If you’re not familiar with Jonathan Adler, you must have been trapped under something heavy for the last 19 years. The iconic New York-based potter, celebrity designer, and author, who launched his first ceramic collection in 1994 to critical acclaim, is now the force behind an internationally recognized design brand. Today, Jonathan Adler offers myriad decorative objects, furniture, handbags, interior design services, and much more. What makes Adler such a design maverick is his incredible knack for mixing and matching vibrant colors, quirky patterns, intriguing textures, and out-of-the-ordinary objects. He encourages homeowners to turn off autopilot and trash the seen-everywhere-catalog looks to find the interior design that really makes their hearts go pitter-patter. When it comes to your ocean home, Adler recommends swimming in the sea of possibilities. Here, he lets us in on his stash of style secrets for 2013.


Nautical by Nature

Perhaps the most important lesson of the day is that for an oceanfront home, decorating doesn’t need to be all about seashells and scrimshaw. Instead, look for fresh, nautical themes, and don’t be shy about repurposing items. “I like to reuse and repurpose,” says Adler. “For example, at my Shelter Island [New York] home, I swapped nautical brass cleats for drawer pulls. Incorporate nods to nautical in unexpected places, like on your dinner table.” Look for items with graphic waves, anchors, ropes, sharks, funky-looking fish, seahorses, whales, and even mermaids. The key is to keep it playful and cool, and to steer clear of stuffy decor.


Sun, Sea, and Sky

Bypass floor-to-ceiling neutrals for bold shades that play up nature’s beauty. Adler’s current favorite palate pleasers for an ocean home are the turquoise blue of the sea and the sky, the fluffy white of the occasional cloud, and the blazing orange of the sun. “If I could live in a world of turquoise and orange only, I’d be very happy,” Adler admits. Tricky Textures You’ve worked hard for your gorgeous oceanfront home, and now you are looking to make everything picture perfect. But your ideal design doesn’t have to equal expensive. Adler advises homeowners to not be afraid of using more humble resources. “I like to mix high and low,” he says. “The burlap drapes in our bedroom on Shelter Island let the light shine through, but still give privacy.” Sometimes, depending on the room, it’s the least luxurious solution that’s best.


Inside and Outside

Craft special touches around your home to enjoy and enhance the view of each room. Naturally, you’ll want to do things inside, like play up floor-to-ceiling windows with light-as-air drapes so as to bring the outside in. The bathroom is often a room that is neglected as far as interior design is concerned, but just think about how many hours you clock in there getting ready or simply relaxing in the shower or tub. If the bathroom has a great view and bright, natural light, you’ll most likely be there even more. “Treat the bathroom as a real room; use art, furniture, and lighting to fashion a space to spend time in,” Adler says. Adler advises homeowners to get creative with their outside space, too. The designer suggests: “Build an outdoor shower and install a window to frame the view for the ultimate in beach house chic. Or, design an outdoor living room with a bunch of seating options. As long as it’s waterproof, put it out there.” Just like you wouldn’t have all of your furniture matched perfectly inside your home, go for the eclectic look in your external living spaces as well.


Door Stop

Adler’s top tip? Paint your front door an orange hue so that it’s the first thing your guests see when they arrive. It creates excitement before you even get inside. “Every [ocean home] should have [an orange door],” Adler says. 


It’s So Hue!

Whitehaven kitchen sinks in Greenwich Green that Alder designed for Kohler

A love of color and timeless, bold design is something both Kohler and Jonathan Adler have in common. Which is why the company, which coined the tagline “The Bold Look of Kohler” and introduced color to American kitchens in the 1920s, is collaborating with color-master Adler on its KOHLER Colors collection. The four special-edition colors—Greenwich Green, Piccadilly Yellow, Palermo Blue, and Annapolis Navy—are available only in a selection of six enameled cast iron kitchen and bathroom sinks. Here’s what Adler has to say about the four hues, all of which beautifully complement an ocean home. (Added bonus: They are made in the U.S.)

  • Piccadilly Yellow “There’s a very mod quality to Piccadilly yellow, especially when paired with white. It’s unexpected and will always feel fresh.”
  • Greenwich Green “This is not dull avocado green. It’s bolder, yet timeless. So crisp and refreshing you can taste it.”
  • Palermo Blue “A nice, crisp light blue is cool and refreshing. Like taking a dip in the Mediterranean itself.”
  • Annapolis Navy “[This blue] epitomizes nautical chic. It’s such a classic color because it pairs so well with other bold colors.”


Good Read

In his latest book, Jonathan Adler 100 Ways to Happy Chic Your Life ($24.95, barnesandnoble.com), Adler provides 100 bold ideas for updating your home spaces—oceanfront and otherwise—over gorgeous, colorful spreads. “Most of the tips are illustrated with photos from my house on Shelter Island. It’s my dream house,” Adler says. The self-help style guide also invites readers to create their own happy-chic handicrafts, and shows that the possibilities are endless. Macramé owl, anyone?