Color, whimsy key to adding excitement to your home

Interior designer says house should make you happy


If your dreams are lackluster, your routines dull and your relationships fraught, Jonathan Adler has three words for you: Change your house.

He doesn't mean you should buy a McMansion. He means take a little time and create a space where you and the people you love can experience joy, creativity and fun.

"Your home should be like a good dose of Zoloft," says Adler, a hip New York potter turned product interior designer.

He's such a strong believer in decorating's positive effects that he's created everything a home therapist would need: couches, lamps, rugs, bedding and tableware.

And he's penned My Prescription for Anti-Depressive Living (Regan Books, $34.95), a blast of optimism that combines Adler's bright, modern look with advice on how to have a bright, modern outlook.

The first step: Assess how your house makes you feel. Forget style. Focus on the impression you get when you come in the front door at the end of a long day.

According to Adler, that moment should be like "hearing your favorite song on the car radio, a first kiss, running into your ex-boyfriend and he's fat." If it feels more like "Sunday night, doing your taxes, eating fiber or getting your teeth cleaned," he recommends living more colorfully - literally.

Dress up a ho-hum chair with a lemon-yellow pillow. Hide bright sheets under a tame bedcover. Paint your bathroom persimmon.

"It's almost impossible to be stressed out in a sage-green breakfast room," says Adler, who calls color "the most accessible over-the-counter, mood-altering substance I can think of."

Some colors, of course, alter moods better than others. Baby-blue and brown are Adler's signature combination. He also likes lime-green paired with pink or brown or white. But the color that he turns to whenever he needs a dose of happy chic is orange.

What Adler calls "the poppiest color" is great for dining rooms because it creates the seductive ambience of red, but with a more modern edge.

It's also great as an accent color. Try an orange plastic lamp from Artemide ( Or an orange hat stand, spray-painted with "Safety Orange" from Krylon, a hue Adler considers perfect.

While you're on a color kick, rethink the presence of white in your rooms. Maybe it's time for a new neutral on the walls, perhaps camel, olive or baby blue.

And what's happening with your floors? Adler dislikes pale wood and has no patience with parquet. If you stain your floors a dark color, he promises you can sit back and "watch everything in the room come to life."

If you need more short-term decorating therapy, try Adler's additional anti-depressive tips:

Start collections of quirky objects such as other people's high school yearbooks.

Stock guest rooms with Valley of the Dolls and Sex and the Single Girl.

Scour for Vera and Hermes scarves from the ladies-who-lunch era. Use them to cover pillows.

Have fun. Hang a chandelier in your closet. Put paintings over your bookcases.

Check out This famous company makes a 6-foot-long red toothbrush you can use for a bathroom shelf or towel bar.

Go grandiose. Name your house something like Balmoral Arms and order monogrammed napkins and stationery from "This is an especially good idea if you live in a studio apartment or a suburb of Buffalo, [N.Y.]," Adler says.

Celebrate TV. Adler recommends putting one in every room and playing A Clockwork Orange on a closed loop when you have a party.

Think outside the box. "Dangle a hanging chair in your living room," says Adler. "Put beaded curtains in doorways."

And above all, don't worry about getting things wrong. When Adler received his first decorating commission - a modernist beach house owned by a friend - he did a meticulous plan and then tossed it out the window.

"Everything ended up in a different zone than I had envisioned it," he recalls. "But it all worked perfectly."

Like any other creative endeavor, decorating doesn't just happen.

"You have to massage your rooms," Adler insists.

You have to putter and tweak and rearrange your possessions until your house passes the ultimate litmus test: You walk in the front door and you feel happy.

Claire Whitcomb writes for Universal Press Syndicate.

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