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Jonathan Adler Style: Get the Look

Updated on July 13, 2011

Jonathan Adler Deconstructed

Here's a really simple plan to get stunning rooms in your home. Knockoff the style of an an interior designer's look you admire. In this scenario we'll study Jonathan Adler. He's one of my favorites because his designs are full of color and fun and yet they manage to also be sophisticated and refined. I mean, minimalism is all well and good, but it's not for me. I prefer happy exuberance and as Jonathan himself says, "Minimalism is a bummer".

For those of you who don't yet know who Jonathan Adler is, he's actually a potter turned interior designer. Of course, he still does his pottery and I'm sure you'll recognize his stuff when you see it (at least as having seen it before) because it's everywhere. As Bill Sofield so aptly commented, "Jonathan Adler does for American pottery what Noel Coward did for cocktail parties - he makes life witty, sophisticated, and simply delicious". Doesn't that sound wonderful?

Whether you like it or not, your home has a personality. Best case scenario is that it reflects you (and your family) at your absolute best. Now, when I say best, I don't mean you on your best behavior like at Aunt Emma's funeral, I mean, the you people know and love because you make them smile, feel happy, secure, protected... Your home should evoke the same feelings.

If you are kind of classic, but like to mix things up with a splash of vivacious color and then throw in a little retro glam, then this is the look for you.

In order to get the look, you have to first understand his design philosophy. So let's break it down.

Breaking Down the Components of The Look

Jonathan maybe whimsical but he's a classicist at heart. He uses tried and true base colors and forms then adds to them. The overall profile of his furniture is clean. He shakes things up a bit by throwing in unexpected color or texture.

For our purposes, we're going to concentrate on rooms that are easy to understand from a design perspective. That means, no complicated color schemes. All four rooms below start with basic black and white.

To get the look yourself here's what you need to do:

  • Start with a neutral envelope. The walls should either be white or cream. I know, I know, you're screaming the foyer is PINK for goodness sake. There are always exceptions to rules, you know that. If you're dealing with a small room, like a foyer or bathroom (especially a half bath where people spend literally only minutes inside) you can go a little crazy. In fact, you should! Have fun. Use really expensive wall treatments, tiles and a fancy chandelier. After all, the square footage is minimal, so you'll get lot's of impact with out doing too much damage to your wallet. But, even with the pink foyer, Adler is still staying within a black and white scheme. If you wanted to reverse this look then all you would need to do is paint the walls white and put a lively color on the upholstered pieces. Then, instead of the round mirror over the settee, you would need a piece of colorful art that introduces your theme color. Trade out the white porcelain for black and top the mirrored console with a colorful vase filled with voluptuous flowers. Voila! Course, you could just trade out pink for your favorite color... But, I've gotten off track here.

  • Add in a splash of color or two. Take a look at the dining room. Again, Adler starts with a black and white theme and adds in only two colors: turquoise and yellow (two of my favorites, by the way). The chairs are Chinese Chippendale and they've been popular for quite some time. What Adler has done to make them new is painted them a poppy shade of bright yellow. This would work on any type of wooden chair from Shaker to Windsor (just don't try to paint teak, it has too much oil to take the paint and the finish won't stay looking right).
  • Use classic shapes. As I mentioned above, the Chippendale chair style is 250 years old but the X- frame stools in the third picture are even older. They stem from from the time of the Egyptians - not kidding, and are one of the oldest documented styles of furniture (minus the upholstery). The couches from that same picture are called tuxedo couches and were first designed by Billy Baldwin (supernova of interior design). You can recognize them because their arms are the same height as their back and they'll fit in with just about any style, so they're a great base for the rest of your room.
  • Throw in a couple of retro pieces. The round table is a Warren Platner designed in the 1960s (love it) and if you can get the real deal, snap it up. It's an iconic collector's piece. But, don't sweat it if you can't find/afford the retro gem because there are plenty of reproductions out there as well. The chandelier above the table is also from the same era and retro lights abound on eBay.
  • Go graphic. Jonathan loves graphic patterns and uses them a lot. Luckily for you, graphic patterned rugs are really in style and you can find them every where from Ikea on up to high end stores. But you don't have to limit yourself to just putting pattern on the floor. You could use a geometric wallpaper, or patterned upholstery fabric. To keep it simple only use pattern in one place. Then, repeat the motif (be it squares, circles or what ever) again at least twice more around the room. For example, if you choose a square motif, repeat the boxy shape in a table or chair.
  • Use unexpected textures. Got a beach house? Upholster your couch in terry cloth and stay away from the seashell paintings. Don't be literal be abstract. Think in terms of opposites. If you've got a leather couch, cover your armchair in sheepskin - the shaggy fur will look fantastic next to the sleek leather and be oh, so comfy as well.
  • Shake in some whimsy. This is really important. You've got to have a sense of humor in life and decorating. Check out the porcelain pooch sitting on the white piano, the palm tree floor light and the owl umbrella stand in the pink foyer. But, you've got to be careful not to cross over into kitsch.  It's a razor's edge - give it a shot.  You can always return your purchase if you decide it's too over the top.

Well, there you have it. The perfect Jonathan Adler cocktail, shaken not stirred.

Article by Anne Alexander Sieder all rights reserved.


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    • edelhaus profile image

      edelhaus 7 years ago from Munich, Germany

      And Jonathan Adler is so much fun!

    • eventsyoudesign profile image

      eventsyoudesign 7 years ago from Nashville, Tennessee

      Great article. I love the designs and the video was a good touch too. I love to read about interior design and architecture. Good job. Teresa

    • Judy HBerg profile image

      Judy HBerg 7 years ago

      Thanks for the introduction to Jonathan Adler and all of the possibilities that he inspires. Great Hub!

    • edelhaus profile image

      edelhaus 7 years ago from Munich, Germany

      Thank you!

    • zoey24 profile image

      Zoey 7 years ago from South England

      I loved this hub, i had not heard of Jonathan Adler before but really like his modern designs, rated up and useful :)