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

Jonathan Adlerj
Photo: David Fenton

We first became Jonathan Adler fans when his whimsical, creative, not-your-grandmother's pottery burst on the scene about a decade ago. We remained devoted through his forays into furniture, textiles, and pet products; his interiors for the posh Parker Palm Springs resort; and his ongoing stint as a judge for Bravo's reality series Top Design. But what really captured our hearts was when we read that Adler's inspiration for his weekend home on Shelter Island, New York, was none other than 1970s-era Sunset magazine. We asked the exuberant designer to share his creative vision.

Q: Mention '70s decor, and many people are liable to run for the exits. What are some ways our readers might borrow from the era?

A: When people think '70s, they think of the Pacer and the oil crisis and national malaise. But to me, the '70s represent a time of freedom and an amazing time for craft. The 1970s ― particularly in California ― were the height of hippie-dippie rustic modernist design. There's an amazing book called California Design: The Legacy of West Coast Craft and Style (Chronicle Books, 2005) that profiles the best of the era.

Seventies decor is about wood, stone, pottery, natural fabrics, and a bohemian aesthetic. Wallpaper your bedroom ceiling with grasscloth, drink your morning coffee out of a hand-thrown mug, cover a couch with a suzani (embroidered Asian textile). Most of us have to make a living in a conventional world, but you can fill your home with the earthy and groovy organic forms, textures, and colors of Mother Nature.


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