FurnitureJune 3, 2010

Meeting Jonathan Adler.


I look like I might combust from happiness.

A few weeks ago I had been invited to a show house opening party on what turned out to be a rainy, bleak night. Unable to find parking and in an  uber-cranky mood, I nearly told Andrew to forget about it and take me home to go  drown my bad mood in a nice Pinot Noir. Good thing I didn’t.  At that party I met the wonderfully fabulous Donna, Director of Retail Stores for Jonathan Adler (we just got our very own in Boston). We got to chatting about design, blogging, the industry, etc. and she said “You should come and meet Jonathan!” Well, um, yes please. Jonathan is one of my design IDOLS, not only for his happy, bold, swinging 60’s aesthetic, but also for his sense of humor about the whole thing (read his manifesto if you haven’t). After all, this is decorating, not figuring out how to plug an oil leak a mile under the sea. I have long adored my “gin, puppies, sunshine…” needlepoint pillow, I have been using oodles of his furniture and accessories in my projects and you all KNOW how I feel about the Adler designed Parker Hotel (Disneyland for grown-ups) Anyways, I figured that the chances of such a meeting actually coming to fruition were probably slim. You know how parties are– wine is flowing, the mood is like fabulousness vaporized and circulated through the air vents and lots of plans are made. Well, Donna wasn’t kidding around, and ladies (and you few gents), yesterday I had the pleasure of sitting down to chat with Jonathan Adler himself in his New York office, one on one.

Pardon me while I go into full on Rachel Zoe mode now….

I die. I die. BANANAS. I die.

Ahem, I’m back. I didn’t even want to breathe a word of it before it happened for fear I would jinx it (I believe in that stuff). Until I was actually sitting down with him I still didn’t believe it.  So yesterday I packed up my laptop, camera and all my junk into a somewhat cute purse and off I went to Manhattan. Oh wait a hot minute, let’s cut to me on the train yesterday morning opening my purse and realizing my camera is STILL ON THE DAMN DINING TABLE!!!! Fan-freaking-tastic. And my train was late. And I don’t own an iPhone to take a picture with nor time to find a place to buy a camera during my cab ride to the offices. So in I go to my meeting with the superfab Jonathan armed with a $9 yellow cardboard one time use Kodak camera. I kind of wanted to die. Pardon me, first I wanted to buy an iPhone, and THEN die. But I made it, in one sweaty, anxiety-riddled piece, to the JA headquarters looking like a tourist from 1995. But in moments like this, there are no room for regrets, only grateful excitement to be able to meet someone you’ve respected, followed and hope to emulate in your own career (take a moment and read his hilarious career timetable) .

For such a huge business, the offices are delightfully modest but as full of smiling, stylish faces and fun as you’d expect. I toured the showroom (complete with items yet to be released for sale) such as leather and metal x benches with chain embroidered upholstered seats (drool)  and various ceramics and textiles. Jonathan himself is as friendly, cool, laid back and hands on with his company as I’d hoped he’d be! Such a warm, funny, charismatic person with absolutely ZERO design diva attitude, he showed me around the office where ideas are developed, crafted (i.e. people hands deep in clay) and sold and then sat down with me to chat about this and that. I was nervous and very aware of how busy he is, so I did not barrage him with the 102 questions I had written on the train ride down, but I managed to snag a few notable quips to share with you all (not word for word, mind you- I was busy listening, not scribbling frantically) So here are a few quick  tidbits (some stolen from the Proust questionnaire a la Vanity Fair):

Current state of mind: Always hungry and restless.

Greatest extravagance: I shouldn’t admit this since I’m a potter, but it’s flying first class.

Greatest achievement: Never having a “real job” i.e. a boss to report to and creating hundreds of jobs for other people!

Talent you’d most like to have other than your obvious god given ones: Mad basketball skills or tv ready hip-hop dance moves. (*my commentary: best off the cuff answer ever)

If you could live anywhere where would it be: I could lie and say somewhere like Paris, but it’s actually NYC. It’s the best place on earth.

If you had to pick another designer to design your own home who would it be: It’s a three way tie between Miles Redd, Delphine Krakoff and Diamond Baratta.

Favorite Fashion label: Paul Smith is my idol. He’s endlessly creative and a seriously nice bloke.

Favorite item you’ve produced: The Dora Maar vase or banana sculpture.  The banana sculpture is pretty fierce. (Being a potter at heart, he loves those works the most, even with all his newer furniture and accessory items) It actually changes every day, I feel very lucky to be as prolific as I am.

Would you ever do TV again? Yes. (Top Design) was really fun because all the judges were good friends of mine. It was a pain being relocated to LA for six weeks, but it was a good time.

Do you read design blogs? Yes, I read yours (I refrained from clapping my hands and squealing like an monkey on ecstasy). It’s actually a bit of a disaster- I feel like I should shut off the internet in my offices because my staff and I are always reading blogs!

Amongst other things discussed was the under-construction new home he and husband Simon (as in THE Barney’s Creative Director Simon Doonan) on Shelter Island and his desire to make it fun and not “heavy” like a lot of designer homes can be. Other than his own home, he’s not doing many interiors these days, as his true passion lies in product design. We also chatted about the ups and downs of interior design,   commentary from haters on the internet and  my desire to permanently reside at The Parker and eat Norma’s blueberry pancakes until I die. I loved having him show me a few not yet released products, such as a series of sea captain inspired mugs and vases one of which is based on a cartoon ad about littering from the 70’s he remembers vividly. I think it is so cool that someone can take little charming details from everyday life or memories of moments past and turn it into a product that’s charming and beautiful.

What I enjoyed the most about meeting him (besides his killer sense of humor) is that he truly “walks his talk”. And I’ve come to find out that is rare in this business of ours, especially at the level he is at. Jonathan clearly still finds such joy in what he does and creates products that have the sole purpose of being fun, charming, beautiful and above all, HAPPY. In a time when there is so much seriousness and stress, stepping into Jonathan’s world is a refreshing escape- whether being as blessed as I am to have met him in the flesh or by having a cute set of bird shaped salt and pepper shakers on your table to remind you everyday to smile. I want you all to know that behind that small product is a man who really loves and believes in what he does and delights in being able to share that with you.

Since I know there is a good chance he is reading this, thank you Jonathan for taking time out of your busy day to sit down with me and make this newbie designer’s YEAR!

Once I develop my ridiculous throw away camera I’ll post snaps of the showroom. In the meantime, here are just a FEW of my personal JA favorites (click pics for links)

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