Meet the designer of the new-look Academicians’ Room

Published 13 November 2015

Less salon, more living room – that’s the ambience of the new-look Academicians’ Room, where club members can relax along with Royal Academicians.

  • From the Winter 2015 issue of RA Magazine, issued quarterly to Friends of the RA.

    If there’s one thing Martin Brudnizki feels strongly about, it’s colour. “I love colour, I don’t like beige; there’s too much beige in the world,” he says. The Stockholm-born interior designer is renowned for revamping high-end restaurants, hotels and bars in London and beyond, breathing new life into old haunts such as The Ivy in Covent Garden. His latest brief was to redesign the Academicians’ Room, the Royal Academy’s private members club – and the results are as colourful as promised.

    Describing the aesthetic as “haute bohemian”, Brudnizki has filled the room in the Keeper’s House with an eclectic assortment of mostly vintage furnishings. Rich, jewel tones abound: custom-made ruby-red velvet sofas, topaz blue footstools and a warm, Persian-style rug imported from New York. During the day, sunlight pours in through the skylight, while in the evening lamps set at eye-level create a more intimate atmosphere. The room draws you in, tempting you to sink into the nearest armchair. This, Brudnizki explains, is the desired effect: “I really hope that it’s going to be like an extension of your living room.”

    This ‘living room’ concept is part of the narrative behind the redesign: the room has been fancifully reimagined as an artist’s drawing room. This fictional artist was also a collector, somehow able to pick up objects, magpie-like, from around the Academy. “We wanted the furniture to look like it had been collected, almost as if we had gone through the amazing places and spaces within the Royal Academy, found all of these pieces throughout the building and then assembled them here. This is the story.”

  • There’s too much beige in the world

    Martin Brudnizki

  • The Academicians’ Room, however, already has its own stories to tell. Originally designed by Norman Shaw RA in 1883, it began life as an architectural gallery – a phase that literally left its mark. Architectural drawings were displayed on the walls, which are to this day still covered in thousands of pinholes from the picture hooks. Brudnizki does not want to hide away this past, but rather add to it.

    “Architecturally the room has perfect Victorian Gothic proportions. It’s a beautiful space, nothing really needs to be done to it.” And so the timber walls, stained a distinctive rose colour, are not altered any further, though a new selection of Academicians’ work hangs upon them. The floor has been only subtly repolished, and the balcony – where David Hockney RA has been known to smoke – has been left unchanged.

    For Brudnizki the experience of using the Academicians’ Room is inextricable from its history, and from the history of the Royal Academy itself. “When you walk into the courtyard and go in through the Keeper’s House, you feel as though you’re walking in the footsteps of so many well known artists over hundreds of years.” The hope is that Brudnizki’s redesign will encourage many others to make that journey.

    Annual Academicians’ Room club membership is £450, or £250 for those aged 35 & under, with a £275 and £175 joining fee respectively. Call 020 7300 5920 or email

    Anna Coatman (@AnnaCoatman) is assistant editor of RA Magazine (@RA_Mag)

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