Master of Irreverent Luxury

We sat down with this year's CTC&G Innovator Award Recipient, Jonathan Adler. Find out what motivates and inspires this talented designer!

left to right: Melanie Acevedo; courtesy of jonathan adler.

CTC&G: At the IDAs dinner, you said you were called “most clueless” when graduating from Brown. Did that work as a motivation to succeed?
Jonathan Adler: The Brown student paper profiled two students my senior year. One was the go-getter who already had a job lined up on Wall Street post-graduation and who is
now either a wildly successful hedge-fund manager or in jail for some white-collar crime. The other student was the “clueless” student: me. I told them I wanted to move to Santa Fe and be some New Age-y basket weaver or potter, and this creative freedom continues to influence my work.

I ended up moving to New York and getting fired from a series of jobs. When I was 26, I gave myself six months to just figure it out. It was a great time because I had nothing to lose, and also nothing to gain. I decided I was going to make exactly what I wanted to make with no thought about selling it. I was an outlier, and it was a creative place to be.

CTC&G: You wear so many hats; how should we refer to you?
JA: Young and thin. Really though, I will answer to anything.

CTC&G: Your company is “dedicated to bringing style, craft and joy to your life.” How do you translate that belief into your projects?
JA: Everything we make—from a pot, to a sofa, to an entire interior—is considered and thoughtful. It must look good, and it must fill a need. Design is about problem solving; there are always some welcome requirements for doing what I do.

CTC&G: Is there a building trend of blending craft with pop culture?
JA: Since I started as a production potter—making everything with my own two paws—craft has always been important to me, and I’m so glad to see it having a renaissance because of things such as Etsy. The fact that craftspeople can now control their own distribution is nothing short of a miracle; Etsy is doing the Lord’s work.

CTC&G: Your designs successfully mix high and low. Do your in-store design consultants follow that strategy?
JA: It’s not about high and low, but more about levity and irreverence. I work hard to inject wit and levity into chic. Usually they’re mutually exclusive, and I’ve made it my life’s mission to make chic joyful. Everything from our products to our stores reflects this goal.

CTC&G: Where do you find design inspiration?
JA: I’m fortunate to live in New York City, where inspiration is everywhere. I keep my eyes and mind open. And I live for paddle boarding when I’m at my Shelter Island residence. It’s the most peaceful experience I can imagine.

CTC&G: Do you just surround yourself with funny, creative people?
JA: I have a great team. I call our HQ the Fantasy Factory—it’s where the magic happens.

CTC&G: What is your favorite piece or project that you have ever designed?
JA: Our place on Shelter Island. My hubby, Simon, and I built our dream home. It’s where we go to get away from it all and to spend time with the people we love.

CTC&G: What’s your personal credo?
JA: Love what you love, unapologetically.

CTC&G: What’s your dream project?
JA: I’d love to design a car, inside and out.