August 28, 2015

Jonathan Adler brings his Manhattan chic to Vancouver

The designer and potter is known for his sometimes humorous but seriously stylish creations

By lucy hyslop

The buzz surrounding the appearance by Jonathan Adler at September’s Interior Design Show West in Vancouver is palpable.

Pieces by Adler, New York City’s designer and potter extraordinaire, are staples on the lust-have list of designers, journalists and bloggers around the world. From his Brass Banana and Lucite Giraffe sculptures to his vibrant vases, statement sofas and expansive Anemone ceiling lighting, he is at the vanguard of seriously stylish and frequently witty home creations.

This will be Adler’s first trip to B.C., where his Sept. 26 talk at IDSwest is set to focus on his career. He’s come rather a long way from selling pots 22 years ago to Manhattan’s fabled department store, Barneys, to boasting more than 25 stores and some 1,000 wholesale locations worldwide today.

“I’ll be talking about my favourite subject: Me, me, me,” says the author of four books on interior design. “And if people learn from my mistakes, well, that’s great too.”

He notes that this year’s IDSwest has a strong sense of place for West Coast designers. The show will be partnering with the Bellevue Arts Museum to feature a portion of its summertime exhibition, The New Frontier, which presents works by Pacific Northwest designers such as Eugene, Oregon-based designers Studio Gorm, Seattle’s Standard Socket and urbancase and Vancouver’s own Knauf and Brown. It’s all grabbing Adler’s attention, and he says he’s keen to see what’s happening here.


“I spend so much time and energy on my own work and business, so it’s great to get to shows like IDSwest to see what the youngins are up to,” he says. “I know I’ll be wowed by so much groovy design packed into one place.” Adler hopes there’s a growing respect for the region’s talent pool. “The Pacific Northwest has a history of fab design that takes advantage of the stunning landscape.” He says he’s excited to see Vancouver and to “combine the best aspects of city travel with outdoorsy travel.”

He’s also looking forward to the return of the LA Exchange. Curated by the influential blog Design Milk, it puts the spotlight on six Los Angeles-based designers. Wander through Jory Brigham’s pops of colour furniture, the textile designs of Wolfum, Brendan Ravenhill’s lighting and offerings by furniture and product design studio Bend Goods.

“J’adore Design Milk and [founder] Jaime Derringer,” Adler says. “When I’m not reading my hubby’s columns on Slate [he’s married to Simon Doonan, the creative ambassador-at-large at Barneys] or perusing Etsy, I’m on Design Milk. It’s bookmarked on my laptop and in my heart.” What appeals to him about all these types of designers is how they relate to his own story. As his talk will no doubt reveal, it takes a lot of determination to become the retail powerhouse Adler is today.

“I love anyone who’s hustling to make it happen,” he says. “I spent my pretty years as a production potter working seven days a week, so I appreciate when I see that drive in other people and when they get to showcase their labour.” Luckily for IDSwest visitors, they get to see the fruits of Adler’s own labour — a pop-up shop of his creations is part of the show.

With appropriately youthful enthusiasm, Phillips says: “It’s going to be great.”

Three to see

What to check out at this year’s show

By lucy hyslop

With more than 250 exhibitors at this year’s Interior Design Show West, it’s hard to see everything. But here are three things you should be sure to check out at the show, which runs from Sept. 24 to 27 at the Vancouver Convention Centre West.

We know our “Keep Portland Weird” neighbours to the south possess a similar maker-culture spirit as we do in Vancouver, so don’t miss the Portland Pop-Up. Curated by Vancouver’s Port + Quarter interior design studio, the hub offers visitors a chance to buy small housewares from the Oregon ’hood, including products from Merkled Studio and Quartertwenty.

As IDSwest show director Jody Phillips says of Portlanders: “They are just a great hotbed of design for the Pacific Northwest with a lot of creative energy like here.”

With highlights such as B.C.’s contemporary artist and rug designer Zoe Pawlak collaborating with Jeff Martin Joinery to create a colourful credenza, the Maker show will host a well-choreographed section on creators of furniture, decor and art who have graduated from exhibiting one-of-a-kind pieces for the first time (like in Studio North) to working in small-scale production, still with a hand on what they are producing. “It’s a pretty exciting time to be creative here in Vancouver — lots of great projects and collaborations,” Phillips says. “Maker shows how we have grown as a city.”

The District is the show’s cash-and-carry neighbourhood that homes in on designers. Unlike the past when the area included jewelry makers, for example, the section is all about design-centric housewares and home goods this year. Check out the wide range of offerings, including the eco-friendly Mitani Designs and the East Van Light company. The booths sold out “extremely quickly,” according to Phillips, who adds: “Who thought a few years ago that we would be producing lights? The west has really come a long way.”

Design for the younger set

The Modern Kid exhibition demonstrates that innovative, contemporary design isn’t just for adults

By lucy hyslop

Go to your room! Let’s be honest: Kids and contemporary design aren’t usually talked about in the same breath.

At the Interior Design Show West, however, a new section will be shouting loudly about creating nurseries, bedrooms, play and rec rooms for any young brood, all with an on-trend, clean-lined twist. The 11-year-old show’s Modern Kid feature will reveal an installation created by Erin Boniferro, an Emily Carr University of Art and Design graduate and owner of East Vancouver’s popular arty store, Collage Collage.

Taking a page from the shop’s inventive, vibrant window displays, Modern Kid is set to include a similar vignette at the show, along with a smaller version of the fun store and activities for IDSwest’s younger design aficionados. There will also be a plethora of innovative design, including non-toxic organic products and furniture by such companies as Kitsilano’s Crocodile Baby (among the products it will showcase, check out the Italian wool on the ultra-sleek Como Glider by Monte Design).

Also worth checking out is the Nidi collection by Italy’s Battistella — say goodbye to mess and hello to pops of colour with its clever multi-tasking desks, beds and other streamlined furniture. The company’s space will have beds, poufs, rugs, wallpaper and lots of storage, all with an eye on its eco credentials: water-based lacquers, non-toxic polyethylene for its plastic materials and non-allergenic and anti-dust-and-mite textiles for its mattresses.

It’s all part of a show offering people the “next generation of innovative design,” show director Jody Phillips says. “It’s about the adult’s desire to have something more aesthetically pleasing and the children’s to have things that aren’t too precious, so we’re aiming for Modern Kid to be functional yet design-centric.”

Judging by the number of strollers often found on the design floor, which normally attracts 35,000 visitors over the four-day event, “there are plenty of young families that are really interested in design,” Phillips adds. “This is a fresh and new approach — we felt we didn’t discuss kids enough, and yet many of us live in lively households with creative kids.” There’s more than a nod to play time, too. Crocodile Baby’s booth, for example, will also feature toys that encourage child development, such as finger puppets, which help through words and images as well as hand dexterity.

With appropriately youthful enthusiasm, Phillips says: “It’s going to be great.”


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