Designer Jonathan Adler on finding your style
THE WASHINGTON POST – Potter, designer and author Jonathan Adler’s career is full of creative highlights, including designing chic hotels, as a judge on HGTV Design Star: new generation and create a real Malibu Barbie Dream House. His furniture, pillows, rugs and vases are sold worldwide, including 11 Jonathan Adler stores, and he recently launched his first tile collection for Lunada Bay.
His last concert is an educational series of 13 episodes, Decorate like a designer, with Jonathan Adlerwhich premiered in May on Wondrium, a subscription streaming service for educational content.
“I’ve spent my life thinking about how design works,” said Adler, 55. “I felt it was time to share what I know.”
The exhibit’s themes are varied – lighting, accessorizing, salvaging antiques, color, the magic of repetition – and a captivating lesson in the history of design over the past 100 years.
This is a well-organized introduction to the basics of design for anyone looking to improve their skills and for young designers looking to learn from a seasoned professional.
We caught up with Adler last week in a phone interview and asked him to share tips for finding your own style.
Q: How do you explain to people how to find their own style?
A: I like to explain how I arrive at my own style. There are three filters through which I see the world of design, three voices that run through all of my work, from objects to furniture to decoration – pop, natural and luxury.
Pop is about bright, bold, minimalist and somewhat cheeky voices and muses like Andy Warhol and Ellsworth Kelly and is an opportunity to be spiritual and artistic.
The naturalness comes from the fact that I am an artisan and believe in impeccable materials and honest and timeless craftsmanship.
And luxury is more luxury. (In the Wondrium lesson he mentions velvet, sparkle, gold, and chinoiserie.) I hope one of these styles will resonate or people will create their own personal, idiosyncratic style.
Q: Where can people find designers and trendsetters to draw inspiration from?
A: Top three for me – Pinterest, Instagram and 1stDibs. I am transported by Pinterest. I lose track of time and space. 1stDibs is great because it breaks things down by designer. It’s a great way to get a sense of the design’s history and background.
Q: Can your clothes be an indication of the style you like about yourself?
A: In an ideal world, your clothing and decorating styles would be similar. I often see women looking groovy and chic, and imagine them living in a minimalist home, but it’s actually an English country house look.
Sometimes there is a dissonance between someone’s clothing and decorating styles. It is much easier to change clothes than decor. The decor is often a snapshot of where someone was, and the clothes are more of the present.
Q: How do you decide if you are minimalist or maximalist?
A: You really need to think about what makes you happy at home. Are you a person who likes to have one handbag that you use every day, or do you need 10?
Although people might not think I’m a Marie Kondo guy, I’ve learned that I only keep pieces around me that spark joy.
I am a minimalist/maximalist. Design should be a process of reducing elements to be clear and communicate, but you can still end up with a lot of elements.
Q: How do you find the colors that really look like you?
A: People see me as a very colorful character. I’m actually much more restricted in my use of color than people realize.
I would follow my example and go for timeless and eternal colors like black and white, which are the basis of everything I do.
Then you inject accent color into smaller items like pillows and accessories. This can be a go-to formula for creating a design that will be long-lasting and not too fleeting.