While an architect builds a home, a lifestyle architect helps build an entire way of life. For multi-Georgie Award-winner Timothy Bullinger, being a lifestyle architect entails far more than creating the tangible things in a client’s life; it’s about providing harmony, happiness and authentic experiences you can’t put a price tag on.
“Just because you can go shopping in Paris and drop a hundred grand on clothes doesn’t mean you’re living,” says Bullinger. “Instead of driving by the Louvre in a limo and looking at it from the outside, why don’t you stop and go in?”
Bullinger has “created custom environments” for Phil Collins, Vidal Sassoon and other moguls around the globe, giving him a unique perspective of the essence of luxury.
“In society, it’s all about branding and marketing, really. Whoever acquires the biggest collection of brand names is living a luxury of lifestyle, and that couldn’t be further from the truth,” says the Renaissance-man architect, whose firm, Arca3 Design Studio, offers building, interior, lighting and landscape design. Of course, Bullinger’s own services go even beyond that, from shopping trips with clients to Europe to buying their cars and yachts.
“Luxury is defined by your understanding and appreciation of creativity, the arts,” he says. “When you buy an item or a brand, you’re buying it because of the history and the story behind it, what’s gone into it, the artisans that have created it. That is what equates to value, not the price point.”
That love for the arts and his own creative journey began early for Bullinger, as he clearly knew he wanted to be an architect at only 12 years old, when he designed his first dream home. While his destiny may have been set at birth, growing up in Vancouver and living in Los Angeles, Tokyo, London, Paris and Hong Kong have added many dimensions to Bullinger, both personally and professionally.
“Nature is the ultimate creator. Nature always provides awe and beauty and something new — it evolves,” he says. “Every design that I create needs to suit my client’s lifestyle — who they are, who they want to be and who they potentially will grow into, because we all evolve and change. What I crave is a vehicle for our journey, which comes from nature. I’ve always felt that way, but I was very much inspired when I first was invited to work in Japan.”
The traditional tea ceremony, for example, had a special impact on Bullinger and his craft.
“The gardens in Kyoto are beautiful, as are many of the landscapes in Japan. But what was more significant to me was the meaning behind them,” he says. “What I learned was that yes, the tea ceremony is an awesome experience and has a very multiple-levelled meaning in drinking tea. But even before that, it’s the journey to the teahouse that’s really more important than the actual tea ceremony.”
Bullinger has always understood the philosophy that life is a journey, not a destination, but it wasn’t until his visits to the tea houses that he realized how he could help transform his clients’ lives.
“When you’re walking through the garden, there’s different portals or gate houses — the way that landscape drives you in, regulates or directs you on your pathway to the tea house. It’s the placement of the rock, the types of trees, the types of leaves, the shape, the texture. There’s so many different things going on that are working with you on a conscious, subconscious, spiritual multi-level form of interaction that, it’s unbeknownst to us, but is preparing you for the tea ceremony. I thought, ‘Well, this is awesome. This should be applied to architecture and design.’”
Timothy Bullinger’s favourite things
The traditional old-world aesthetic that informs Bullinger’s work permeates his refined lifestyle. He turns to the greatest classics for artistic inspiration: the genius of Leonardo da Vinci. The French design tradition guides his choice in furnishings: Paris’ Hugues Chevalier’s Art Deco style, or the Belle Epoque era in antique pieces, such as the exquisite Ormolu side table. The architect sticks to the classics in personal style, too: a Brioni silk tuxedo forms a flawlessly elegant base, complemented by pared-down accessories: a pair of Givenchy loafers; a Prada messenger for work; casual Maui Jim sunglasses; and a spritz of Hermès’ zesty Un Jardin en Méditerranée. Exotic plumeria blossom brings memories of Asia, his destination of choice, though a stay at Paris’ Hôtel Plaza Athénée is always a welcome treat. Wherever he is bound, a sleek Briggs & Riley case, Oi-Lin Exceptional Cream skin care to fight jet lag, a tune-loaded iPod and a sketchbook are must-have trip companions. And when it’s time to kick back, Bullinger chooses an inspirational read like Michael Collopy’s Architects of Peace; or a soulful film — the French The Intouchables is a feel-good fave.
Text by Lindsay Wallace Produced by Many Ngom