By Shelley M. Black
Potter, designer and author Jonathan Adler is embracing the mayhem of this new decade with his signature modern American glamour and graphic luxe design. HF contributor, Shelley Black caught up with the global award-winner at the Interior Design Show 2020, where he showcased his whimsical Dreamland collaboration.
Q. You talk about designing differently for the new decade? What’s brought that on?
A. I think that design reflects the world we live in, and right now as we enter the ‘20s the world we live in is completely chaotic. There are no rules for anything in life anymore, and wonderfully the same applies to design. Right now, I’m living for bold, graphic black and white with a soupçon of Technicolor thrown in. It has me serving up bright, graphic, in-your-face glamour, which I’m very fond of.
Q. At IDS you collaborated with premium surface manufacturer Caesarstone on an installation called “Dreamland.” Do you spend any time in the kitchen yourself?
A. Collaborating with Caesarstone has been a dream! My installation with them is a surrealist, cloudscape fantasy world for IDS Toronto in various colours. My husband Simon Doonan and I have a summer escape on Shelter Island in New York, and really, all I want to do is be there in that kitchen, looking out at the sea. Ideally, I’ll be making my world-famous strawberry torte, which—not to brag—is the best you will ever taste.
Q. All of your bios list “potter” as the first descriptor. Seems your first love is still pottery. How come?
A. I first tried pottery at summer camp when I was 12 years old. It was a true “A-ha!” moment. It was fate—and I say that as a person who is rational and skeptical, and really doesn’t believe in New Age mishegas. But the exception is my pottery. It was meant to be that pottery and I stayed together. It’s still the centre of my life and my designs all these years later. My design practice is craft-based, so everything starts in my pottery studio. That’s the epicentre of my business. My office is a full floor in a SoHo building in New York City, and at the centre of it all is my pottery studio.
Q. What are you excited about that’s in the future for your brand?
A. Everything. I always like to describe myself as a restless designer. The more I make and the more brands I collaborate with, the more I want to do.
Q. Is the design world too predictable and how are you changing that?
A. It can be. I think the biggest mistake people can make when designing is settling for things that will just do. Everything in your house should be great and each piece should absolutely be something you hope to have forever. It’s something I think a lot about when I’m designing. Pieces should have a long and happy life. I like to live by the principle, “if your heirs won’t fight over it, we won’t make it.”
Q. What can an excited new client expect from you and your design team when you come onboard?
I think a good designer functions as a fabulous slimming mirror for his or her clients. My job is to capture a person at their most glamorous, eccentric, alluring self and reflect that in my designs. As a company, we strive to create luxe, fantasy-fueled, livable interiors. We want our spaces to be seriously seductive and well designed but they shouldn’t take themselves too seriously.
Q. Your website has a lovely description that highlights your scope of work—it seems beautifully diverse; art, furniture, pottery as well as living and work spaces.
A. Yes, I like to say that I design all the bits that are needed to create a flawlessly chic home, hotel or restaurant. Today, we have retail locations, a thriving e-commerce site, a slate of commercial and residential projects and over 1,000 locations working with us. We design modern home décor, from cocktail tables and lamps to vases and chandeliers that are chic and promise to wow with a dose of style and colour. For this season I’m feeling vivid blues and pastel hues so our products all tend to be rather bold and bright.
Q. What do you value most in your own home?
A. My husband Simon and my rescue mutt FoxyLady are extremely important to me, but truthfully at the end of the day, the rest of it is all just stuff.