Since Jonathan Adler first uttered “Seen ya later, decorator” on Bravo’s late, great Superior design in 2007, we were obsessed with the interior designer, the author and the potter. Her luxurious and cheeky work is a perfect blend of fun and fabulous, which also sums up her personal vibe. Now he’s sharing his secrets for creating the space you want, and others want to visit, in his new Wondrium series. Decorate like a designer with Jonathan Adler. Along the way, Adler also drops knowledge on everything from the dirty secrets of the Victorian era to the origins of mauve to the state of today’s design scene, all with the same sense of game he brings to his work.
Check out the streaming service’s exclusive trailer and our chat below.
This Wondrium show is so cool because it’s clearly educational, but it’s cool education – part art history, part design advice. I love the way you take us through design eras. In fact, I took notes as if it were a class! Oh great, that’s the idea! I think the magic of Wondrium is that it is “educational entertainment”. The hope is that I’m entertaining and that people learn a lot, that they feel inspired to learn the rules and then break the rules with my advice.
In the opening, you reveal your fail-safe design formula, which is 99% chic, 1% playful punctuation. That in itself made me look around my house…I’m maybe 70-30. Oh. [Laughs]
There’s a lot going on. [Laughs] OK, well… I just think you have to be strategic and careful. You know, insofar as I might be known to be a bit of a gamer in [my work]everything i do has kind of a classic, elegant base and then just a whisper of playfulness. You will learn all these rules, or so I hope.
Can you tell us about your “decorate to communicate” concept? Tote. I mean, decoration has a few different functions. You know, you have to live well and be comfortable. You are the one who is going to be in your space more than anyone else, so you have to like it. But it should also be a thoughtful expression of who you are, right?
And I think so often in decorating magazines, you see spaces that have just been done by the decorator and are completely lacking in personality. So I hope my Wondrium series will help teach people how to achieve the glamorous, polished look of a decorator-decorated space, but with the details that make it personal. Yeah. This is what I think the design should be.
What other topics or themes do you cover in future episodes? Oh, my God, it’s some kind of nut soup. Because for me, it was an amazing opportunity to distill what I’ve discovered over the past 30 years and pass it on. It is therefore a full expression of my formula and my patented decoration and design techniques. There are no secrets that I don’t share. I hope this gives people the tools to express themselves, and I hope I did it in a really entertaining way. That’s my goal with the series.
Seems like over the last decade you’ve really leaned into the idea of making all of this accessible to everyone. It’s not just for the elite. You even notice that a lot of “chic” design has an unsympathetic side to it. Yes. I think my mission in life is to break that rule, to make “chic” more accessible and user-friendly. It’s a tough job, and I’d like to think I’m just the alchemist to crack the code. Moreover, all these tips and techniques are included in this series.
It was so cool to see you sitting there talking to your husband, Simon Doonan, in your pottery studio. This is where it all started for you, isn’t it? Oh bro, I was basically Brooklyn before Brooklyn was Brooklyn. [Laughs] The chic, polished decorator you might see on the show isn’t how I started out. I started out as a very serious craftsman, and it’s still where my heart is and where I work most of my creations. In my pottery studio. It’s who I am.
I still remember being able to identify a horse statue by Jonathan Adler, just by the angles, lines and style. Well, I think pottery is a great way to handle design because clay is so malleable. I can do whatever I want with clay, and the same principles apply to designing a pot as to designing a room or a house. It’s all about lines, proportions, colors, patterns and, above all, communication. That’s the main thing, communication.
Do you have other guests? No, Simon is the only special guest star. I only had the absolute best guest star. [Laughs]
The show really looks like that cool course you could take as an elective in college. You provide so much great insight into not only the history of design, but also how the mood of one period influenced or catapulted the next design movement. Oh good! In addition to my kind of signature techniques and methods, I also wanted to give a brief Cliffs Notes summary of the breadth of design from the late 19th century onwards, just so people can understand how we got there there and dive into the majesty of the design sideboard, all different movements. I think we are lucky to live in a postmodern era where we can taste all the significant movements in design.
And I love that you were able to relate postmodernism to rap music and sampling. well that for me is what postmodernism is. I am a postmodern person. I grew up in a time when postmodernism was really happening, and rap music is the perfect embodiment of what it is: it’s about literally sampling from the past and creating something totally original.
What do you think will be next when it comes to post-pandemic home design? People were trapped at home and suddenly they were like, “Oh wait, no…this corner of my house looks like hell. I have to power it up. The pandemic has obviously been a nightmare, but I think it’s inspired people to live their dream at home and really make their space all it can be.
Alright, last question. You are invited to someone’s house for a housewarming party. What do you take? Well, I’m lucky to have the world at my fingertips because I do so many things. I bring my LSD candle because it’s memorable and glamorous and lightly golden – a portal to surreal fantasy. It is therefore all that design can and should be in a single object.
Decorate like a designer with Jonathan AdlerSeries premiere, Friday, May 13, Wondrium