet maker, I was put in touch with Geoff Collier’s dad, to make some mounts. Since then the firm has made lamps, lanterns, door furniture, tiebacks and handles for me, as well as undertaking numerous restoration jobs.

Favourite Collier Webb pieces
I chose the Kent door handle for my house and I think the Gillow curtain tieback has to be the one I reserve for the best jobs!

Find out more about Edward Bulmer’s work and his natural paint here edwardbulmerpaint.co.uk