Golden Rules: A Conversation With Interior Designer Jonathan Adler

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Image: Flickr, See-ming Lee

“It’s funny for me to be talking at a tech conference because I’m a potter, which is basically the most Paleolithic, non-tech thing on earth,” says interior designer Jonathan Adler, before speaking at a panel on the intersection of technology and design. (The event is sponsored by Bing, the Microsoft search engine that consistently comes in second to Google – which probably explains Adler’s several glowing references to Bing’s image search.) A Jersey boy with a background in pottery, Adler got his design debut in 1993 with a ceramics collection at Barneys New York, and has since expanded into home furnishings, textiles, and yes, tech accessories. Here, Adler talks about his design philosophy, being a technological Luddite, and the newest décor trends for fall.

How important is technology to your work?

Even though my work is ultra un-techie, technology makes my job about a billion times more efficient. I used to have to go to the library to look up something that interested me, now I just Bing it and billions of images will pop up. Technology has made design immediate and created a sense of speed so that even something as un-tech as pottery can become infinitely faster. My challenge is to make sure that there’s still a sense of the hand in everything I do.

What pieces of technology could you not live without?

My television. Other than that, I’m kind of a Luddite. I have a Blackberry. I’ve made the decision to not engage with a lot of stuff that I don’t need because it creates noise. My focus is making great shit, so I only use the technology I need. Oh! My main piece of technology that I can’t live without, number one, by far, my potter’s wheel – hello, electric!

What’s new and hot in interior design?

The color jade is showing up a lot in my oeuvre, and I always do organic forms and irreverent motifs. Everybody, everybody, everybody needs a little bit of gold. It’s like jewelry for the home. If your room is depressing, just add gold and it’ll sparkle. A little bit of agate is very important, natural stones. But mostly just gold. I’m like, go hard or go home – big gold pieces. 

What makes a well-designed room?

Your home should be chic and make you happy. It’s whatever makes your chakras tingle, but a bit of color never hurts. Comfort first. Idiosyncrasy and personality – I hate when I walk into a room and feel like it could be anybody’s. If it looks too perfect, mess it up. Throw in an off note, do something that’s unexpected. An improbable throw pillow. It’s got to be quirky – and have gold. 

Are there differences between a man’s sense of design and a woman’s sense of design?

I think the dirty little secret of most guys is that they try to be all butch, but secretly they just want to be in a frilly, frothy girl’s bedroom. 

Finally, five things you can’t live without?

My husband Simon, my dog Liberace, my potter’s wheel, Bing images, and my paddleboard.

Rebecca H. 

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