May 27, 2014

10 Questions With… Jonathan Adler

Chic and cheeky, hilarious and prolific,

Jonathan Adler

sure knows how to bring a wow factor to a room. His first ceramic collection appeared at Barneys New York in 1994. In the intervening years he’s expanded to create covetable furnishings, home accessories, tabletop, bedding, lighting, and—nowadays—apparel and accessories of the wearable variety. He has penned four books on how to live a most sophisticated existence, hosted Bravo TV’s

Top Design

, opened 28 stores, and carved out an extraordinary online retail presence. Meanwhile, he and husband Simon Doonan (writer, TV personality, and Creative Ambassador for Barneys New York) live lives beyond their dreams with their famous Norwich Terrier, Liberace.


Interior Design: You have a million irons in the fire. What gets your attention most these days?

Jonathan Adler: I get things made all over the world, so I’ve been traveling everywhere lately on sourcing trips. I just got back from the Philippines and found the most incredible levels of craftsmanship there. I started my own career as a craftsperson, so I value people with idiosyncratic and extraordinary skills.

ID: You’ve been finding a lot of success as a burgeoning fashion designer, as well. Are you enjoying this expansion of your repertoire?

JA: Yes, I do love the “fashion realm,” and it’s going great. I have a fun collection of scarves and men’s accessories such as socks and ties. I’m working on plenty of other items, too. It’s a new way for me to put some style, craft, and joy out there. My philosophy is: I’m on earth for just a short time, so I want to design anything and everything I can.

ID: You’re not one to shy away from the bold—Is it fair to say you are a “more is more” guy?

JA: Some people misunderstand what I’m all about. My main focus is to create pieces that are timeless, light, chic, and elegant. This is something I think about all the time—a strong sense of sophistication. Of course, there’s always a place for a soupcon of extravagance.

ID: How do you suggest a person go bigger and bolder within their home—or even with a piece of clothing?

JA: I say, “Bring it.” The conventional wisdom is that a man should dress greyer and drabber with every passing year. It’s the opposite. We’re lucky to live in an era that is essentially a creative free-for-all. It’s a great time for dude to connect with his inner peacock. We live in an “anything goes” society, and I see everyone becoming a little more glamorous and eccentric. It’s why I’m focusing on a lot more “hard glamour” these days. There are some very nifty and glamorous things en route.

ID: You have a pretty zesty outlook on life, which feels to be pretty contagious. Are these traits shared among the people you hire and work alongside?

JA: I have a few hundred people within my company as a whole—with about 50 or 60 people in my office. Whenever I look around, I just see groovy, young, wildly creative, and talented people. It’s a dream come true. We call it the Fantasy Factory, a cheeky reference to Andy Warhol’s Factory that is intended to remind us why we’re here: To create, be inspired, be inspiring, and have an amazing experience every day.

ID: In addition to being a successful author; a collaborator with companies such as Kravet, Lacoste, and the Rug Company; and creator of must-have items for every room, you’ve seen great success as an interior designer. You’ve done residences, hotels [the divine Parker Palm Springs], and even the real Barbie Dream House. Are you still active as an interior designer?

JA: I love doing interiors and still do them a little bit, but it’s mostly for friends. Unfortunately and fortunately, I don’t have much time because I’m often opening new stores. I’m about to open my 28th store in Scottsdale, Arizona.

ID: With 28 stores, you are truly a busy man. Do you still take time to hit the potter’s wheel?

JA: Oh yes, being a potter is just a part of me. I’m just about to roll up my sleeves and make something now. We still make all of the models in our studio. I’m most relaxed when I’m making stuff, and consider being away from work to be very agitating.

ID: What would you say are some of the standouts in-store for spring and summer?

JA: I love a mix of subtle and bold, and this spring we’re featuring our earth-toned rugs for Kravet that are handcrafted in Pakistan. They’re very quiet. I love them paired with our bold new Nico pillows that are sequined in electric colors. Every room needs an anchor and a star.

ID: What can you say about the boars, deer, koalas, and other wildlife popping up among your pottery offerings?

JA: Mother Nature did a perfect job designing the animal kingdom. I like to refine them and reduce them to their essential elements. We’re always looking to add new creatures to our menagerie; our studio is the Noah’s Ark of pottery.

ID: Coco Chanel is famous for saying, “Before you walk out of the door everyday, take one thing off.” Do you have a comparable credo when it comes to home decor?

JA: Put all your lights on dimmers. Everyone who comes over will look younger, thinner, and more glamorous.

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