Jonathan Adler Style Defined

Come on, get happy, with these ideas inspired by designer Jonathan Adler.

By Lisa Frederick

Jonathan Adler sums up his design sensibility in two words: happy chic. A ceramics artist whose first collection debuted in the early 1990s, he has since made the leap from entrepreneur to brand, heading an empire that includes furniture, textiles, tabletop collections, and select interior design clients. In recent years, his role has expanded to include stints as a judge on the TV series Top Design, authorship of several books, public speaking appearances, and more.

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The Basics

Relaxing Transitional Living Room
Drake Design Associates

Adler's style marries playful optimism with classic design and an impeccable attention to detail. Bearing a strong midcentury modern influence, it interprets iconic forms in fresh ways and puts a new spin on centuries-old furniture customs. He advocates the importance of ensuring that craftsmanship and quality underscore even the most fleeting design trends.

These designer rooms are similar to Jonathan Adler's style:

Get the Look

Take a page from Adler's book and try these tactics to get his signature style at home.
Chippendale Side Chair
Jonathan Adler

Bright, cheery colors. From cobalt and turquoise to citron and lime, strokes of brilliant color against a crisp, neutral background are a hallmark of the Adler look. Embrace and play up contrast: Pair hot pink upholstery with a lacquered white chair frame; add tangerine piping to an oatmeal-colored sofa; trim yellow draperies in kelly green.

A mix of retro and traditional. The work of midcentury design titans such as George Nelson and Eero Saarinen influences Adler's creations, from pottery to lighting to furniture. Yet many of his pieces are rooted in more venerable forms, such as Chinese Chippendale-style chairs and French bérgères. The mixture is a large part of what gives this look its energy.

Strong patterns. No demure florals or timid gingham checks here. Think big and bold: overscale chevrons, mod flamestitch, rickrack stripes, graphic trellis. Be fearless about combining different patterns in a single space—just keep them within a tight color palette to avoid creating a mishmash. 

Jonatha Adler's First Lady Pillow

Trinkets and tchotchkes. Adler is well known for endorsing maximalism over minimalism. His rooms are layered with artwork, ceramics, pillows, rugs, lamps and more, yet the cumulative effect never reaches overkill. One of Adler's secrets is to choose items that are personally meaningful rather than things just grabbed to fill a space, creating a sense of heart rather than excess. 

Whimsical accents. Adler's pottery collections have always blended grace and elegance with cheeky, even outrageous, motifs—a microcosm of his broader design approach. His décor features fun, lighthearted touches, such as pillows depicting pop-culture icons or a sculpture of a hand making a peace sign, that stay just this side of kitsch. The trick? Moderation. Sprinkle a few over-the-top items into an otherwise elegant room to maintain an air of sophistication. 

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