World-class designer Jonathan Adler on how to create joyful homes and perfect Christmas tables

Jonathan Adler tells our editor Pip Rich about the colors to use to bring joy at Christmas and all year round

white christmas tree next to an elegant dining table
(Image credit: Jonathan Adler)

If there's one designer who knows how to Christmas, it's Jonathan Adler. His aesthetic could be characterised as fun, and is always uplifting, joyful and ready for a party. So it's no surprise he was my go-to when I wanted to talk to an expert about creating a holiday season with verve, setting the scene with colors and textures for very good times to be had.

For Livingetc’s only ever guest editor Jonathan Adler is known for the wit he brings to interiors, and at no other season is it as called for as right now. We spoke about Christmas decorating, holiday tables and design with character that lasts all year.

As ever with soothing shades it’s about them being a base note of soothing waftiness on top of which you layer jarring jolts of colour through some standout furniture and accessories

Jonathan Adler

Jonathan Adler on a blue chair

(Image credit: Jonathan Adler)

On how to put a room together

Pip Rich: It’s been over two years since we started talking about your guest editorship of Livingetc for the June 2021 issue. Back then, you were heralding the start of a new roaring twenties, a hedonism that was going to make itself felt in the way we wanted to decorate. How roaring are you feeling now?

Jonathan Adler: I’m feeling roaring..ish. I’m eternally optimistic, and feeling creatively inspired by what’s happening on social media. Because of Instagram, people have learned the art of the vignette, training eyes to compose moments in their homes. And that has thrown down a gauntlet to us designers, demanding that we make things more extra, add more color, bolder shapes, and create pieces that truly stand out. People are being so outrageous, and that’s a roaring twenties, of sorts.

PR: I agree. There is a sense of what we’re calling ‘new eclectic style’ in the air, of a briliantly curated approach to design. Another of your tenets as guest editor was that every room should have a pedastal, which I’ve personally embraced since. Not literally, but figuratively - every room should be geared up to display your favourite pieces.

JA: I like the idea of a figurative pedastal! It’s helpful to see a space in terms of its vignettes. Imagine how you’ll move through it, what your eyes will alight upon. If you keep that in mind when arranging objects you’re off on the right foot - create little moments that delight in each corner or in each direction.

on happy-making color palettes

Sweetpea & Willow X Jonathan Adler

(Image credit: Sweetpea & Willow)

PR: I can see from the wall behind you how may pieces of pottery are on display [in Jonathan’s Shelter Island home] but is this mood carrying over to your new Palm Beach house, too?

JA: I’d always advise anyone to take their cues from from a sense of place, to take the soul of your surroundings. In Palm Beach, my challenge is to take the wonderful ridiculousness of the socialites that live there and the even more wonderful ridiculousness of their decorators and imbue my home with the sunshine of it all.

PR: Imbuing life with sunshine has got to be a key goal for decor right now. What does your palette look like?

JA: It’s a freaky palette of mint green, lavender, Tiffany blue, lemon yellow and lime green.  I call it sorbet for the soul, but as ever with these soothing shades it’s about them being a base note of soothing waftiness on top of which you layer jarring jolts of electricity and color through some standout furniture and accessories.

on creating Christmas sparkle

PR: Is this a similar approach for how you’ll be decorating Christmas?

JA: My husband Simon and I have spent our lives as Christmas elves - Simon [Doonan] as a window dresser and me with the stores, so we tend to pare it down. That said, the Christmas table is the ultimate place to be extra. There are no limits, more is more, be celebratory, this year more than ever. At Christmas, sparkliness suddenly becomes ok, as does making everything a disco ball. Add sparkle to everything - glassware, napkin holders, objet. You won’t regret it.

on making your home lift your mood

Jonathan Adler's Mustique vase collection

Jonathan Adler's Mustique vase collection

(Image credit: Jonathan Adler)

PR: Talking of objet, I’ve just bought a couple of pieces from your new Mustique collection. I love how graphic and bright they are, but also how intriguing the marbled surfaces are. This texture feels like a new mood for you.

JA: When I started, I was a potter - it was just me and clay. Now my world has opened up and I can truffle out techniques and materials from around the globe. I saw this marbelised material in India and wanted to use it to explore the principles of what the deco movement [in the first half of the 20th century] was all about. The ceramicist Clarice Cliff is such an inspiration to me. What that movement led to that it opened peoples’ minds to the power of design, and is ever more relevant today. Through graphic patterns and bold shapes we realise that design can be mind expanding, mood lifting. Turn your home into a place of self expression.

Browse Jonathan Adler's Mustique collection .

Pip Rich

The editor of Livingetc, Pip Rich (formerly Pip McCormac) is a lifestyle journalist of almost 20 years experience working for some of the UK's biggest titles. As well as holding staff positions at Sunday Times Style, Red and Grazia he has written for the Guardian, The Telegraph, The Times and ES Magazine. The host of Livingetc's podcast Home Truths, Pip has also published three books - his most recent, A New Leaf, was released in December 2021 and is about the homes of architects who have filled their spaces with houseplants.  He has recently moved out of London - and a home that ELLE Decoration called one of the ten best small spaces in the world - to start a new renovation project in Somerset.