I grew up in the suburbs outside New York in the 70’s, and our home was decorated in the style of the times. Our Family Room was furnished with a rust-colored freestanding metal fireplace, EZ-Wall brick accents, and a yellow vinyl La-Z-Boy. My bedroom, which I decorated myself, had wall-to-wall purple carpet, patchwork pattern wallpaper, ruffled gingham curtains, and a tulip-shaped swag lamp. There were framed illustrations of girls with big eyes and floppy hats on the walls, latch hook pillows on the bed, and stuffed animals, craft projects, and tchotchkes nestled everywhere else.
I call your attention to the family photos below, not for comic relief or to prove that women improve with time like wine, but to illustrate the sort of wallpaper that was popular at the time. The patterns seem wild now but back then these sorts of splashy prints were typical. When I confronted my mother with this photograph of our bathroom she claimed that she had no memory of selecting that wallpaper. But she remembers that the ceiling of the room was also papered.
Jonathan Adler must have grown up in a neighboring town, because the colorful interiors in his book My Prescription for Anti-Depressive Living have a similar 1970’s vibe, that same over-the-top visual energy. Adler, an interior decorator and furnishings designer, is a self-described Maximilist. Some of his mottoes, which are funny and many, are “Whomp it up with wallpaper,” and “Add some zest to your nest.” He likes kitschy figurines, graphic pillows, nappy rugs, saturated secondary colors, and, of course, boldly patterned wallpaper. He decorates bedrooms with a bit more restraint, so that people can get some rest, but even these and his other more formal rooms are a stew of contrasting colors, textures and finishes.
Adler fills rooms with specific, eccentric objects he loves, and what he loves isn’t what conventional interior designers find beautiful. He’s far more playful, lamenting “the utter pointlessness of good taste without fun.” He does things that are happily eccentric, like putting pillows with needlepoint portraits of Halston and Liza Minelli in a sleek hotel lobby. And he does things that skirt the boundary of bad taste, like hanging a giant painting of a sad clown over a Victorian mantle.
All of Adler’s rooms have a childlike joy. As the book’s title suggests, Adler believes that a looser, 70’s-style, anything-goes attitude towards decorating can improve our state of mind. He says “Layer your Lair with Love,” and maybe he’s right. If we fill our rooms with everything we love, then happiness must follow.
Jonathan Adler, My Prescription for Anti-Depressive Living. New York: Collins Design, 2005.