Design Experts

Inside design: Jonathan Adler

Inside design: Jonathan Adler Author: Style At Home

Design Experts

Inside design: Jonathan Adler

Who: Jonathan Adler, potter with a penchant for interior design, author and television personality, who recently collaborated with Lacoste on a special collection that will be available mid-November 2011.

Why we love Jonathan: His manifesto stipulates, “Minimalism is a bummer,” “Colours can’t clash,” and “Your home should make you happy,” and indeed, thanks to these irreverently fabulous mantras, he makes us happy. Adler-Lacoste.jpg
Style at Home: What inspired your recent collection with Lacoste?
Jonathan Adler: I’ve been rocking Lacoste since I was 10 years old – obsessively, compulsively, like an addict. So when they came to me, I was ecstatic. I felt like a kid hearing the sound of the ice cream truck coming! My goal was to capture Lacoste’s preppy, sporty, country-club-chic spirit and marry that with my design sensibility: fun, colourful and playful.

S@H: How would you describe your style?
Optimistic luxury rooted in Modernist design, with a top note of country-club style.

All photography courtesy of Jonathan Adler unless otherwise noted.

S@H: How do you view the relationship between fashion and home decor?
JA: Design is design. Whether it’s home decor, fashion or architecture, the considerations are the same: form, function, surface and pattern. It’s solving problems. It’s about thinking, “How can I make this the best it can be?”

S@H: In what ways do trends in fashion and decor influence one another?
We’re lucky to live in a time where anything goes. Inspiration is pulled from anywhere – it’s really just an insane mashup. Basically, I think everything influences everything else.

S@H: Tell us about your start as a potter.
When I was 12 years old, I went to a summer camp where I tried potting, and it was on! I touched the clay and felt this connection. And that was that. By the age of 14, I was a serious potter – and I was good!

S@H: Did your designs at 14 years old foreshadow the kinds of things you create now?
: They have a lot of the same concerns – I was all about the idea of defying gravity. I would make all these elaborate ceramic creations with teeny-tiny bottoms…. I don’t know how they stood up! Adler-62.jpg
S@H: So how did your camp hobby grow into your phenomenal career?
After I graduated from college, I found that I was unemployable and got fired from, like, 10 jobs in a row. Meanwhile, I’d been making pots and had received my first order, and it grew from there. My career was accidental, but fated at the same time.

S@H: In what ways has your design philosophy evolved?
I don’t think it has. I’ve always strived to create unimpeachably chic design that has an element of friendliness and levity. I’ve always wanted to make things that someone’s heirs would fight over. So philosophically, I’ve stayed very true to who I am – I’ve just been really lucky to have made more and more stuff.

S@H: One of our favourite Jonathan Adler quotes is, “People who are afraid of colour are afraid of life.” What colours are you loving right now?
Turquoise forever and orange always. The surprise colour for me this year – the one that I’m mad about – is grey. I love pairing strong colours with a sombre base shade. I’d been using chocolate brown for years, but now I’ve switched to Team Grey.

S@H: What decor item are you coveting this year?
Ooh, I saw this unbelievable bronze table in a gallery in Saint-Germain in Paris and I’m desperate for it. So if your readers want to donate $50,000 for my table fund… or if you want to do a telethon….

S@H: What are your decor pet peeves?
I want people to design their homes to make them happy, so I suppose the only real pet peeve I have is when people design their homes to impress somebody else rather than themselves.

S@H: How do you strike a balance between a personalized home with the tchotchkes you love and a clean, uncluttered home?
Some people think design is something that should happen easily and automatically, but it isn’t. Even I have to spend a long time thinking about how to arrange things on a shelf – I try symmetry, I try asymmetry, I try different things. With enough effort, you can make anything work together. I really believe that.

S@H: What are your favourite kinds of clients?
Ones with really deep pockets! And ones who don’t have any preconceived ideas about how things should be. I had this fantastic client in Boston who moved into a house with super formal drapes that didn’t suit his style. When he asked what he should do about a window covering, I said, “Why don’t you just take the drapes you have and deface them? Just have your kids paint all over them!” And he said, “Great!”

S@H: How did you come up with the idea to do that?
They were so perfectly done but completely inappropriate, it seemed a shame to waste them, and I thought the client just wanted things to be fun.

S@H: What are some of your favourite items from your line?
I’m obsessed with this new brass hippo and giant brass banana that I’ve just made. I also love my Dora Maar vases, which have all the faces going around them. And my pill pillows. I love anything with any sort of ‘pilling’ on them, because pills have been very good to me.”

{1} Brass hippo Sculpture, $495 US,
{2} Brass banana sculpture, $595 US, {3}Dora Maar vase, $295 US, Adler-hicks.jpg
Photography Slim Aarons/Stringer/Getty images.

S@H: Favourite design books?
Honestly, my library is just packed. I have such an extensive design library, and I sort of always look to the book. I do have a number of dog-eared David Hicks books.

Photography Eliot Elisofon/Time & Life pictures/Getty images.

S@H: Most important design inspirations?
I have so many design heroes, but my Holy Trinity is probably Bonnie Cashin, Alexander Girard and BjØrn Wiinblad – all mid-century designers with really idiosyncratic styles that were beautifully chic with a sense of joy.

S@H: Best place to shop for decor?
Two: 1stdibs and moi (


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Inside design: Jonathan Adler