Inside designer Jonathan Adler's bright and beautiful home

The designer Jonathan Adler’s home is all about sparking joy, though perhaps not exactly as Marie Kondo intended…

jonathan adler 
The living room: the rug and occasional tables are Jonathan’s designs. The sofas are by the mid-century American designer Vladimir Kagan Credit: Photography: Richard Powers

‘An eclectic, eccentric, pop-art-fuelled, baronial, comfy, rock star, surreal fantasy pad’ is how Jonathan Adler (accurately) describes his New York home. The American potter, designer and decorator, who launched his now hugely successful brand in 1998, is renowned for his witty and glamorous furniture and accessories, and his home is a pure expression of his bold aesthetic. He and his husband, the British writer and window dresser Simon Doonan, have lived in the apartment for 25 years, but its current incarnation is the result of a major renovation 18 months ago. ‘We realised it was time to give it a shake-up and suit it to our needs,’ says Jonathan. ‘Essentially, we put our apartment in a blender, and here it is.

Designer, Jonathan Adler Credit: Photography: Richard Powers 

Do you have a favourite space?

Our master bedroom and dressing-room suite is more dreamy than I could ever have imagined. Going to sleep and waking up there is like a fantasy. I can’t believe it’s my life. Simon needed a room of his own to write in, so creating a study for him was important; I wanted to Virginia Woolf it up for him. I love the library too: our home is two apartments knocked together, so we turned the foyer of the second apartment, which leads to our bedroom, into a cosy, louche library. Most of the rooms are big and grand, but this is an intimate space. It’s great when we’re entertaining – people always hang out there – and I read there. It’s a good way to use a teeny space.

Dining room: Jonathan’s husband, the writer Simon Doonan, découpaged the dresser doors with pages from old issues of The Face and Private Eye. The dining chairs and pendant light are by Jonathan, the hand chair and table are vintage, and the wallpaper is by Ashley Hicks Credit: Photography: Richard Powers

Where did you start with the living-room decor?

You know that saying clothes maketh the man? I would say rugs maketh the room. The chequerboard rug was the fab foundation upon which to layer. I wanted to create a room in which there were a couple of seating areas that were in dialogue with each other in a very informal way. The two curved sofas anchor the room and also anchor two discrete sitting areas.

The office: ‘Simon wanted an office with a swinging ’60s feel,’ says Jonathan. ‘It has a butch, chocolate brown shell with lots of pops of colour and louche eccentricity, which is who he is.’ A wall of mirror enhances the sense of space  Credit: Photography: Richard Powers

How did you choose the colour scheme?

Blue is one of those wonder colours that goes well with everything, especially with other blues, so there’s lots of it everywhere. The dressing room shows that all blues play well with each other: there’s a range in different scales and a riot of pattern, but it feels oddly harmonious. There’s an eye theme, too, throughout the bedroom; I often use eye motifs in my work. The view on that side of the house is of a brick wall, so instead of staring at that, I wanted the window to stare back at me as I walked in the room. We worked with an artist friend of ours called John Paul Philippe – he painted the pictures that hang on the mullions of the window.

The dressing room: The blue chair is the Ribbon by Pierre Paulin. Jonathan designed the lacquer wardrobes to frame his desk, inspired by the bedrooms at Claridge’s. The wallpaper is by Florence Broadhurst Credit: Photography: Richard Powers
The bedroom is anchored by a four-poster bed by mid-century designer Paul Evans Credit: Photography: Richard Powers

In normal circumstances, what is your daily life like?

It’s typically hectic for a New Yorker. Even though Simon and I are very lucky – my office is a 15-minute walk through the lovely West Village and Simon gets to stay at home and write – New York can still be brutal. We’re very lucky to have a refuge. We’re busy when we’re here, and we tend to entertain a lot.

How do you think decor contributes to happiness?

I’ve always felt that you should surround yourself with stuff you love, and that interior design can basically be like an antidepressant. I make most of the stuff in our house, but it’s also packed with favourite things and art that we have collected or commissioned, and lots of pictures of our dogs. I do like to create interiors that are very personal, and even though people would probably see me as a maximalist, I still think that I subscribe to Marie Kondo’s idea that everything you have should spark joy. I just happen to have a lot of stuff that sparks joy.