Designers at Home- A Brand New Hue
By David Feld
Leaving her high-ride behind, Dallas designer Jan Showers settles into an urbane Turtle Creek town house and embraces a bright new color palette.
Dallas decorator Jan Showers has few rules about decorating, but the ones she does have are hard and fast: “Decorating should be comfortable, it should be personal, and it should make you look and feel good,” she says. All three of these maxims are evident in her new Dallas town house on Turtle Creek, where she and husband Jim recently moved after living in a chic high-rise. Sumptuous mohair sofas mingle with family snapshots and mirrored ‘40s furniture, a Showers signature. The designer is still in love with all things produced by the French and Italian mid-century craftsmen—fruitwoods, parchment, leathers, Murano glass, and glorious mirrors. But in this house, she has explored a vivid new palette every bit as pretty, and flattering, as the creamy vernacular that she is known for. Though the house had a fine brick exterior, the interior posed some challenges with a two-story-high living room, and adjacent dining room, and bedrooms upstairs. “I loved the open feeling of the living room, but I didn’t want it to be intimidating,” Showers explains. “The stair rail, the columns, and the mantel were the architectural elements that needed replacing. And I added bookcases to make it more intimate.”
She first replaced the stair rail with a polished steel-and-bronze one based on a design by Parisian artisan Jacques Garcia. An elaborate plaster molding helped define the proportions of the living room, and sleeker columns replaced Federal-style ones. With the addition of a simple French 18th-century mantel and an oversized clear-glass Venetian chandelier, Showers transformed the room into a cozy place to entertain.
To warm up the space even more, the decorator painted an ethereal platinum hue on the walls and hung the two-story French doors and the window with silvery platinum silk curtains. “I thought they would add an element of glamour,” recalls Showers. She also used some modern design classics—a white leather-clad Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chair and a sleek banquette. “The furniture is not really a departure,” she says. “I have used similar pieces before in other projects. But this was the first chance I got to use them for myself.”
The seating area is defined by a rug in soft hues of chartreuse and blue-green. Pillows in pink and saffron raw silk accent the dove-gray velvet sofa and highlight the colors in the rug. In fact, the living room establishes a palette that is repeated throughout the house—greenish citrine and violet. “It would be a mistake to say that I’ve never liked color,” Showers says. “Color drives my approach to decorating a room.”
She got a bit obsessed with one particular hue for the dining room. “I got so into capturing the color of the Caribbean Sea the way it looks in St. Barts,” she explains. “Jim and I were there on vacation and I walked on the beach for hours, memorizing that perfect watery blue-green.” A French-polished merisier dining table with gessoed Jansen chairs is topped with a fine collection of chartreuse glass.
On the upstairs landing, the decorator fashioned an office/sitting room. “I work at the desk, and Jim and I watch television on the sofa,” she says. “My goal was to make the space warm, so I painted the walls, trim, and ceiling the same ‘camel coat’ color.”
Because the bedroom can be glimpsed from the living room downstairs, it needed a complementary palette. Showers achieved a lustrous lavender-gray on the walls. She has always been known for lavish beds, and her own is no exception. “I finally got my David Hicks bed!” she exclaims, a reference to the English decorator whose abundantly draped beds were a hallmark. But she has enclosed hers in white linen with a shirred lining in parrot-green silk.
Ultimately Showers’ new house illustrates that even a designer famously known for a certain look can embrace change. She has punched up her color palette and added new furniture elements, yet retained her signature light and luxurious touch.