Interior designer, potter, and color-enthusiast Jonathan Adler takes happy chic to uncharted territory this month with the launch of his new toilet paper roll covers for Cottonelle's Spring collection. The three limited-edition roll cover designs are available online, and at just $2 per cover, practically everyone can afford to stash their spare rolls in Adler's signature style.
We caught up with Adler to chat about his Cottonelle collaboration and so much more! Keep reading to get the skinny on his bathroom must haves, bucket-list mantra, squeaky-clean lifestyle, and why he'll never use the male form in his designs.
CasaSugar: So Jonathan, I'm curious, what was your first encounter with toilet paper covers? Did you have them growing up?
Jonathan Adler: We did not have them growing up. I grew up in kind of a groovy, modernist house that was sort of minimalist. But I remember going to a friend's house and seeing those crocheted poodle toilet roll covers —
CS: Oh, totally. My grandma had them.
JA: Yeah, I thought they were kind of hilarious.
CS: I noticed that the toilet paper cover trend seemed to peak in the '60s, which is interesting because it is also a decade that plays a big role in your own design. What is it about that era that you find particularly inspiring?
JA: I think the thing about modernism that was so exciting was that there was a sense of optimism and a sense of color and fun that I think kind of went out of favor with the sort of Ralph Lauren waterwork-ification of the world. I still appreciate the optimism and color of '60s design.
CS: Why do you think toilet paper covers have been relatively untouched? I know that you mentioned that before.
JA: I think that there's probably a lot of things in the world that people sort of just take for granted and don't think how could they be better. You know there's that guy, who is redoing the thermostats, which I thought was so brilliant because thermostats are one of those things that kind of just suck. I can't wait to get the new fruity thermostat cover.
CS: It seems like whether it's the female anatomy in the muse collection, recreational drugs in the vices collection, or now toilet paper decor, you tend to have a knack for transforming slightly taboo subject matter into really chic design.
JA: Oh, that's very sweet. I try!
CS: You pull it off. What is it about exploring those kinds of topics through design that intrigues you? Because it seems to always be more provocative rather than obscene, so I'm just curious about that.
JA: I appreciate that you say provocative and not obscene because it is such a fine line. In my muse collection of pottery, people always say to me "Why don't you do anything with the male anatomy?" And there's a simple reason, because it looks really cheesy. So for the muse collection, I work really hard to be provocative and not obscene. In terms of a lot of the druggy iconography in my work, it's really funny because I'm one of the most clean-living, wholesome people on earth; I'm an herbal tea drinking, exercise-aholic. I think decorating and design are fantastic ways to have a vicarious free-fall. I do think that your home should be provocative and surprising, and I feel it's my job as a decorator to make people feel a little more eccentric and glamorous.
CS: Right. And what better way to do that than exploring it through art?
JA: Yeah. I just hate being too safe, and I feel like at the end of the day when you're about to kick the bucket, you should look back on your life and remember the vase with breasteses all over it rather than a beige-boredomville.
CS: What were the inspirations behind the particular designs that you chose for Cottonelle and why did you think they would work well for this?
JA: Well, the designs themselves came from some of my signature patterns in my high-end collection. As much as I strive to make designs that I hope are affordable, the truth is, it's not affordable to everyone. So I thought this was a great opportunity to really create a populist democratic product that anyone can afford. I don't really believe that good design needs to be expensive, so I thought it was a great opportunity to put my mark on something that is super-duper accessible. I chose these patterns because I think something that is — I know I'm not supposed to use the word cheap — but cheap and easy, like myself! I wanted it to be cute and not try to be something that it is not. Like cheap and cheerful.
CS: Yes! Now, you mentioned also having a passion for taking everyday objects and turning them into eye-catching conversation pieces. Are there any particular items that you're having fun with that exemplify this philosophy?
JA: Oh that's a good one! You know, one of my favorite new pieces that I have is this cell phone charging dock. Basically I just made this little porcelain piece that is shaped like an old-fashioned telephone. The chord goes into it and you sort of just prop your phone up in it — it's like a cheeky way to deal with that horrible phone-charging situation that we're all in.
CS: Now, if you could finish this sentence for me: Every stylish bathroom should have . . .
JA: Oh, in addition to toilet roll covers —
CS: Right, of course.
JA: One of my go-to tricks for making a bathroom seem kind of groovy, residential, and layered is to put a chair in the bathroom and to stack towels on it.
CS: Oh! I like that.
JA: That's my go-to bathroom decor trick. It makes me feel kind of groovy and casual and eclectic.
CS: Is there anything else that is new that you're working on right now? Or anything that is on the horizon that you're excited about?
JA: I just opened my 16th store — we chose Greenwich, CT. I'm working on opening a bunch more stores. I'm always making lots of new pots and pillows and sofas and stuff. Oh, and I'm doing handbags, which is really groovy. You should check them out — they're very good. I'm really pleased with them.
CS: Oh, I can't wait! I definitely will.
JA: Yeah, they're cute and nifty and couture, but affordable. I'm also making lots of stuff in brass, which is my favorite material du jour.
CS: Oh, I love brass!
JA: You're only human.