The Darien library was packed last night (97% women) for a presentation by noted potter and designer Jonathan Adler. He began his talk with the epiphany moment that helped form his "happy chic" design sensibility — a Bahamian trip with husband Simon Doonan. They stayed on a resort property he described as "unimpeachably chic but joyless", then visited the sister property full of laughing joyful people with a zero chic rating. Informed by a designers' mentality which requires well-designed, beautiful and luxurious surroundings, he determined to meld the two experiences, in a non-snobby way.
Happy chic is centered on the idea that décor has an effect on the psyche. If you surround yourself with personal, beautiful things you love, the resulting joy will sustain you. Products should have a message and a vibe, not be dependent on form. The manifesto says it all.
4 non-blondes between me and my crush
On the topic of his career, he mentioned that "panic and ignorance" were big drivers! After a RISD teacher told him he had no talent as a potter, he held many other jobs, but was fired over and over. Finally returning to his original love, pottery, he worked to build a now-global business, starting with his first production order for Barneys. The bulk of his work time is now spent on product design and retailing, with his interior design career a sideline.
A particularly useful piece of advice is to "have no preconceived ideas" about your space, your career or your life. Be open to possibilities — if you have a living room you never use, it's okay to put a ping pong table there and have fun!
Jonathan spoke a lot about eclecticism, a word often used to describe his design style. In his own home, he has a high threshold for visual stimuli but recommends using symmetry to ground a space so eclectic objects have a framework within which to relate. His advice to audience members asking how to develop eclectic style in their own homes: "real eclecticism is best left to the professionals." A bit easier to implement: throw in "a little glitz" to leaven the seriousness of a space. An "off-note" is another way to add interest to a room. He did seem to shudder a bit imaging the off-notes people might try!
When asked about what's next: he's "very into brass right now" but working on more animal pots, further embracing surrealism and "tweaking traditional". Alas, "Top Design" on Bravo will not be returning. His two newest books sold briskly last night and he graciously signed copies for all.
happy chic colors
happy chic accessorizing
graciously signing books
What a delight to hear someone who seems genuinely happy, doing what he loves and being so successful — thanks JA for an uplifting talk. Bring a little happy chic into your life — you won't be disappointed!