Interview Cheeky and chic
Jonathan Adler doesn’t get out much to his Greenwich store. But when he does, he quickly makes himself at home — which is easy, since he is surrounded by the wares that bear his name.
“This one is one of my all-time faves,” the celebrity designer says of one of his 20 stores worldwide, while seated in his “venice peacock” blue Lampert sofa and sipping tea from one of his white Muse mugs — a pair of lips on one side, a stache on the other. As he leans back on his Bargello needlepoint pillows, he ponders the essential aesthetic of this cosmopolitan suburb.
“Greenwich is one of those singular places on Earth that really signifies something,” he says, resting his mug on a coffee table from his Peking collection. “I think it resonates perfectly with my design ethos that I call modern American glamour.”
Adler is in Greenwich just a week after launching an exclusive collection, Now House, with Amazon. The pieces range from mid-century to modern, clean lines to plush profiles. Already an icon, Adler’s latest collaboration offers him entry into even more homes, particularly those whose price points create a gap between attainment and aspiration.
“I always want people to find ways in to great design, and I think Now House is a great entry point,” he says. Dressed in a gray sweater, white jeans and sneakers, he manifests a casual but crisp look — not unlike the decor and furniture that surrounds him in the store or is featured in the new line. “It’s young and fresh and has more attractive price points. It’s not the same as my line, but it is definitely a dotted line to my design DNA.”
Adler’s brand is one built on irreverent luxury, the kind of mix that comes from a kid who first learns about the elegance and possibility of ceramics while wearing a Rush concert tee. That kid was Adler, back in 1978, just a decade or so after his birth. He says he spent his adolescence throwing pots in the basement of his New Jersey home — eventually emerging to attend college and get a better handle on his pottery skills.
Despite some early criticism that might have derailed others, Adler kept spinning the wheel. When he moved to New York City in the early 1990s, it was to work in the movie business. But the experience only made him long to become a full-time potter, a vocation he embraced in 1993. A year later, Barneys put in an order for his pots. In 1998, he opened his first store in SoHo (where his home, offices and studio are still situated.) And, voila, the rest is history.
Adler values impeccable craftsmanship, but adores a cheeky spin.
“I think my style is what America is,” he says. “America is an irreverent country. We are new, fresh and open-minded and I think my design style is totally grounded in America.”
In a place such as Greenwich, that means a traditional home on the outside might revealing a surprising modern interior — with pieces culled from Adler’s collections, which tend to be clever, colorful, creative and whimsical.
“That to me is how America works,” he says. “I also think one of the reasons that perhaps I’ve attained a modicum of success is because I don’t think anybody wants to feel like their grandparents. It is a difficult balance to strike, to be in luxurious comfort, but not feel too much like a grownup. Nobody wants to feel like a grownup,” he says, smiling.
He still starts most ideas with a lump of clay, using the wheel and his hands to shape the initial structures that become the objects surrounding him and guests on a recent morning in his Greenwich store. “Clay informs my sculptural approach to things.”
He’s also perfectly happy to find inspiration in pop references.
“I”ve always been a student and lover of pop culture and I try to not censor my muses,” he says. “Whenever a muse alights, I am grateful, no matter where she comes from.”
Christina Hennessy is a freelance writer based in Connecticut. Twitter: @xtinahennessy