Village life: Designer Jonathan Adler's Manhattan apartment is anything but boring
I've always believed colour is the most accessible anti-depressive available." So declares interior designer Jonathan Adler, boldly – and anyone familiar with his equally bold home furnishings won't doubt the earnest nature of that pronouncement. Adler adores colour, and it shows in his own living space.
While there are zig-zags and spirals in zingy blue on his carpets, and a spread of pink paisley for a ping-pong table top, his New York home really reveals an enduring love for eye-popping citric orange and green: "Those are perennial favourites," he concedes. "Orange is the colour of sun and happiness; lime-green is an instant palate cleanser."
Not that his Greenwich Village apartment – in what he terms a "fab 1920s building" – stays looking the same for very long. Although the 45-year-old has lived here for 17 years, he says the current set-up is about its 28th iteration, and it's a statement clearly made only partly in jest. "The problem is that I make stuff for a living," sighs Adler, who started his career as a potter. "I need to road-test the products – [the apartment] is a laboratory for things I make."
Adler lives with his civil partner,Simon Doonan – who he calls his "much, much, much better half". Doonan is the long-time window-dresser, now creative ambassador, for New York store Barneys, as well as an author and style writer for the website Slate. It was his memoir Beautiful People that was turned into a BBC television series of the same name in 2005.
But while this is evidently a couple with style on both sides, Adler gets to call the final shots when it comes to their home. "Simon's a creative person and he and I share a similar approach to life – we like things to be creative, colourful and communicative. We're on the same page; but he recognises it's my laboratory."
And, just like a lab, their creative space has a pristine backdrop: high ceilings, huge stretches of wall and long flowing curtains all a clinical, pure white. But, then, Adler needs a backdrop that will always work with whatever new colour schemes, mad patterns or funky products he decides to throw at it next. "Simon and I really wanted to create this dreamy white box that just feels very ethereal, then layer in as many patterns and colours that we feel like," he explains.
Though Adler was brought up in New Jersey, Doonan hails from Reading. But while an English influence can easily be spotted in their home, it isn't simply down to Doonan: "I'm also a raging Anglophile – I really am – I like to give my props to England," enthuses Adler. He's got enough Union Jacks in the house to theme a Diamond Jubilee party. "I love everything about the flag, its Mod resonance, its English resonance, I love how it looks – it makes me happy."
His own design heritage is an influence too, however, and Adler cites his parents' style and the house he grew up in as being really important. "My dad was a rigorous minimalist – the house was full of Knoll k furniture and groovy minimalist designs; and my mum was really into colour – there were Marimekko designs everywhere."
Adler credits his grandmother for inspiring his love of the surreal: "She had an incredibly groovy house and there were a few totemic items – hanging mobiles, great Danish 1960s pottery, just quirky and memorable pieces that triggered my imagination. Those over-the-top moments are the spice of life."
And he's managed to find room for a fair few spicy bits in his own apartment, from banana-shaped vases to a bust of Michael Jackson, garden gnomes to poodle lampshades, a giant foot to a collection of glass heads. Some are from his own range; others are much-loved acquisitions.
Of those multicoloured heads, which smile away along the mantelpiece, Adler explains: "When I first met Simon he had a big collection of those 1950s Italian glass heads. After a few years we were both like, 'Meh, we're kind of sick of them,' and sold them. Then, after 10 years, we missed them terribly, and I am convinced I bought the ones we had back, at 10 times the price – I should have held on to them. It's a cautionary tale!"
That huge black foot, which looks as though it's stomped down from an episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus, is a key piece for Adler, too. It's a remake of a work by Gaetano Pesce, the New York designer-cum-architect. "It's always a good idea to play with scale, and surrealism," suggests Adler. "It's great to have a big statement and I think that scale is one of the best tools in any designer's arsenal."
It's fair to say that Adler isn't shy about using any tool or trick in the designer's book to make a house into a cheery home. Whether it's splashing about acid colours or going a little wild with patterns and prints, installing a ping-pong table or a giant foot, Adler's home – like his work – is full of happiness-inspiring hues and witty trinkets. He's unashamed in his aim, and unabashed at peppering his conversation with words such as "groovy", "joy" and "fab". If anyone can beat the January blues through the use of soft furnishings, it's this man.
Jonathan Adler's first UK shop is open now at 60 Sloane Square, London SW3. For more information, see jonathanadler.com
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