Designer Jonathan Adler Invented Your New Favorite Drink

1Photo: Danielle Kosann/Courtesy of The New Potato.
Jonathan Adler needs no introduction. The designer, potter, author and personality has been bringing effortless style to all of our homes for two decades now. We chatted with Adler on everything from what three things bring a room together, to who between him and his husband (Simon Doonan) does the cooking, all the way to his lifelong mission to have a drink named after him (NYC restaurants, take note).
The New Potato: From start to finish, what would be your ideal food day?
Jonathan Adler: "My ideal food day would begin with a scrumptious hotel buffet breakfast, which is always a multi-course extravaganza involving a fruit course, a bacon and egg course, and a dessert course. Lunch would be a bit more chic and ‘classique’ — perhaps a chicken paillard. I know it sounds ascetic but I can’t handle a mid-day food hangover. There would most definitely be a mid-afternoon snack involving something in the cookie or muffin family. For dinner, I have to be honest — my favorite meal is Thanksgiving dinner. If you must know the truth, I get very depressed when meals end. You know how the French call an orgasm a petite mort (a little death)? For me, the end of a meal is a petite mort."
What are the three home decor items that always bring a room together?
"Tiny tables: Tiny tables should be peppered throughout a room and should feel very intuitive. When you’re sitting in a chair you should be able to reach out and immediately be able to find a tiny table to place your cocktail on. They add a fab final layer.
"Beaucoup lighting of all different ilk: overhead, floor, table, and sconce. All extra dim for extra diva appeal. Low wattage from lots of different light sources makes a room feel warm and chic.
"A bit of greenery, whether it is freshly cut flowers or a nice succulent garden placed in a bowl."
What are you usually cooking on a typical night? Who cooks?
"I’m not the cook-iest, and neither is my husband. Luckily, if anyone cooks, it is moi. Simon’s food proclivities are incredibly austere."
When you walk into an empty space to be furnished, what is your first thought?
"When I’m working on a decorating project, I think the most important part is trying to figure out the message — what the inhabitants want their space to say about them. In general, I think a space should always make its inhabitants a little bit more eccentric and a little bit more glamorous than they think they might be."
What are the first things (aesthetically) you notice upon walking into a restaurant?
"Lighting can make or break a restaurant."
In the same vein as "what is the new black" for fashion, what is "the new potato" in home decor?
"All brass, all the time."
2Photo: Danielle Kosann/Courtesy of The New Potato.
Who have been your mentors, and why?
"I certainly have my design heroes — Alexander Girard, Bonnie Cashin, and David Hicks. But, my mentor is probably my horrid pottery teacher in college, who told me I had no talent and should give up potting. It’s ironic, but her advice was the best advice I never took."
What was your first big home decor purchase? What did you buy?
"I was a super poor, struggling potter, and I found this vintage Fornasetti malachite cocktail table. The dealer wanted $500 for it, and I begged, borrowed, pleaded, and stole to get her down to $350. I still know her, and she constantly reminds me that she just felt sorry for me and let me have it because she knew I loved it and couldn’t afford it."
What’s always in your fridge?
"The truth is, we try to keep it lean; otherwise, I will eat whatever’s in there. But, there are always some chocolate chip cookies and…batteries."
What’s your drink?
"Glad you asked. My drink, as everyone on earth should know, is ‘The Jonathan Adler’: iced tea with milk. My life’s goal is trying to get a drink named after me, a la the Arnold Palmer. Sadly, it’s not going well."
Where do you draw inspiration from?
"To be honest, this is an impossible question to answer. Creativity is an audacious and magical undertaking, and I try not to think about it too much."
Any hidden gems for flea market/antiquing fiends?
"I love Marika’s on Shelter Island. The Long Beach Antique Market in California always has treasures. And it ain’t a hidden gem, but I’ve always got to give it up for eBay."
What are your favorite places to travel to? What won’t you travel without?
"I’m a creature of habit. I love Capri, Big Sur, and Japan. I love to go to all three as often as possible to be inspired. My husband is my favorite travel accessory."
3Photo: Danielle Kosann/Courtesy of The New Potato.
What are your favorite cities for food? What restaurants do you go to in each?
"London is my favorite city for food. I never miss the chance to have the roasted chicken for two at The Ivy. In Paris, I like La Fontaine de Mars.
"Los Angeles food is sublime. I always go to my dear old friend Suzanne Goin’s restaurant, Lucques. The Grill on the Alley in Beverly Hills is forever my girl. A good classic steak for dinner, and the strawberry shortcake is poetry. Plus, the people watching is off the charts – it’s the epicenter of geezer-chic. I’ve never been there and not seen Judge Judy and/or Larry King.
"I’m lucky to live in the best foodie city in the world [Manhattan]. My favorite joint is Sant Ambroeus, which is my idea of heaven. It’s intimate, it’s lovely, the people couldn’t be sweeter, and the elephant ear cookies are to blame for my love handles."
The tricks to staying classic in furnishing a home, while also being playful.
"My mantra is 99% classical foundation, 1% playful punctuation. Keep the big pieces tres chic and tres timeless — a good comfy classic sofa, a timeless rug, etc. Be sure to include a folly — an outré lamp, a pillow of note, and a provocative sculpture never hurts."
What’s your entertaining style?
"My style is super-duper casual. I was recently at a party and I overheard one of the hosts remonstrating with his husband because he saw one of the guests drinking out of a plastic cup. They had a real gay screaming fight over it. It was hilarious and I vowed never to be that host. We keep it easy breezy, light and lively, and you might very well end up with a plastic cup."
What do you always bring to a dinner party? What do you always put out when hosting one?
"I am lucky to preside over a gift concern, so I’m never at a loss for a hostess pressie. My go-tos are a set of groovy porcelain coasters like my Delirium Coasters, a Bubble Gum Pop Candle, or my Mr & Mrs Muse Salt & Pepper Shaker. It’s a crowd-pleaser, and at $48, you can’t beat it. I always put out beaucoup candles to ensure a twinkly atmosphere."
If you could host a dinner party with any five living people, who would be there? What would you ask each to bring, and why?
"My hubby, for sure. I would tell him to bring me a gift because he doesn’t give me enough gifts. Does that sound mean? We had Nell Campbell over for dinner last night. I know she’s not a fancy guest, but she would definitely make the cut. She’s a real humdinger. I would make her bring her daughter Tilly, who is even more sublime than Nell herself. Brad Paisley is my secret country music crush. I’d make him bring his guitar and hat. Dan Savage; he’s a friend, but he’s also a fancy guest — brilliant, hilarious, and inspiring. I’d insist he bring his hubby Terry, because he’s maybe even better than Dan. And lastly, Karl Lagerfeld, simply because it would be ridiculous. If I got hot he could fan me!"

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