I Want What They Have: Jonathan Adler and Simon Doonan

Love is a many-splendored thing, especially when you’re gawking at it from the outside. in this columnwe’ll be examining the celebrity couples that give us hope for our own romantic futures and trying to learn what we can from their well-documented bonds.

I’m not a huge believer in the world of the “aspirational lifestyle.” I don’t read goop, and those Instagrams of celebrities’ perfectly organized panties make me shudder. But there’s an exception to every rule, and in this case, that exception comes in the form of furniture designer and interior decorator Jonathan Adler and his husband, Simon Doonan, writer and creative ambassador-at-large of Barneys. When I think about the kind of low-maintenance, perfectly coordinated splendor these two men get to inhabit together, I die! (Actually, I don’t even have to imagine their home: here’s video proof of their astonishingly good taste.)

I fell for Adler and Doonan as a couple early in the pandemic, when Adler gave an interview about how he and Doonan had been filling their days in lockdown. I was rapt as Adler described the spaghetti bolognese and banana bread that he and his husband were planning on making for dinner that night and noted that Doonan was going through a Spice Girls revival. “He keeps blasting their hits and praising round the living room,” Adler said. That is as good a description as any I’ve heard of how I was keeping busy at the time, and I remember thinking, At least my indefinite isolation is Adler-and-Doonan-approved.

What I particularly like about Adler and Doonan as a couple is the sense I get that no matter which of them you were seated next to at a dinner party, you’d end up having a good time. I’m always stressed out by couples in which one partner has to carry the burden of charm for the whole team, but both of these men seem like they’d be equally interesting to talk to. (One thing I do dissent with Doonan on is his low opinion of “porno chic,” which I happen to think is an extremely important aesthetic, but agree to disagree.)

I’m writing this as I recover from a mild but unpleasant bout of COVID, and I have to admit that several times during my feverish, stuffy, tedious isolation period, I fantasized about being at Adler and Doonan’s house on Shelter Island. Just reading about Adler’s “wide array of handmade vessels” and the lone fig tree on the property made me ache with a desire to be there. I’d even take it in a housesitting capacity. I’d sip on a Pedialyte and vodka and flip through a carefully chosen coffee table book while Adler and Doonan were off on a trip to the big city—returning just in time to sit down for a plate of that famous spaghetti bolognese.

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