Shop Talk with Jonathan Adler

The designer on decorating, being happy, and other stuff.

  • Photos by Stephanie Colgan
    Prolific designer Jonathan Adler has stores from New York to Los Angeles, London to Miami, and now Minneapolis. He chose Uptown for his 17th retail location because “this is such a creative town­—there are so many groovy companies here, and I love Prince.” He calls color the antidote to depression, and Lake and Hennepin is surely more upbeat for his presence. 1439 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-353-5311,
  • Photo by Stephanie Colgan
    Tea Time Adler, in his Lake Street store, thinks of himself as a “potter and a delegator.”
  • Photo by Stephanie Colgan
    “Your home should be memorable. A little bit more glamorous and provocative than you really are.”
  • Photo by Stephanie Colgan
    “Your home should be memorable. A little bit more glamorous and provocative than you really are.”

It’s good to be Jonathan Adler, and he knows it. Adler discovered his passion for pottery making at summer camp when he was 12. His pottery became a brand that encompasses furniture, textiles, home décor, lighting, gifts, books, and much more. He makes what he loves, and others love it. His style is colorful and irreverent, and so is he. I spent some time with Adler at his new Minneapolis store when he visited in April.

It’s funny how you decide one day to become a professional potter, and here you are, posing for a magazine. Actually, pottery was just a means to model. I needed a niche.

What do you think of your Uptown store? I’m elated with it. When I’m in the studio, I’m intensely self-critical. Then I come into the store, and I think I’m a genius!

How much of the merchandise in the store do you actually live with at home? A lot of it, really. I get to make the stuff I want to have. I’m a minimalist when it comes to designing objects, but I believe you should live surrounded by the stuff you love.

I can’t help but think all this “stuff” gets dusty. How do you feel about housework? I don’t do any. But I am a neat freak. Simon [Doonan, Adler’s partner—an author and Barneys creative ambassador] and I both work in a world of stuff. But we have no prob- lem getting rid of stuff either.

Is what you want always what the customer wants? Not right away. When I first did pillows, they didn’t sell. I was told pillows wouldn’t work. I said, “But they’re great.” It took three seasons, and then they hit. Pillows are the perfect way to add color, mix pattern.

Is it possible to have too many pillows? That’s a very good question. Let me think about it. No, I don’t think so. Unlimited pillows. Liberace, my dog, who is 13, has spent his whole life battling with pillows.

So here you are, in the land of beige, a designer known for bright color and bold pattern. What’s your advice for Minnesotans? Actually, my aesthetic is mostly grounded in neutrals with pops of color. Accents are a great gateway to a colorful life. Your home should be memorable. A little bit more glamorous and provocative than you really are.

You’re a master at mixing colors in such vibrant palettes. What’s your favorite color combination? The color combination that just makes me weak in the knees is gray and orange. It’s always my favorite. It’s so modern, so fresh and clean.

Orange is everywhere this season. Is it at risk of overexposure? I am worried. But it’s impossible to see a bright orange wall and not be happy.

What makes you happy? Making stuff. Actually, it can be a bit torturous. I love paddleboarding.

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