Fantasy Land: Jonathan Adler's Magical HQ

Visiting Jonathan Adler's HQ is much like entering a home-decor version of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory: stimulation overload. For starters, turquoise letters above the door spell out, “Enter Our Groovy World.” From a pack of adorable pups running from desk to desk, to a pottery studio with a kiln, to shelves lined with jars labeled “eyelashes” and “fibs,” the Fantasy Factory (dubbed by Adler's husband Simon Doonan) is not your typical office.
And yet with 25 stores and merchandise in more than a thousand locations worldwide, Adler still manages to keep the creative chaos alive every day — whether it be dancing to Ke$ha, sitting down (wearing pink crocs!) at the pottery wheel, or snuggling with his pups on tufted sofas. Click through for a serious color feast for the eyes. By the end, you’ll want to know just one thing: Where do I apply?
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Photographed by Mindy Best
What’s your favorite space in the office?
"It’s all sort of my lair and a window into my schizophrenic mind. I have the chaos of the pottery studio, which is unbridled fun and creativity; my own personal office, which is a colorful lair. I have the order and discipline of the wholesale office (— I have a bit of a mathematical brain so it’s nice to see a little bit of order). The reception area reflects my inner socialite and the rest of the office is just a dog-filled free-for-all, which is a reflection of my main preoccupation, which is dogs."
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Photographed by Mindy Best
How has your design aesthetic changed since your very first store in Soho?
"I think when I first started, it was much more minimalist and modern. And that was really a reflection of [the fact] that I was making most of the stuff myself. Over the years, as I’ve gotten more resources at my disposal, I’ve been able to fully flesh out what had been my vision all along, which had been a layered, eclectic, exuberant mix of chic and classic objects that are all whooshed together in a maximalist fantasia."

"My decorating and retail presentation has evolved into what I always hoped it would be."
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Photographed by Mindy Best
This pup got the "dress dapper" memo.
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What’s next for Jonathan Adler as a brand?
"Socks are exciting! We're turning ankles into the fetish thing (kidding). We are changing our West Village store into an accessories emporium, which is fun." [Ed.'s note: Today is opening day!]

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Photographed by Mindy Best
"I'm kinda like a design thrill-seeker in a way. Similar to how someone might get into S&M and a little spanking, and five years later, they’re suddenly into some heavy scene. That’s how I am with my company and design; I dipped my hands into pottery and now many years later, I want more, more, and more. My senses need to be even more tingled. If you use that, try and make it sound wholesome. For the record (and the truth), I’m not into S&M, if anyone’s wondering."
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Photographed by Mindy Best
Where is this amazing whale belt from?
"Vintage."
Where else do you love to shop?
"Uniqlo and Gap for white jeans. Black Fleece is a go-to. Mr. Turk. Adidas.com, another fave."
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Photographed by Mindy Best
The showroom houses prototypes for the next season's collection and serves as a meeting place for clients and partners.
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The pottery studio serves as the inspiration place for all the ceramic molds. After being baked in the in-house kiln, they are sent off for production.
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What are your favorite places in New York?
"It's funny, as much as I say that I kinda lead, it's creative chaos everywhere, all the time. Like a lot of New Yorkers, I lead a fairly quotidian life. I walk to the office, walk home, and in those brief bits of being outside, I could get enough inspiration to design 96 collections."
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Photographed by Mindy Best
You said you're in the pottery studio quite a bit, what is a typical day for you?
"Every day is kind of ridiculous. I read The Times, The Post and WWD, go to the gym, waddle in here about 9 a.m., make a pot, go into an inventory-planning meeting...do the running man to Ke$ha. It's creative chaos and fun mixed with really serious work. Because as glib as I am about this, we still have 25 stores and a couple hundred employees. I'm responsible for all my fellow bumblebees, which I take very seriously. But I have a lot of fun doing it."
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Photographed by Mindy Best
What's your favorite thing to make?
"You know? It’s funny, you won’t see that many in my collection, but I love making teapots. They are sort of the potter's ultimate challenge because there is so much going in the form. But the truth is that they don’t sell that much. Everyone should buy teapots so I can make more."
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Photographed by Mindy Best
Leave it to Adler to make Crocs chic.
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Photographed by Mindy Best
We heard you have office pottery nights here sometimes.
"It's cute, because we are that rare company that has a pottery kiln in the office. I'm always coming out and seeing someone in sales and they have this nifty, hippy-dippy pot, and I go, “Where did you get that?” And they'll be like, “I made it at pottery night!” It's inspiring and satisfying to me to see this creative laboratory really living. My husband recently came and said, 'You need to name this office, you should call it the Fantasy Factory.' And when I see people’s handmade pots, that comes to life."
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Sketches for future teapots!
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Do you have any special office rituals?
"In the studio, which is where I spend a lot of my time, tends to be classic rock meets hippy-dippy situation. Like today is Tuesday, so it's always Twofer Tuesday, classic-rock station. But then Joni Mitchell finds here way onto the stereo. But then in the design studio, it tends to be more Top 40. And that’s where I dance."
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Photographed by Mindy Best
How would you describe the office vibe?
"Obviously Andy Warhol’s factory is a tremendous inspiration to me. And I’m happy to say we have this really groovy space place happening in New York City where creative, like-minded funsters can flock to make fantastical objects, play with dogs, and work really seriously, but gleefully."
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Photographed by Mindy Best
"There's this Blind Melon video from the '90s where this little girl is dressed up in a bumblebee outfit and she's dancing around and everyone’s making fun of her and she doesn’t know what’s going on. Then all of a sudden, she finally finds this field with all these other people in bumblebee costumes all dancing around having so much fun and being so happy. I feel like my office is the field in the Blind Melon video."
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Photographed by Mindy Best
Coffee table books serve a dual purpose in Adler's office providing inspiration and height for ceramics.
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You're so well known for your iconic use of color, what’s your philosophy behind it?
"The irony is that I think people think I’m this color maximalist. I'm actually really not; [I'm] actually very restrained in my use of it. I just hate spaces that have no color — so I use lots and lots of neutrals, but with punches of intense color."
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Photographed by Mindy Best
Adler kicks back in blue Adidas and white Uniqlo jeans.
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Photographed by Mindy Best
What are you favorite hue combinations?
"Any that include a bit of sunshine orange and a little bit of turquoise. I think I like colors that refer to Mother Nature’s gifts. Sunshine, the sea, and chartreuse of new leaves."
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You’re married to such a creative person. What’s that like when it comes to decorating your home?
"It’s funny, people always wonder that. I don’t even think we’ve even ever had a conversation about design or disagreed about anything. We'll just do something and be like, 'That’s rad.'"
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Photographed by Mindy Best
In his personal office, Adler mixes vintage furniture with his own signature pieces. Colorful, floral-print curtains cleverly hide a TV screen.
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Photographed by Mindy Best
Tell us about the many adorable dogs here.
"Anyone who works in an office that doesn’t have dogs — I feel like you should just fill your pockets with rocks and walk into the sea because there is no point in going on. Right? (Ed.'s note: He's kidding.) But dogs do make the workday delightful."
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High desks make for easy collaboration if Adler wants to stop by to discuss product with the design team.
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What’s the one piece everyone should invest in for their home?
"Invest in a rad sofa because it needs to be squishy and comfy and TV-able and snoozable."
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Colorful pattern boards make for easy brainstorm sessions.
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What tips do you have for a young designer starting out in the industry or any creative field?
"Get an entry-level job at a place like the Fantasy Factory. When I started, I didn’t get a job and wandered around like an idiot for many years and did it completely on my own. And if I could go back in time, I probably would have gotten a real design job. Answer phones and then prove yourself. Be silly at night, hard working in the day until you’re about 30."
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Photographed by Mindy Best
We could definitely use those ping-pong paddle covers at the R29 HQ.
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A gorgeous tufted couch graces the reception room (which channels Adler's "inner socialite").
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