By Linda Hallam
Twenty-first century Texas style meets mid-20th-century French sophistication in a Dallas high-rise apartment, and the happy union is a grand success. The tres chic apartment in the Turtle Creek neighborhood is the pied-a-terre of interior designer Jan Showers and he husband Jim. The residence is also very much a showcase for Jan’s own custom and retail furniture lines, inspired by the allure of sleek French Art Moderne styles.
That the new furniture and authentic French-made pieces of the postwar period mix so well is a testament to Jan’s discerning eye—and to her ever-evolving design style.
On her first buying trip to France for her then-small antiques business, Jan gravitated to the ‘40s-era furniture. “When I saw the mid-century French furniture, I was instantly attracted,” she says. “The dealers I met at that time turned out to be the dealers I still work with; I think it’s because we have the same taste.”
She initially purchased only a few 1940s pieces, but what she did buy lured enthusiastic customers and encouraged her own growing interest in the genre. The designers of the era created their own takes on the French forms from the Directoire and Louis XVI periods, Jan explains, and “I had always liked Louis XVI style.” Pieces were made larger, especially furniture legs, she says, but simplified. Instead of elaborate carving and opulent detailing such as ormolu, the furniture has a nice mix of curves. For instance, “Anything designer Andre Arbus did had curves or Xs.”
As she bought more and more furnishings from the era for her showroom, she worked them into her design projects—and into her own home. “I’ve always been open to different styles, and I really like to mix things,” she explains. “In the 1980s, I used more English pieces in the country-house style, with a sprinkling of French antiques. Whatever I use, I don’t like to work with pieces that don’t mix.”
Because her city apartment has moderately sized rooms, Jan diverged from her usual combination of styles and concentrated on favorite mid-century French pieces plus a few Italian ones. Her design for her own place also incorporates lots of mirrors—and mirrored surfaces—to help open up the rooms and add sparkle and polish. The influence of mid-century European designs and 19th- and 20th-century art is evident in every room. Noteworthy is the living room’s Arbus-inspired cabinet, which incorporates a sun-spray design and bronze fittings. Above it hangs six Matisse lithographs, from a series that Jan split with a client.
Other furnishings include the signature Moderne sofa from her own collection, period French armchairs, and a Mario Quatri coffee table. To provide illumination without competing with the furnishings and art, she chose transparent lamps to sit atop skirted end tables that, like the coffee table, have bright mirrored surfaces.
The sparkle of lamplight and mirrors repeats in the dining room, an unabashedly glamorous space planned for evening entertainment. In the compact but luxurious area, a ‘40s-era French mirror with a border of etched stars is the dramatic focus, but there is also an unusual mirrored screen from the 1930s that reflects a mid-century chest crafted in various fine woods. “I wanted the mirrored screen because the room is very small,” Jan says. “The large mirror on the wall and the mirrored screen reflect off each other and help enlarge the space.”
For dining, the designer had a heavy round glass tabletop cut and placed on a pedestal base. She added 1920s Art Deco chairs inspired by Greek klismos chairs.
Mirrors and mirrored surfaces continue to provide dramatic reflections of the colors and furniture chosen for the entry hall and bedrooms. In the entry, 18th-century Italian chairs, their seats recovered in robins-egg blue leather, flank the mirrored commode from Jan’s furniture collection. The Sycamore base, bronze details, and glass handles enrich a design based on a small commode she purchased in Paris. Unusual French sconces with an Asian air hang on either side of a custom-made mirror.
The guest room, with its pale champagne walls, is Jan’s tribute to 1930s movie icon Carole Lombard. Furnishings include a 1930s French mirrored table from the Jansen furniture line. “It’s one of the best pieces I own,” says Jan, “very Syrie Maugham. It’s like something that might have been made for the famous decorator.” And like something that might have been made for Jan Showers.