One-quarter of a century ago, a young potter rollerbladed into my apartment and into my heart. I met Jonathan Adler in November 1994. A pal set us up on a blind date, and we have been together ever since. Back then I, a Brit transplant, was a spiffy suit-wearing retail exec, designing windows and helping craft the image of Barneys New York. And Jonathan, a proud New Jersey native, was a clay-spattered ceramist, a bohemian artisan wedging his brains out in a shared studio in SoHo.
In the intervening years, much has changed. My knowledge of Yiddish has increased beyond all measure. Jonathan, for his part, has become a tea-guzzling Anglophile. We are still in the same Greenwich Village apartment, but in 2001 we doubled our square footage when we acquired the adjacent unit. Though he is still clay-spattered, Jonathan has made a few subtle tweaks to his résumé: We’re talking furniture designer, retail magnate, design icon, hotel visionary, and interior decorating mega-force.
Last year, we decided it was time to perk up our pad. We started by playing musical chairs with the available space: Our old bedroom became my home office, the living room became our bedroom, my office became the dining room, and so on. The construction was meshuga. Clutching our rescue mutt, Foxylady, for succor, I retreated to my new office, where I watched as Jonathan gesticulated like Herbert von Karajan and workmen tore the place apart.
Once the dust settled, Team Adler trooped into our reconfigured home bearing a cavalcade of newly designed furniture, pillows, and lamps. Jonathan’s buzzwords were as follows: bold, glamorous, and memorable. It was about amping it up, not dialing it back. Our clubby library has a luminous David Hicks wallpaper on the ceiling and features a fringed sofa in a decadent Proustian velvet.
The new living room is filled with a Vans-inspired checkerboard rug grounding two newly reupholstered Vladimir Kagan settees in an ivory bouclé. Unexpected juxtapositions were key, as exemplified by a life-size vintage Italian ceramic poodle—a nifty gift from Michael Kors—resting on giant Tiffany boxes, staring hauntingly into a Gothic cheval mirror in the corner of our revamped dining room.
The greatest hits from a quarter century of hunting and gathering also found a new life in our spiffed-up pad. Our frothy mix of iconic vintage trouvées includes a Paul Evans four-poster bed, a Fornasetti screen, a flea-market bust of Michael Jackson, and an Ed Paschke portrait of Sly Stone.
And there is sentimental stuff, too: the Bjørn Wiinblad chalice we bought on our first trip to Denmark in 2002; a Prince head from one of my Barneys window designs; and a kinky vintage Pirelli calendar designed by Allen Jones, a Portobello Road find. Further layering was accomplished with new Adler designs: glam-rock beaded artworks, cheeky needlepoint pillows, and Surrealist porcelain vases, some of which sprout ostrich feathers. Jonathan’s vast and varied oeuvre—he now works in myriad stylistic idioms—merged seamlessly with our older finds. How come? The truth is, there are no supporting actors in our new place. Everything is a star. Everything is there because we love it.
How did it feel to be a spectator of this transformation? Watching it come together was astonishing and delightful. The look Jonathan achieved is glamorous, life-enhancing, and really rather fabulous, and I can say that because I had nothing to do with it. As I watched him work, I kvelled with pride. Here was my potter, throwing every ounce of his creative chutzpah into the reimagining of our home. Jonathan had started with an atom and then, 25 years later, kapow! The big bang!
So what’s it like to live in it? You could be forgiven for assuming that we, with our giant Lucite pills and our trippy visuals, live like hedonistic rock stars. Au contraire. The truth is, we lead a cozy, down-to-earth existence. (The Yiddish word is haimish.) Regardless of how eccentric or theatrical the vignette, there will always be a place in our home to plop down your Jonathan Adler handcrafted porcelain mug.