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Design guru Jonathan Adler talks trends and tips in Buckhead ATLANTA

Photography by Todd Tankersley

Photography by Todd Tankersley

by Jaime Lin Weinstein

One of the many reasons we’re drawn to Jonathan Adler’s work? He infuses the perfect amount of levity to his otherwise elegant designs. Case(s) in point: a patinaed, full-grain leather footstool shaped like a hippo; a needlepoint pillow embroidered with Charlie Chaplin as “The Tramp”; a giant brass banana atop a marble base. And for a Jersey-bred designer, his collections — namely furniture, decor, gifts and accessories — have a distinct, Southern appeal. “I feel like there’s a real dynamism about Southern decorating that’s been really tingling my chakras lately. Southerners know how to mix it up and make things gracious but eccentric at the same time. And that’s what I like to do,” Adler shares at the opening of his new store in Atlanta’s upscale Buckhead shopping district.

It’s just the latest piece of his design empire, which now includes more than 25 namesake stores across the globe, in addition to four books and countless collaborations with brands ranging from 7 for All Mankind to SoulCycle. Suffice it to say, he’s come a long way since launching his first ceramics collection at Barneys New York back in 1993, especially considering he was once told he had no talent by a pottery professor at the Rhode Island School of Design.

Do you still spend a lot of time in the pottery studio?
That’s where it all began and still a lot begins. Like, nowadays so much of what we do isn’t clay, but it starts in clay. Like all the brass (something) up there, those all start as little ceramic models that are then cast. Even like the giant Lucite foot [in the current collection] was a gigantic ceramic foot first. So everything starts in the pottery studio. And the pottery studio itself really looks like “Hoarders,” like, it’s a fucking mess, it’s mayhem. It’s small, you know, I’m in New York so the studio is probably the size of this little area. But my office is cool. We have a whole floor of an office building in Soho. And in the office there’s probably 65 people but there’s a pottery studio right in the middle of it … where a lot happens.

What’s your creative process like?
I don’t know what the hell my creative process is, just making more stuff? I think if you were to ask the kids who work on my design team, they would say that I’m like a lunatic who emails them all day long and says like “please remind me about doing a vase that’s inspired by Austrian-poofed drapes. And then that happens. I mean so it could be like, I’ll be out to dinner and I’ll email … I was at some really fancy house, it was like a gooey, Versaille-ish house. It had these Austrian-poofed drapes and I was like, this is kind of great and voila! That’s kind of how I roll.

A lot of your products are “witty.” Is that something you strive for?
I think wit is a great word to strive for and it’s one of my challenges. I think chic design often feels very snobby. I sort of try to make design that’s unimpeachably chic but that’s a little bit welcoming and hopefully witty. I try to inject a little bit of content into stuff. I’m kind of a verbal dude. I studied semiotics in college. I like to bring a little bit of content.
    You know actually one of the words in our company that we talk about is that we always want our products to be smart, you know, and I think that’s kind of important. Everything should reflect our connoisseurship and to know what references we’re making … and it should all be smart.

Any trends that are absolute “nos” in your book?
The only trend that I don’t like is taxidermy cause it just makes me sad. I just think “why did that giraffe have to die?”

You put a lot of animals in your work anyway though.
Yes, cruelty free. I’d rather see a majestic representation of an animal than a dead animal. I know it’s super-trendy, I try not to be judgmental, but I just hate taxidermy.

What’s the number one design tip that either you’ve been given or given to somebody else?
Probably my number one design tip would be like spend a little bit more than you think you can afford to get something extraordinary …  Like never settle, you’ll regret it. And it’s always those things that at the time feel like they’re gonna destroy you that you end up loving the most. I remember when I was a broke-ass potter, like really broke, there was this Fornicetti table that I had my eye on and it was 20 years ago, and the woman wanted like $1000 and I just had to beg, borrow, plead and steal and got it for like $700, and I had to call my parents and like beg them. But I love it and I’m so glad I have it.

What’s on the horizon? Is there anything that you haven’t done yet that you want to do?
I have, right? I want to design a car. But I guess like this tie that I make “more, more, more” is kind of my philosophy. Just more. Isn’t that cute.

Jonathan Adler
The Shops Buckhead Atlanta
3035 Peachtree Road NE

Jonathan Adler Design

Senior Editor Jaime Lin Weinstein joined Eidé Magazine in the summer of 2012 and has since leant her expertise to the site and publication as a writer, editor and online marketing specialist. A modern-day cat lady and Emory grad (she earned her Bacherlor's degree from the college in 2008 and is a proponent of the value of a liberal arts education), she also has an affinity for white wine, coffee, naps and anything French. @jaimelin