I painted my sofa because Jonathan Adler.

Jonathan Adler is a designer based in New York City with a storefront shop in the West Village on Greenwich Avenue. I have sort of a love-hate thing for this d00d because, well, I loooove many of his designs, and yet I haaaaate the stratospheric pricing.

First, the love. If I had to describe Adler’s overall aesthetic, I’d say midcentury-modern-meets-obnoxiously-opulent-whimsical-retro-pop-culture-plus-drugs. Yes, drugs.

Check out these decorative lucite pills for example, Adler’s “lustrous homages to fab pharmaceuticals.”


They come in multiple colors and three “dosages,” etched with 150 mg, 300 mg and 500 mg. What would I do with these objets, you might ask? Why, I’d pile them on the floor under my fab coffee table, of course. AS ONE DOES.


The problem? These beauties run $98 to $248 apiece. (And I don’t even want to know the price of that coffee table.)

And these canisters:


I would suggest storing your caffeinated coffee in the Uppers jar and decaf in the Quaaludes, but only if you’re fairly certain the NYPD will never raid your apartment white. Also, rich. Because those fucking canisters will run you $98 and $138, respectively. FFS.

And lookit these!

jacanisters2Secrets – Fibs – White Lies canisters
Perfect for storing all my Donald Trump speech transcripts!

And behold my latest obsession, throw pillows with “hand-sewn glass beads on luxe linen” spelling out LSD and Opium:

jalsdopiumpillowsAnd I could have both for the low, low price of only $396!


As you might imagine, those are hardly the only pillows from Mr. Adler’s collections that have made it their mission in life to torture me.

These are the Talitha pillows, which range from $255 to $325


And of course the Aquatica Octopus Throw Pillow for $295:

jacephalopillowCephalopillow?! WANT.

But the pièces de résistance are Jonathan Adler’s sofas. I walk by his Greenwich Ave. store windows regularly, and when I do I covet the everloving shit out of every one I see.





(See also: Restoration Hardware:

rasofa…um, wow.
Also wow: $8,795.)

I moved to New York City more than 20 years ago carrying only a backpack, and if there is one grand lesson that living here has taught me, it is that I don’t need a lot of stuff. I buy my furniture at thrift shops, people. I am a really big fan of repurposing and recycling. I’ve hardly lived like a monk or anything, but I learned to value quality over quantity, durability over disposability, classics over trends and most of all, a serene and comfortable home over the chaos and clutter that characterize the streets outside. My home is like an impenetrable bubble, if you will, where I feel supremely safe and can recharge from the occasional ravages of life in this city—and from the occasional ravages of life, period.

That can take many forms, and look like many things. Like that one time I painted the inside of my cheap-ass little bathroom medicine cabinet with blue skies and white clouds and covered the glass shelves in faux leopard fur. Why? Because at the time I was on an amusing kick of asking myself regularly “WWDD?” (What Would Dalí Do? Highly recommended, BTW). And because I felt unmitigated joy every single time I opened that cabinet, as I knew I would.

Fortunately my partner enthusiastically encourages my creative endeavors, and generally trusts that they will make our shared home a happier place to live. Or maybe he just accepts that once I latch on to an idea, there is no talking me out of bringing it to fruition. In any case he’s used to this, and once it’s finished, he pretty much always loves what I’ve done. But he did raise an eyebrow when I mentioned I was planning on painting the sofa.


When we moved into this apartment together several years ago, we combined our existing furniture “just for now.” This meant that he brought out of storage a 2-piece sectional sofa he purchased in Soho more than fifteen years ago. I don’t know how much he paid for it, but it seems to be good quality. It’s deep and comfortable and essentially the size of two twin beds, which is nice for overnight guests. But! It is white. Or, I should say, it was white. After a few years of his teenage kids crashing on it, our drunk friends spilling on it, our own generous contributions of splattered coffee and Chinese takeout, plus an unfortunate stay in a leaky storage unit, the only way to describe the color of this sofa is “sad.”

sofaorigSO SAD.

We’ve tried cleaning it up using various solvents and methods (including a professional wet upholstery vacuum), and in the beginning these worked…sort of. It would stay clean-ish for a little while, but never very clean for very long. Dust, dirt and stains became set in, seemingly bonded to the microsuede fabric itself.  No amount of scrubbing, even with bleach, made any visible difference at all.

Those sofas in the windows on Greenwich Ave. started seriously taunting me, whispering things like “really, what’s four thousand dollars in the scheme of things? You can just pay it off…! …eventually…!”

Fuckers. But then I’d come home to this:

sofaorig2Really fucking SAD.

The sofas on Greenwich Ave. were getting louder and louder, belligerently  shouting at me to come inside and just sit down on one. “What’s the harm?!” they demanded.

“FOUR THOUSAND FUCKING DOLLARS, that’s what,” I shot back with a glare. They just stared back smugly.

And here’s the thing. We plan to move in early 2017, and the thought of taking the world’s saddest sofa with us was quickly becoming my hill to die on. As I saw it, my options were these:

  1.  I could buy a new sofa, maybe even a Jonathan Adler sofa (on sale!): $$$$
  2.  I could have ours reupholstered: not as bad as $$$$, but still $$$.
  3. I could keep surveilling the thrifts for something workable: $$ to $$$, depending.
  4.  I could google “how to paint a sofa.”

Believe it or not, I was not the only weirdo in the English speaking world to whom this preposterous idea has occurred.

Heidi did this:


Kristi did this:


Mandy did this:


And a brilliant DIY-er named Barbara painted a sad little microsuede chair, five different ways:


I was sold. If nothing else, I reasoned, it would be a drastically less expensive option than any of the others—and even if it turned out to be a disaster of biblical proportions, that would still not preclude options 1, 2 or 3. Sure, there were some logistics and details to work out, like the color (blue-gray base with white mottling), the formula (2:2:1 flat interior latex paint, textile medium and H2O), the technique (wet fabric thoroughly with water, brush on base coat, sea sponge for mottling coat, dry 24 hours, sand lightly), the cat who wants to “help” (work on each piece separately in the bedroom with the door shut, to a soundtrack of Whiny Kitty and the Scratches), and the OMFG WHAT AM I EVEN DOING (test first on one side of a pillow).

I went all in.




It was looking good.

I shopped online for pillows of different shades, different patterns and different textures. Inexpensive pillows. And now I have this:




I love my sofa!

Wait, and what is that…that one rather unusual pillow?


Wait…is it…


…is it a squirrel skull pillow, designed by Jonathan Adler Iris Vander Pluym and sold exclusively by Perry Street Palace?


YES. Yes it is. :D

You know what this means, don’t you? That means I now have the coolest fucking sofa in the West Village. Not to mention the coolest squirrel skull pillow in the entire world.

Tl;dr: fuck Jonathan Adler.

Have a nice day.


  1. says

    I’m afraid Adler leaves me cold, I find him derivative and uninspired. As for those…uh, drug canisters, back in the ’60s, faux old fashioned pharmacopoeia drug jars were the thing – white jars with black accents and gold laurel wreaths – you could get heroin, opium, marihuana, and more. (Like these, scroll down a bit: https://www.etsy.com/listing/221564505/reserved-freeman-lederman-porcelain) I still have several of those. If you do enough poking around thrift stores, they aren’t difficult to find, and a thousand times more stylish than anything Adler could come up with. There are different versions of apothecary drug jars that were done in the ’70s, too.

    Your couch and cushions look absolutely fabulous! Love them.

  2. says

    I know an artist who found a 5gal plastic industrial bucket of oil paint, color battleship grey. About 5 hours later her entire apartment was battleship grey. The oven, the cabinets, the shower curtains, everything. Drugs may have been involved. But it was the coolest apartment ever because of one thing: she had this little table in the living space, which always had a single blue vase with a bunch of brightly colored flowers.

    It turns out that industrial gray paint hides a lot of sins.

  3. Raucous Indignation says

    I am jealous. I used to live a spare and frugal existence in NYC. I re-purposed and saved. I scrimped to get by. Now I am a bloated over-privileged 1%er, but you have the finer sofa by far. I weep for my lost self!

  4. kestrel says

    Wow, amazing transformation!

    In one of the Adler pics, I noticed a faux mink throw. I HAVE ONE OF THOSE. This year I used it to cover my tomato plants when it got cold, but it still looks… like a faux mink throw. The big question is: DO YOU WANT IT??? Say the word and it’s yours. :-D

  5. says

    The wallpaper! The wallpaper! Behind that blue studded sofa ($3795)!

    Do I dare try that on a wall? With the cat’s help, of course?

    I love your new sofa, so inspiring!

  6. says

    Thanks for the compliments everyone!

    Siobhan 1:

    Not to nick nit pick but you clearly painted your sofa because of capitalism, not Adler.

    I don’t understand your comment. I painted my sofa because it looked worn out and dirty and was really bumming me out, and Adler’s pillows and sofas inspired me to try to rescue it. Otherwise, it was destined for a landfill somewhere in New Jersey—not even my local thrifts would accept such a hideous beast as a donation. After 2 quarts of paint, some textile medium and some frugal pillow shopping, now I love it and will enjoy it for many more years. It seems to me that is close to the antithesis of capitalism. ?

    Caine 3: Oh wow I love those vintage canisters! Thanks – I’ll definitely keep an eye out.

    Marcus Ranum 4: I like the way your artist friend thinks. I’m also surmising she has no cats.

    Raucous Indignation 5: Nothing stopping you from heading down to your local hardware store for some paint. Or from giving all your loot to a worthy cause me. I am all about your happiness, and it seems like it would cheer you up immensely. :D

    kestrel 9: That is a very kind offer, thank you! But I actually already have a nice white faux fur throw someone gave me a few years ago. It almost appeared in these pics…but apparently artful draping is not my forte.

    Susannah 11: Dooooo eeeeeet.

    Thanks again, everyone! ♥︎

  7. Raucous Indignation says

    Oh, you are a saucy one! Of course I go to my local family owned hardware store. And while I am handy in many ways (I’ll make you Mushrooms Provencal one day), I am not, alas, all that crafty. My sofa would look like I used it for a drop cloth. All my spare lucre goes to worthy causes; you’re already one of them. I’m already drinking out of one of your mugs and am giving at least one foofing pillow as gift this holidays. You will just have to live with the idea that my alma mater and a bunch of other worthy organizations are ahead of you on that list.