Inside the Swirly Head of Jonathan Adler

He's witty and impossibly clever...

Like a whirling dervish, ever-prolific design savant Jonathan Adler is constantly conjuring something new, colorful, happy and just wildly fun for the home. Inspired by the sharp lines and a bit of the funk and Pop-era color from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, this one-man brand got his legendary start as a mad potter (or rather, ceramicist, though he’d be the first to confess he’s too “hippy-dippy” to call himself that).  His cheeky sense of humor infuses every facet of his creations, from neckties (yes, menswear ties — a very new thing) to a bright brass peacock table poised to take flight in your living room and even the company’s round-the-clock Web shop, dubbed “Your 24-hour Pot Dealer.” Recently, Adler buzzed into town for the debut of his smashing new store located in West Ave, where I caught up with him; he, dressed in a scarlet-hued, micro-check button-down with white jeans. The slim, stylish 46-year-old Brown-grad professes, “Houston to me is a super-glamorous, twinkly, jet-setty destination.” Here, we give you a sense of what’s spiraling around at any given moment in that marvelous mind of JA.

Are you a hands-on or hands-off kind of guy? We have about 10 designers working on all the categories we do, but I’m there and into it every day. I’m a huge believer in micromanaging. I think micromanaging is the only way to get anything done. Anyone who says they don’t micromanage is not doing their job. Not if they want it to be any good. I look at every single thing and give feedback; I spend all day long going from desk to desk, critiquing, changing, tweaking, and the result is this.

The people you aspire to be just like? I have two role models. Alexander Girard, a mid-century designer who did everything from furniture to graphic design to textiles and products — all of his work was eccentric, colorful and unimpeachably chic. He was so prolific that he makes me feel junior varsity.
My other role model is designer Paul Smith, who I know and adore, and he inspires me in the way he’s been at it for a long time and still is creative and fun and unique.

You started with home accessories and branched into furnishings. Is a leap into apparel in the cards? I never say never, but the truth is, I’m not very strategic. I’m actually wildly un-strategic. I sort of just do what feels right at that very moment. It’s another junior varsity side of me. I know what I want to make and what makes my chakras tingle at any moment.

Are you part of the elite chic or one of the people? I am a democratic designer and work super-hard to make things as good as they can be and as affordable as I possibly can. It’s a constant balance and constant challenge. I hate things on one hand that are too expensive, but on the other, I refuse to compromise on quality..

What feels “this moment”? Brass and Lucite, always. I’d like to think — not to toot my own horn — I’m a bit of a brass pioneer. I’ve been working with brass for years, and it’s nice to see that picking up again. To me, what’s on trend is eclecticism. That’s sort of how I roll. When I look around here, everything is looking sort of glamorous and twinkly, but I also have that potter thing going on. I think it’s about that mix of hippy-dippy with WASPy and a little flash that works.

The next big thing? Making more stuff is the next big thing! In the studio now, I’m making little tiny brass figurines; I’m all about the idiosyncratic. I hope if you look around here, you see my commitment to craft and the chic mix. I’m deadly seriously about my work, but I’m not that serious about life.

Where are you off to this summer? Every summer I head to Capri and stay at La Scalinatella. It’s heaven on earth. My chakras are starting to tingle just thinking about it.

What do you want your legacy to be? My goal is to make stuff that when you kick the bucket and your relatives come to the house, they’ll fight over it all. I don’t want to make anything your heirs will want to give away, I want infighting, lawsuits between siblings. I will know that I have succeeded if I see siblings fighting over my stuff after their parents kick the bucket.

Packing? My hubby Simon. He’s a little guy, and he fits nicely in my carry-on. I’m very lucky.

You are reading … We Are Rich by Dori Carter. It’s colorful and catty — perfect for summer.

Your current obsession in your shops? I have three current obsessions: brass, brass and brass. It’s like jewelry for your home, and it gets better with age.”

Most-loved vintage design books. The Bloomingdale’s Book of Home Decorating. I’m as entranced by it now as I was when it was published circa 1973.

Top movies of all time. Auntie Mame, North by Northwest and Valley of the Dolls.

Up-and-coming obsession that will soon be in the shops? Anything abalone. We have these brass end tables coming in with handset abalone on the tops that are next level. The mix of the shiny brass and milky abalone gets my motor running.

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