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7 Ways to 'Happy Chic' Your House and Life

Jonathan Adler's approach to life reflects his approach to home decorating: He always tries to be chic, bold and memorable. For Adler, a dwelling is a reflection of an emotional state, and making a home is as much about finding happiness as it is about finding the perfect sofa or dining table.

In 100 Ways to Happy Chic Your Life (Sterling, November 2012), the third installment in his Happy Chic series, Adler shares design ideas as freely as he doles out self-help advice — and that's the point. "I want this book to be as much a lifestyle bible as a decorating bible," he says, adding, "You only live once. As Auntie Mame said, 'Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death." Here are seven ways to add some of that Adler zest into your own space.
1. Marry art and wall. Adler points out that although most people would leave this ebony tile wall bare, he favors the opposite: hanging a piece of art here. Art against tile instead of a plain wall works like a beautiful marriage, he says; they complement and elevate each other.
2. Do your doorknobs right. The entry is your opening statement to guests; an unsightly doorknob prevents the space from soaring. As Adler says, the doorknob is the first thing people touch, so make every single knob in the house count.
3. Embrace irreverence. Adler's husband, Simon Doonan, defaced this vintage George Washington print by adding personal touches (eyepatch, moustache, red lips and — wait for it — a Prince symbol pendant). "You tire easily when you're serious all the time. You can put a twist on pretty much everything. Nothing's too sacred," says Adler.
4. Listen to the tingling of wood chimes. The yin to Adler's usually spirited yang, wind chimes signal a kind of winding down to the mind and, according to the designer, are best admired at dusk. In addition to encouraging listening to chimes colliding, Adler also advocates napping in odd corners and nooks, having afternoon tea like the Brits and spoiling yourself outside of a special occasion.
5. Go for all black. There's nothing more fabulous than heading out of the house dressed in head-to-toe black than a room — or an entire house — painted in ebony. Adler says that the less fabulous something seems it would look painted black, the more glamorous it will actually be in black.
6. Show a little wear and tear. These citrine French industrial lamps display what Adler calls "war wounds," showing the scratches and dings of its past life. Preloved and well-worn decor elevates a space and bares its soul. As in home decor, Adler recommends choosing friends with a few dings, too.
7. Turn the bookshelf into a composition. "Don't think of the bookshelf as a repository. Keep your shelves vital and integrated," says Adler. He enlivened the bookshelf in this home, using it as a large-scale focal point and mixing art, lighting, textures and other "un-bookish things," as he calls them, with reading material.
"You don't always have to spend money to 'happy chic' your life. You can start by rearranging your furniture — there's never one right placement," says Adler, shown here.
Adler says that although his lifestyle and design tome is all about bringing joy into the home, his work as a designer is anything but constant cheer.

"I work really hard as a designer, and I'm borderline tortured, à la Vincent van Gogh," he says. "I work hard to make things that look effortlessly put together and also happen to bring joy into people's lives."