Function Meets Beauty in “Decorating like a Designer, with Jonathan Adler”

highlighted in new series: working with architecture, expressing style

By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer

The purpose of a room helps inform its design. The function of the space, like a bathroom or bedroom, can give hints as to which style would work for its decor. This week on Wondrium Shorts, learn to design practically and aesthetically.

Interior design is an exercise in both practicality and artistic creativity. If decorating a room seems equivalent to scaling Mt. Everest, there are ways to break it down into more bite-sized steps. For example, a living room can be used for several purposes. People can gather in the space to relax over a cup of coffee, to hosting watching a boxing match on TV, or to take a house party to the next level so it lives on in local legend for years.

When the basic function of a space has been determined, it’s time to think about a style you like. Choose a style that meets the needs of the space, while also allowing you to express yourself. Then, fill that space with appropriate objects for that style. In Decorating like a Designer, with Jonathan Adler, renowned potter and designer Jonathan Adler explains what to consider while building up a room.

Things You Can’t Change

It’s important to learn to work within limitations, like a building’s architecture.

“You should always take inventory of the architectural style that surrounds you,” Adler said. “The architecture of your room is a great starting place to choose your style; so, you need to find a style that harmonizes with the architecture, both on the interior and exterior of your home.”

At the same time, Adler said, going against the grain can work as well. Once, he designed the interior of an ornate Victorian townhouse in San Francisco that resembled an opulent castle. However, Adler chose to go the opposite direction and do a minimalist pop art environment and, because he went all-in on the space, it worked.

Things You Can Change

Since you could chose from a million of styles to use in a space, Adler recommends creating a “mood board” or a “materials box” to help you inspire your creativity. For example, a pop art mood board might have checkerboard and bold-colored items on it.

Adler described a natural materials box that he created. “This natural materials box is really about letting things be what they want to be, sort of listening to Mother Nature,” he said. “It’s about raw, untreated brass in an organic form; it’s about materials like raffia and abalone. It’s not devoid of color; it’s just color that really takes its cues from nature. So, think quiet, muted colors that really take their cues from nature—think about wood, sea, air.”

Some of the muted colors include camels, grays, neutrals, and small bits of blue. The success of a natural environment also depends on many natural elements appearing—lots of wood, linen, grass cloth, and lightly colored clays.

Every design style has colors, textures, materials, and objects that work together to express the designer’s personality and vision for a space. Adler refers to pop, natural, and deluxe—the latter of which involves gold, very squishy furniture to sink into, and jeweled objects—as his three poles of style. Starting with these poles of style and working variations into them can help a space come alive.

This article is part of our “Deeper Dive” series where we examine the stories behind our Wondrium Shorts on YouTube.

Edited by Angela Shoemaker, Wondrium Daily