Where high-brow modernism meets lighthearted kitsch, that’s where the irresistible design sensibility of Jonathan Adler was born. He launched his career back in 1994 by fulfilling a ceramics order for Barneys New York; the modest collection—a dozen curvy vessels with Pop Art–inspired stripes—hinted at the shape of things to come. Today, Adler’s ode to tchotchke-chic extends beyond ceramics to textiles, bedding, stationery and furniture. His designs are carried at retail stores, art galleries and his own shops from Madison to Melrose avenues.
His modern twist on mid-century design has even permeated pop culture via the sets of TV sitcoms (like Will and Grace).
"In an industry where designers define chic with minimalism and a toned-down
color palette, I try to combine happiness with chic," says Adler, who has also authored a book, My Prescription for Anti-Depressive Living. The designer encourages couples to have fun choosing the registry items that will later accent their homes: "Don’t overthink decor—if you love that chartreuse vase, you’ll find the right place for it." He touts creativity in lieu of big-ticket design items: "Paint a single wall of your living room baby blue or chocolate brown, and then create a salon-style grouping of your family and wedding photos." Uneasy about embracing your fiancé’s taste in, say, recliners? Not Adler: "You may find that his pink neon light-up Playboy bunny logo looks great atop your vintage desk."
While there are references to such masters as Pablo Picasso in his designs,
Adler always maintains a sense of humor. It’s the reason he jumped at the chance to redesign the Parker Palm Springs hotel in California, the property once called the Merv Griffin Resort. Now hanging above the concierge desk, there is a ceramic-tile frieze, with butterflies, smiley faces and birds, proclaiming:
"Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you shall check out." And in the hotel’s banquet room, just right for a wedding, oversize chandeliers in a mod starburst pattern drop from the ceiling. "I wanted the space to be just like the perfect bride—glamorous and classic with a top note of mod moxie!" he says.
Create a memorable registry with the following items from his line:
The "Berlin" pitcher
Perfect for all those flowers you’ll receive.
Salt and pepper sets
His most popular designs are beautiful birds.
"Mod Dots" dinnerware
It’s orange with gold accents: groovy chic!
The "Salvador" vase
Adorned with a Dalí mustache (shown above).