Retro style with a fresh twist

Designer Jonathan Adler tells all on color as therapy, his obsession with 1970s California design, and how to make vintage work for you

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  • Adler's book, My Prescription for Anti-Depressive Living, is never dull.

    Jonathan Adler

    E. Spencer Toy

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Q: In your book, My Prescription for Anti-Depressive Living (Collins Design, 2005; $35), you extol the virtues of using bold color to turn a sour mood into sunshine. How should the average person apply it?

A: I love, love, love color ― it's the ultimate anti-depressant. How can you feel sad if you're eating your cereal out of a bright orange bowl? But I don't believe that color should be used without a plan. I like to choose a very specific palette ― say chocolate, white, and baby blue ― and use those colors liberally. If you show some restraint in a basic scheme, you're free to dollop in little, tiny punches of color as contrast. I've never said no to a splash of lemon yellow.

Q: Is there one great '70s piece that can be turned into a contemporary statement for the home?

A: The 1970s were the heyday of the hanging chair, and it is most definitely time for a resurgence. Buy one and you'll never look back!

Q: Can you recommend a few iconic design pieces to search for online or buy as reproductions?

A: I have sworn off eBay after my better half staged an intervention. I was a total eBay addict and spent all my free time searching and buying and collecting ― it was an absolute disaster! When I was an eBay addict, I never would have shared my favorite searches. But now that I'm sober, I'll happily share my fave search words.

Jonathan Adler's eBay secret list 
Names to spur your own vintage design searches:
Arteluce, C. Jere, Eames, Gibbings, Juhl, Karl Springer, Murano, Parzinger, Paul Evans, Platner, Raymor, Risom, Sputnik, Wegner,  Wormley


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