For anyone who can’t listen to it right now, or would prefer to just read the interview, here’s a general recap for ya (there’s a little more banter in the recording, it was just tough to write every line out since we overlapped sometimes, etc).
SHERRY PETERSIK: OK, so I thought it would be fun to do rapid fire, one word answers. Just off the top of your head. And obviously you’re not cheating if you have to use two words or three words. I’m just looking for your first reaction to these things. “A home should be…”
JONATHAN ADLER: A home should be… happy!
SP: “The design trend I’m so over is…”
JA: Oooh. I hate to hate, so I think if you love it, it works.
SP: I totally agree with you. I knew you would say that. I’m like your biggest fan, by the way. I could probably answer most of these myself, I just wanted to hear your voice.
JA: That’s adorable. Love you.
SP: I love you back. Okay, so “the design trend I can’t get enough of is…”
JA: Brass. Brass, brass, brass. And more brass.
SP: “My favorite pattern is…”
JA: My favorite pattern is a Liberty Print Floral because it reminds me of my hubby.
SP: Aww, that’s cute. “In another life I would come back as…”
JA: I would love to come back as a basketball player.
SP: Ooh. I think that’d be very interesting. “My last meal would be…”
JA: It would be… roast chicken and apple pie.
SP: Yum. This one’s a hard one, I think. “Happiness is…”
JA: Happiness is… um… an adorable dog.
SP: Oh, that’s a good one. I thought you were going to say you’d come back as your dog because I’d totally come back as my chihuahua. He has the best life ever. “Chic is…”
JA: Chic is eccentricity.
SP: And this is the last one for the rapid fire. Your favorite song ever?
JA: Ohh, you’re mean!
SP: I know. Mine changes everyday, so I won’t hold you to this.
JA: I’ll go with “Vogue” by Madonna.
SP: Oh, that’s a good one! Wait, and I forgot one more design-y one that I think people would love to hear from you. “No room is complete without…”
JA: No room is complete without… a Jonathan Adler tchotchke.
SP: I love it! I would say “ceramic animal.” We have this kinship. I have ceramic animals all over my house.
JA: Love that.
SP: In fact, that leads me to my next question. I have 14 ceramic animals and I know that that’s borderline awesome-slash-certifiable. And I wondered how many – even if it’s just a vague guess – ceramic creatures you have living in your house?
JA: I’d say a hundred.
SP: So basically, you win.
SP: Which is it, because all designers have a point of view on this I think. Is it “less is more” or “more is more?”
JA: More is so much more. Less is less expensive, but more is… more.
SP: What lesson has been the hardest to learn about running your own business?
JA: That’s such a good question! I’ve been at it a long time and I’ve learned A LOT. What is the number one lesson? [pauses to think] Keep your expenses down and stay humble.
SP: Good advice! You’ve designed everything, it feels like to me. From pottery to pillows to wallpaper. What’s something you haven’t designed yet that you’re dying to put your stamp on.
JA: I would love to do more industrial design. I’d love to do pots and pans and… cars. And electronic equipment.
SP: That’s a cool answer. Gosh, can you imagine a Jonathan Alder car??
JA: Um, yes I can!
SP: I would drive it.
JP: Major auto makers listening, please give me a jingle.
SP: [Laughing] What is the biggest design mistake you’ve ever made?
JA: I have made so many. This is like Sophie’s Choice because over the years I’ve been very experimental. So I’ve made so many mistakes that I don’t even know where to begin. But I’d rather be experimental and fail than be safe and… moderately successful.
SP: Someone’s decorating their first home and they feel paralyzed. Exactly what you were just saying: they feel like they need to be safe and they’re afraid to take risks. What are your tips for finding your style or where they could start?
JA: I gotta say, doing a home is really intimidating. Doing home design feels so much more permanent than fashion. Like you can make fashion mistakes and whatever, but you would feel like a loser if you made [home design] mistakes. Which is horrible, so people end up not experimenting. So where do you begin? You pull out lots of tears from magazines. Figure out your favorite designers and Bing Image them. Create a nice pinboard. Alright, I’m gonna get real here. The #1 thing I would say is come up with three words to describe what you want your house to say. So like a three word brand identify for your house – and work backwards from there.
SP: I love it. That’s perfect advice.
JA: I’ve never thought this before, but if I had to say what I want my house to say and what I hope it says is… eccentric, glamorous, and…. crafty.
SP: Oh, that’s nice! Now I have to think about what my house is!
JA: I actually mean that. Forget about what, you know, color you like. Just think about what you want it to say and work backwards from there with the three word brand identity.
SP: You believe a room can start anywhere, right? You’re not one of those people who’s like “start with the curtains or the rug” or “start with the wall color.” You can start anywhere and go out from that?
JA: YES! I hate when people say that “It’s so important that you chose the right blah blah blah.” It’s like “No!” Choose the vibe. Figure out what the three word description is and then you can start with a ceramic box or a lamp and build the room around that. Once you zero in on the vibe, you can start anywhere.
SP: I saw your speech where you said you need to get an “I don’t give an eff attitude.” And I loved it and I laughed a lot (note: for anyone wondering here’s, and there’s some cursing so be warned). I wondered how does one go about getting that? I want to be more self assured, but you have to teach me the ways!
JA: Simon wrote a book. I think it was Beautiful People, his memoir, in which he made the point that everybody lives their lives concerned about what other people will think. And nobody cares. Once you sort of realize how insignificant you are in the universe, you’re more able to have an “Eff it” attitude, because who cares? And the episode that triggered this for Simon was that one time he had to dress up as the Queen of England because he had to go cut the ribbon at a Barney’s store and they wanted him to dress up as the Queen of England to do it. And he came downstairs to see our doorman who’s this 60-year-old dude we’ve known forever. Simon came dressed as the Queen and the doorman just said “Hey, do you want your mail now or when you come home?”
JA: He realized that nobody cares. Everybody’s just living their own life. So why not live your life in a bold, memorable way?
SP: Ok, this is a reader submitted question that I actually had to answer this year. And… it’s out there, I’m warning you. Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck or a hundred duck-sized horses?
JA: [Laughing] I think I’d rather fight one horse-sized duck because… I like horses more than ducks. And I would never want to fight a hundred horses. But one duck? Sure. Bring it. Bring it, duck.
SP: [Laughing] And those are all of my questions. Though I promised myself I would end this call with “See you later, decorator.”
JA: Ah! Thank you for that. See you later, decorator.
JA: And those questions were really fantastic and unexpected – which I do appreciate – and made me think and got my chakras tingling, so thank you.
SP: Aw thank you so much, it was such an honor to talk to you.
JA: Oh, it was lovely chatting with you and have a great day.