A Touch of Moderne
By David Feld
Decorator Jan Showers expresses her love of cinematic glamour and 1940s French antiques in her family’s country house.
In a small town about an hour outside of Dallas stands the 1938 Greek Revival-style house that decorator Jan Showers calls home. Behind the white-columned façade one might expect to find a traditional interior filled with chintz and English antiques, but Showers’ work is anything but expected.
The Dallas-based decorator and shop owner has established a reputation for her glamorous take on interiors. Part ‘30s cinematic Hollywood mixed with French Moderne and a dash of tradition, Showers’ home illustrates her signature style. Yet her work defies snappy summation. “If you look at my portfolio, every project reflects an element of each client’s personality,” says Showers. “Though I always want every client’s input, they do hire me knowing full well that I have strong opinions.” Showers underplays her forcefulness. “I don’t like heavy-looking interiors,” she says. “While my clients know they’ll get comfort and function, they also should look wonderful in their rooms. So few clients think about this aspect until I point it out.”
The Showers’ house mirrors her philosophy. Though her family maintains a Dallas residence in a city-slick high-rise, they call this house home. “My husband, children, grandchildren, and even the dogs prefer the country,” she says. “This house is all about love. About family. About comfort and joy. But it also expresses my passion for glamour, light, color, and proper proportion.”
The qualities Showers strives for in her work are immediately evident in the living room. “The thing I love about this house is that all of the major rooms are on the back,” says Showers. The garden and terrace flood these spaces with copious light. The pale golden walls glow. An atonal Agra rug covers the warm sable floors. “While I don’t really like highly patterned carpets, this one is so subtle, and it pulls the room into a soft coherence,” she says. Besides the rug, the white and parcel gilt Empire armchair provides the room’s only other pattern. A mirrored silver-gilt Louis XVI-style table adds dazzle. The sheer voile that covers the windows is hung from overscaled bamboo rods.
The adjoining dove gray dining room has a French oval cherry wood and painted table surrounded by eight Louis XVI-style chairs. “I love how the French interpreted their greatest design periods during the late ‘30s and ‘40s,” she says. “They loosened up the severity of the 18th century with vivacity and wit. There’s always something a little uptight about pure 18th-century decoration.”
Sisal rugs lighten the dining room as well as the breakfast room, which Showers furnished with a painted iron and glass table and chairs by renowned ‘40s French designer Ramond Subes. “He’s famous for his ironwork,” she says. “I decorated the room around these pieces.” There are raffia-covered walls and niches painted the same color as the dining room, which contain English creamware. The ceiling is sky blue. “I added the amber glass chandelier and bold iron plant stands for a touch of whimsy,” says Showers.
The sunroom was once paneled in a dark wood, which Showers painted an ivory white. A faded moss and rose Savonnerie rug covers the brick floor. “I am really not a big rug person,” says Showers. “I don’t like a lot of print, so I tend to use solid rugs or a very faded print.” The most notable piece in the room is the fete chandelier. Of iron and hung with crystals, these chandeliers were used by the French in the 18th century to light their outdoor parties and picnics. Showers has chosen not to electrify hers, leaving it in its original state with candles for illumination.
Showers’ bedroom is actually a library. Surrounded by bookcases, the room’s only strong pattern and color comes from books. “Jim and I love to read,” says Showers. “I really don’t understand people who want me to do their bookcases with accessories and leather-bound volumes that they never read. I always say, “how about books?”
Creativity definitely runs in the family. Showers has two daughters: Susanna Showers Moldawer is a writer, stylist, and decorator based in Houston; Elizabeth is a jewelry designer in Dallas whose work is carried in stores like Neiman Marcus. “We all trade ideas back and forth,” says Showers proudly. “Elizabeth started using Venetian glass beads in her work due to my love of collecting pieces of Venetian glass. And Susanna’s decorating style is a little younger, a little more freewheeling than mine.
“But I found that as I have aged, I have become more refined and spare in my work. I edit more,” Showers says. “Since I have my shop, I see so many things that I love. But I have really started distilling what I buy for myself and the store. I have become very careful with what I bring home for the house. Life is complicated enough,” she says. “At least I can keep my rooms clear.”