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10 Decorating Lessons You Can Learn From Jonathan Adler’s Instagram

Is there anything Jonathan Adler hasn’t created? From the time he sold his first collection of pottery in 1993 to Barney’s New York, the luxury department store that is now sadly shuttered, Adler has become a fixture in the world of interior design with his line of stylish, high-quality furniture, lighting, rugs, dinnerware, vases, pillows, and many other home products. The ceramicist-turned-celebrity-decorator calls his signature style “Happy Chic, ” a term that can be loosely defined as a combination of joy, humor, creativity, and glamour. “A chic home isn’t one that’s filled with uncomfortable furniture and art that you don’t understand,” he writes in his book My Prescription for Anti-Depressive Living, “it is a home filled with things that you love and that make you happy.” His Instagram account, (@jonathanadler), is full of exuberant color, witty objects, stylish design ideas, and idiosyncratic inventiveness. Here are ten decorating lessons that will inspire you to create your own “Happy Chic” home. 

1. Mix, Don’t Match.

A suite of matching furniture in matching textiles can look stiff and boring. Here, Adler uses pieces from different collections to create a dynamic setting. The different shapes, colors, and materials keep things fresh and interesting. To keep the space from looking too hodge-podge, Adler creates a sense of balance with matching side tables and lamps.

2. Texture Is Your Friend.

Often, what’s missing in some of the most beautifully furnished rooms is texture. When every surface has the same finish, the space tends to look and feel flat. In this corner of Adler’s weekend home in Shelter Island, New York, a medley of textures—the shag rug, velvet lounge chair, and hand-crafted tile wall—impart a feeling of luxury to the space while brushed stainless steel accents add shine.

Texture is your friend. | Image from Jonathan Adler’s Instagram account.

3. Repeat Motifs.

A space with an eclectic mix of furniture styles can look haphazard if there’s nothing that ties the look together. In this setting, Adler unifies the diverse pieces by repeating the round black-and-white motifs found in the artwork, pillows, and vases. The curvy shape of the lounge chair echoes the lines in the artwork to create a sense of harmony.

4. Consider Photography Instead of Paintings.

The art you hang on your walls doesn’t always have to be a painting. Consider an oversized photographic print in lieu of a canvas or wall hanging. Photography is an oft-overlooked art form, but it brings as much impact to a space as a traditional or abstract painting. Most galleries offer a wide variety of subjects to choose from. Start your collection now.

Consider photography instead of paintings. | Image from Jonathan Adler’s Instagram account.

5. Paint Small Spaces A Dark Color.

It’s commonly believed that to make a small space look bigger, you should paint it white or any light color. But Adler likes to buck convention and do the unexpected, so in this tiny space that connects two rooms, he painted the walls a rich, dark hue. The result? A cozy, intimate space for reading (this is the private library in his New York townhouse). Bold prints and colors pop in dark spaces, so bring in vibrant textiles and art to add flair.

6. Arrange Books By Color.

This trend has gotten some heat from book collectors who abhor the use of tomes as decorative objects. Their belief is that books should be organized by subject or author, not the color of their spines. But Adler’s decorating philosophy has always been to do what makes you happy, and if arranging your books by hue brings a smile to your face, then, by all means, do it (you must admit that it looks more visually appealing!).

7. Don’t forget the Ceiling.

How many homes have you been to where the ceilings are painted white? People tend to overlook ceilings when decorating because they think no one looks up at them. Surprise your friends (and yourself) with a patterned or colored ceiling like the one in this dramatic dining room. Even though this space contains a variety of patterns (on the rug, the art, and the wallpaper used on the ceiling), they don’t clash with each other because they all contain black.

8. Add Something Unexpected.

What makes a room unique? It could be color, a piece of furniture, or an architectural feature, but what really makes a space stand out is the inclusion of something unusual, unconventional, unexpected. In this casual living room, a surfboard doubles as sculpture while still managing to look at home amongst the beach-y touches. Adler always brings an element of surprise into his interiors, like displaying a kitschy thrift store find atop a sleek, modern credenza in his New York abode.

Add something unexpected. | Image from Jonathan Adler’s Instagram account.

9. Float Your Furniture.

People tend to place their furniture against a wall; it’s a space-saving technique that has been used time and time again. But for a more luxurious and indulgent look, float your furniture in the center of a room the way Adler did in the New York bedroom he shares with his husband, Simon Doonan (former Creative Director at Barney’s New York and author of several non-fiction books). This placement style creates an airy flow and looks fresh and appealing.

10. And Last But Not the Least, Don’t take Decorating Too Seriously.

Adler infuses everything he creates with his trademark wit, style, and glamour. Never one to take things too seriously, he decorates the way he lives his life – exuberantly. He is not afraid to mix high with low, custom-made with store-bought, new with old. In the home office of his husband Simon Doonan, Adler eschews traditional decorating rules in favor of a more personal, fun approach. Bright colors and quirky prints clash, charming pet portraits mingle with fine art, plastic shares the space with brass. Nothing is taken seriously because life is too short to do so. Adler simply sums up his decorating philosophy as such: “I want you to walk in your front door and feel happy.” After all, “Happiness is chic.”

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