Dallas-based interior designer Jan Showers is known for her glamorous interiors. “My mother had such an influence on me, and she had great taste that carried over to my aesthetic.”
She is also influenced by the style known as French 1940s and the work of designers Jacques Adnet, Jean-Michel Frank, and André Arbus, as well as her buying trips to Paris, New York, Los Angeles, and Palm Beach to stock her showroom. “My first book is Glamorous Rooms and my next book, coming out next year from Abrams, is Glamorous Retreats,” she says. “Most people associate me with that word. But not, she emphasizes, at the expense of comfort. “I’d rather see a bungalow that looks personal than a mansion that looks impersonal any day of the week,” she says. “I believe in comfortable-chic décor that is a mix of periods and styles.”
Q: In an interview you said you like “subtle glamour.” How would you define that?
A: When some people think of glamour, they think of furs and satin and ’30s Jean Harlow—that’s not the kind of glamour I like. I like Audrey Hepburn in Capri pants. It’s hard to describe—it’s subtle, but you just know it when you see it! Almost any room with a lot of books in it qualifies. Obviously the use of luxurious fabrics, cashmere or beautiful silk velvets are glamorous. Lamps add a lot of glamour to a room, and bad lamps are really bad! A mirror or a fabulous piece of art works too.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: It varies with the needs of each client, but what I like to do is encourage my clients to mix periods. I mix pieces from the mid-20th century (and then throw in an 18th- century mirror). We don’t want everything in a room to match or be from same period. We will tie everything together with fabrics and rugs. I like a room to look like it happened over a long period of time. I don’t want to come in and feel like it looks like a hotel room. No matter how pretty a hotel room is, it’s not personal. And, of course, the number one thing is it needs to be comfortable. If it’s not comfortable, forget it. I also tell my clients to add something really personal, such as books or photographs. And I like mixing in a few antiques. That gives a room character.
A: That’s one of our biggest sellers. Here’s how I’ve used it: It’s great to float it in the middle of a room. If you’re living in a house, condo, or apartment where the living room and dining room are in an L-shape, it’s a great way to separate those areas. We’ve also used it in front of a fireplace set about three and a half feet from the hearth, or it could flank a sofa instead of a pair of chairs.
Q: Your upholstered pieces have classic or deco glamour. How do you keep them looking modern?
A: Instead of a Louis XV curved chair with carved roses—that’s too oldy-moldy for me—I like to clean up the lines. Also, it depends on the finish. If you do our ivory lacquer or shiny ebonized or macassar finish, that gives a more modern look. Walnut and mahogany, for example, are more traditional.
A: Every room needs some glass in it. It adds sparkle, in a way that no other element can add. In my collection I have I don’t know how many glass lamps, such as the Venetian Series, with the glass components made in Murano. I also group glass together at different heights, using vases and bowls. Or I love some crystal and decanters on a tray. Mirrors also add a touch of glamour to a room. They are so lovely; wherever you put a mirror you really create a window. Even my art collector clients who think they don’t want to have anything on a wall but art see what a mirror can do with a room.
Q: What’s another way you like to add shine to a room? A: Mixing metallic finishes in a room. I love to use our warm silver-leaf finish on the Claudette Bench. Or the Sabine—that table is like an art piece, that’s real gold leaf. Some of my lamps have gold in them, like the Number 3 Moonstone Venetian Lamp with 22k gold in the blown glass. With them, I’ll use a lacquered shade with a gold lining. What a beautiful reflection it casts. Mirrors add a reflective quality as well.
Q: Tell us about the Sophia Chandelier. A: I’m so excited about white right now. We’ve all been in love with color, but it just occurred to me last year how great white is, how dramatic it is, and how it works well with traditional and modern. It’s so clean and simple. I would use that chandelier in a very traditional setting, such as in a dining room with ivory-lacquered chairs and a glass-topped table with a gold-leaf base like the India, or with a round wood dining table, such as the Oliver or the Lombard.
Q: Why do you like benches so much? How do you like to use them in a room?
A: They’re so great because they’re so versatile. I always put the Sarah in front of a fireplace or at the end of a bed. The Mercer and Claudette are our bestselling benches. The smaller benches like the Claudette, you can move them anywhere. The Mercer I designed for my own bedroom in Dallas. I didn’t want it to be wood. I wanted it to look like it was floating at the end of the bed, to not look heavy. All-Lucite was too ‘80s looking for me, so instead I did the Lucite components. Larger benches, like the Susanna, named after my daughter, could also go in front of a fireplace or at end of bed. Or they could face a sofa. The Sarah bench would look wonderful opposite the Palazzo sofa. I’ve seen people use a pair of Claudette benches opposite a sofa with a coffee table in between.
A: I love the Palazzo in a living room as a sofa, but have also used it in secondary seating areas. My inspiration for the piece was a book, Bright Young Things: New York by Brooke de Ocampo that showed a lot of young entrepreneurs and their homes. One of the homes I most admired was Aerin Lauder’s; she had a similar sofa/banquette that inspired me.
Q: Are you more inspired by places or people when designing furniture?
A: Both; I am so inspired when in Paris and Venice, but also by Grace Kelly wearing black-and-white in To Catch a Thief or Audrey Hepburn in Charade in Givenchy Red.
Q: Who or what is your major inspiration?
A: My clients, art, movies, travel—especially New York, London, Paris, and Venice.
Q: Is there a dream project that you’ve never tackled before?
A: I’d love to do a small boutique hotel with every room different and unique.
Q: Do you prefer a round dining table? If so, why? A: If a room is square or almost square, I only use round, like the Oliver Dining Table. It’s also nice for smaller groups. I also like to use two round tables in an overly large dining room.
A: Well, I liked the name Edie, so we gave that name to a small table several years ago. We did a larger version for one of my clients as a lamp table, and it was so wonderful we decided to add it to the collection. I had just seen Grey Gardens, so Big Edie came to be.
Q: What’s the perfect coffee table?
A: I think the Harrison Coffee Table is absolutely perfect. It’s like the Little Black Dress, always right in any situation or décor. A coffee table should be large enough for books, a plant or vase of flowers, and maybe room for a small collection. I think this is probably my favorite piece in my storefront. It’s so glamorous yet useful. It instantly adds a chic element to any room.
Q: The pattern on the Rothschild Club Chair is strong. How would you mix it into a room with other patterns and make it work? A: It goes beautifully with rich wood tones and other patterns in a similar color.
Q: What’s one of your most versatile pieces?
A:The Venetian Series gourd lamp comes in all sorts of colors and is one of our bestsellers. People who love midcentury love this. It’s very easy to mix.
Q: What’s the one place in design where you should never skimp?
A: You could buy all the best furniture, but if you cut back on lamps, it ruins the whole thing. It takes it down to a level that just doesn’t work. I feel that way about good handbags and shoes. It makes everything else look right.
Q: What’s the best design advice you’ve ever received?
A: There are no rules! Well, of course there are rules, but there always exceptions. I detest being bound by rules; they’re the enemy of creativity!