Peace meets pizzazz at Jonathan Adler and husband Simon Doonan’s coastal retreat

‘This house is all about me, me, me – in the best possible way,’ says potter, designer and all-round style influencer Jonathan Adler. While the Greenwich Village home that Jonathan shares with his husband Simon Doonan is awash with the full-on colour and dazzling glamour you’d expect from this fêted interiors maestro, their beachside bolthole on Shelter Island taps into a different side of Jonathan’s creativity.

Jonathan Adler, the potter and designer, and his husband Simon Doonan, the writer and creative ambassador for Barneys New York, have a beachside home on Shelter Island near New York. Image: Richard Powers

‘This house gave me an opportunity to get back to my roots as a craftsman,’ he explains. ‘And it is my idea of heaven.’

Designed by Gray Organschi Architecture, the house and a separate pool pavilion flank the swimming pool. Sheltered seating nooks are worked into the design, so Jonathan and Simon are never far from a sea view. ‘We rotate around our favourite spots,’ says Jonathan. Image: Richard Powers

From ceramic wall tiles to furniture, sculptures and stacks of his covetable pottery, Jonathan relished ‘making a ton of stuff’ for this home. ‘For both of us, this setting feels très natural and rustic – this is our happy place,’ he says.

The pool pavilion is adorned with Jonathan Adler cushions and a wall sculpture he made for the house. Seating pads are covered in Sunbrella fabrics ( Find a similar hanging chair at Raj Tent Club ( Image: Richard Powers

Jonathan and Simon first discovered Shelter Island, a hop off the eastern end of Long Island, some 20 years ago and loved its gentler pace. For them, its character is an antidote to the area’s more high-profile resorts.

A mural by artist Dan Balgley spells out the Yiddish word for ‘crazy’ in the bathroom. The lamp is by Jonathan Adler. For a similar marble-topped vanity unit, try Blakes London ( Image: Richard Powers

‘In comparison, the Hamptons feels like a hub of anxiety,’ Jonathan says. ‘It’s where I’m either stuck in traffic or shopping – and both crank up the tension. But the second I get on the ferry to Shelter Island, I feel the exact opposite. It’s paradisiacal.’

The dining terrace with its sea views. ‘I’m the chef in this household because Simon grew up in pre-food-revolution Britain. He sticks to making toast,’ jokes Jonathan. The hanging lamp is vintage George Nelson and the table and chairs are by Richard Schultz for Knoll ( Image: Richard Powers

The island’s air of remoteness adds to its appeal. ‘Simon is from the UK and, funnily enough, the landscape here reminds us of places such as Cornwall. Similarly, while the journey is a bit longer, it’s worth the extra effort.’

Jonathan designed the ceramic wall tiles especially for the master bedroom, adding vibrance with shots of orange and chartreuse. The starburst mirror is another flea-market find. Image: Richard Powers

The house is set amid sand dunes and grasses and its architecture is a subtle merging of the couple’s favourite styles: ‘It’s Californian meets Swedish meets Japanese,’ Jonathan says.

‘The style here is warm, and modernist,’ says Jonathan, who created this retro firepit as one of several seating areas in the living room. Image: Richard Powers

Colours lean towards an earthy palette – mellow yellows, soft ochres and burnt orange. Textures are equally natural, with red cedar timber cladding, tactile grasscloth wallpaper and a screen of organic ceramic shapes dreamed up by Jonathan.

‘This house was an opportunity to get back to my roots as a craftsman,’ says Jonathan, who created the screen. For similar lights, try Trainspotters ( Image: Richard Powers

‘The house is a shell of quietude, punctuated by moments of celebratory colour and pizzazz,’ he adds.

‘I’m always in favour of glamour,’ says Jonathan, who has added ‘pizzazz’ to a backdrop of natural textures with wall tiles he created for this spot. The vintage Platner chairs are reupholstered in velvet ( Image: Richard Powers

Most of the time Jonathan and Simon’s days here are gloriously low-key and lazy. ‘Aside from paddleboarding and swimming, our main activity here is discussing at length who made the last cup of tea and whose turn it is to make the next one,’ laughs Jonathan.

Uplifting shades of blue add zing to this bedroom. The artwork is a flea-market find. Image: Richard Powers

Cushions, rugs, daybed, side tables, coffee table, throws, chest and ceramics throughout are by Jonathan Adler. For more JA style, visit

Report by Jo Leevers