Home & Garden

Design Q+A with Jonathan Adler

By: Brett Walther

©iStockphoto.com/ranunculus Author: Canadian Living Credits: ©iStockphoto.com/ranunculus

Home & Garden

Design Q+A with Jonathan Adler

By: Brett Walther
Brett Walther: What does "Happy Chic" mean?

Jonathan Adler: I was a struggling potter for many years, and I still had a really groovy house even though I was broke. Shopping vintage is key to doing things super low-budget. When I couldn't afford toss cushions, I'd turn vintage scarves and tea towels into pillows. And sometimes what a vintage piece needs – and what I love most – is a "make-under." Whenever you buy something secondhand, your first thought should be, Would this look better if I somehow defaced it? Not out of disrespect, but out of a sense of joie de vivre. Nothing is sacred.

BW: Would you ever wallpaper a kitchen or bathroom?

JA: I love to use wallpaper in a kitchen, but it's not urgent. In the powder room, it's urgent. I actually think if you don't have wallpaper in your powder room, you have severe mental problems and should probably be institutionalized. It's your one opportunity to go insane with pattern, and a great place to start if you're shy. You'll get addicted and feel more confident to spread it around your house.

BW: But how do you cope with humidity?

JA: People get their panties in a bunch about that kind of thing, but it's not a biggie. I mean, I have wallpaper in my powder room and nothing's ever happened. And I think that brings up a bigger issue, which is that when it comes to decorating, people are overly tentative and obsess about potential problems. As a result, they end up settling for bland spaces. My theory is that, when you're about to kick the bucket, you want to look back on your life and remember your jungle-patterned powder room instead of a beige haze of nothingness.

BW: When styling a home, what's your most essential prop?

JA: I don't travel anywhere without my big cache of birch logs. It's very embarrassing – and heavy – but a fireplace just doesn't look finished without them.

BW: What are your go-to flowers?

JA: Ranunculus and poppies. My approach to arrangements is very straightforward: I either do a big bunch of the same flower or different flowers in the same colour.

BW: What colour combination do you keep going back to?

JA: Chocolate brown with baby blue is forever.

How about a colour you'd never consider?

JA: Mauve. Jamais mauve.

Style file
Claim to fame: Playful potter who turned his unique designs into an iconic brand, expanding into wallpaper, furniture and, most recently, even the kitchen sink.
Design motto: "If your heirs won't fight over it, I won't make it."
Signature style: "Happy Chic": fearless colour, contemporary twists on '60s kitsch and an irresistibly cheeky sense of humour. Think orange Chinese Chippendale chairs, an oversize macramé owl wall hanging and zebra-striped needlepoint cushions. All in the same room.

If you want to follow Johnathan's advice and wallpaper your bathroom or kitchen, read our tips on how to wallpaper like a pro.
This story was originally titled "5 Minutes with Jonathan Adler" in the November 2013 issue.
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Home & Garden

Design Q+A with Jonathan Adler