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Can You 'Top' This?

February 8, 2007 By:
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Jonathan Adler
Lux loft as environmental Zoloft? A white window valence as veiled threat to Valium?

Extreme Makeover: The Mental Condition?

Well ... in a way, muses adored designer Jonathan Adler, there can be a connect between mind and matter -- especially when that matter is chintz or chamois.

He should know: The top designer is lead judge for "Top Design," Bravo's new occasionally over-the-top fashion contest, in which a classified "help wanted" ad for white and single probably refers to an unadorned fresco.

And help is what Adler -- abetted by "old hand" at design Todd Oldham, the host for the Wednesday-night competition, in which a house is not a home but a hangout for designing women and men trying to win a grand prize and attention from Elle Decor, as well as a brand-new car to gas up their careers -- is so good at.

Now this link between mood and moody design? Can a sectional couch cushion the crunch of depression?

"Your home should be like a good dose of Zoloft," says the author of My Prescription for Anti-Depressive Living, who's made book on retail outlets throughout the country, and is, indeed, founder of "Jonathan Adler Happy Home."

Even in the South Pacific, people need more than happy talk; they need vibrant colors, too. Gray's anatomy can be diagnosed as one of poor psychological feelings. "People really underestimate how a gray interior can make you feel gray."

Keep it gray, keep it gray, keep it gray -- for feeling plagued by a bad case of the peshmelitz? But how to turn that frown upside-down? "An orange door will make you feel instantly happy."

If not endear you to the neighbors. But Adler is no addled advocate of being wired to the weird. His designs have caught fire -- at least his concepts are flame-retardant -- as he has helped make the home the superstar and his business super store of 2007.

"I am a design-obsessed person" who has noticed the "increased interest in interior design" throughout the nation. "People do underestimate how design can dictate their moods."

But they don't underestimate Adler, just turned 40. Even before it all bloomed, he was turning to pots as a predilection. Indeed, Adler will tell you, by his Bar Mitzvah year, he wanted more than a check; he wanted a wheel to go with a kiln.

And it wasn't to recreate the hot hands-on menage à clay scene with Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze from "Ghosts"; no, his unchained melody was keyed to keeping home and heart in sync. The spectral scene he envisioned was one of throwing pots for a living, not a lusting.

It was an ambition that coursed through his educational efforts at Brown University, where he took art history, and at the revered Rhode Island School of Design, which became a new port for his protean talents.

So was a talent agency, to which Adler turned in 1990 after killing off the kiln fire.

But Adler ultimately air-kissed the air kisses and figured he had done the "let's do lunch" lunacy to death. It was time, he reasoned, to return to pottery.

Which is when, he recalls on his bio, his "concerned parents scheduled an intervention."

Carpet his career in fabulous fiber, one success after another -- even if some questioned occasionally his taste. There was the time, after all, when a mother's kisses were more like a geshrei when he became, as he calls it, obsessed with "WASP country-club style."

Home and hearth -- and heartache? Home, home on the rage: "Concerned Jewish mother schedules another intervention."

No need for outside help these days -- only the kind he and Oldham and a panoply of judges offer designing aspirants on "Top Design."

As for the man imbedded with bedroom-design advice and living room joie de vivre, well, in his own life, did he always take counseling with a grain of panache? There was, after all, the bad tip he got from a teacher at RISD, "who told me to give up my dream of being a potter and become a lawyer."

File that one, briefly, as a sour memory albeit one with enduring impact. "Everybody," says the potter-cum-entrepreneur, "should have someone to rebel against."

Only, of course, if that rebellion is done in good taste and temperament. 

 

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