Jonathan Adler & Simon Doonan's Shelter Island Retreat
By: Mark David
In the spring of 2008, internationally-acclaimed potter-turned-decorator and lifestyle guru Jonathan Adler and his husband Simon Doonan, the clever author and creative director of Barneys NY, spent $1.9M on a Shelter Island, New York home -- a ranch-front house that's a five-minute ferry ride and a world away from the more hoity-toity Hamptons. According to reports from the time, the home, their second to buy on the relatively small 8,000-acre island, was due for major renovation. Whatever magic they worked on the new house must be complete because the couple recently put their first
The colorful and quirky contemporary is really not so different than one of Adler's retail shops. The 1960's A-frame is chock full of Adler's own designs mixed with pedigreed pieces, eBay treasures, and various knick-knacks picked up at flea markets and yard sales. And it's all placed with the precision of one of Doonan's famously witty and whimsical window displays at Barneys.
Adler and Doonan clearly do not subscribe to a less-is-more aesthetic and little was done to smooth over the rough edges of the light and airy three-bedroom, two-bathroom house that they worked over in a funky, frisky and frolicsome style. Although beige and relatively unassuming on the outside, the interiors are a 1970's-inspired cacophony of bold color that pulsates and vibrates against the floors, walls and ceilings -- all of which are painted a sun-reflecting, exquisitely glossy, marine-grade deck paint in a shade of cotton ball white.
The dining area looks out onto the covered porch at the back of the house and contains a mixy-matchy mélange of decorative delights that includes a gleaming wood Parsons table with a unique patchwork pattern, bamboo dining chairs lacquered in a vivacious Chinese red and a single, almost freakishly over-sized light bulb that serves as the chandelier.
Adler and Doonan have stayed true not only to the 1960's architecture of the house, but also to the classic concept of old-school beach house as a simple, casual and comfortable getaway lacking in pretense and/or unnecessary luxury. Nowhere is that better illustrated than the kitchen where the couple went with function rather than new-fangled fanciness. They forwent $40K in de rigeuer stainless steel appliances for utilitarian white versions and instead of all new custom-built cabinetry, the old ones were given a fresh look with paint. By removing cabinet doors, they reveal an eye-catching diorama of dishware and cookery.
An upstairs loft area has vaulted ceilings, a glossy white floor and is done up with the same Mary Tyler Moore-style décor as the rest of the house. A collection of oversized, antique keys hangs above a campaign desk painted the same shiny white as the rest of the room. The bed, littered with graphic pillows of Adler's own design, is covered with a bedspread labeled "Guest," just in case anyone might forget or not know where to sleep.
Only slightly less chromatic abandon was applied to Adler and Doonan's step-down master suite at the back of the house. A folksy, old-fashioned wood-burning stove anchors one corner and a skylight above the bed allows for late night stargazing. A vintage wall hanging depicting a butterfly hangs above a shimmering vermilion-colored credenza and a shelf that runs around the room above the eyebrow windows holds an extensive, even obsessive, number of Adler's own pottery designs.
Even the bathrooms have been given the ol' Jonathan Adler spin of the color wheel with white walls, white tile floors, and jolting punches of eye popping bright color:
A covered deck off the back of the house becomes an outdoor living room in the warmer months, as well as the transition space between the indoors and the backyard, a tropical extravaganza of Himalayan banana plants, blood grass and bamboo. Adler and Doonan are both avid swimmers and sunk a heroic, 75-foot-long heated gunite lap swimming pool into the lawn. An outdoor shower completes the picture of summerhouse perfection.