Some people come into this world with an understanding of three-dimensional perspective. Jan Showers is one of them. Even before she understood the concept of interior design, the Dallas designer was fixated on the placement of furnishings. “When I was eight years old, I was moving furniture around when my mother would leave the house,” she recalls.
Next year, her book Glamorous Rooms will be published by Abrams. Showers conceived her first mockup for the book sometime between the ages of eight and ten. “I became a magazine editor at an early age,” she confesses, describing a magazine devoted to a home’s different rooms that she made at that age. The content of her upcoming book will imitate the outline of the magazine she envisioned decades ago.
A mother of two grown daughters and a grandmother of three, she has been married for more than thirty-eight years. But a busy family life has not kept the youthful –looking Showers from developing her own career. She worked as an interior designer for fifteen years, learning from others along the way—in particular, a grand designer in the mold of the renowned Sister Parish. Then she opened an antiques business in the design district in Dallas in 1996. By 1999, Showers was producing her own line of furnishings.
The collection reflects the designer’s affinity for Neoclassicism and mid-century Modern design. She is a student of the great French designers from the 30s, 40s and 50s, such as Ruhlmann, Arnett, Robsjohn-Gibbings, Frank and Arbus. This group of mid-century Modernists impressed Showers not only because of their work on interiors, but also because they were designing furnishings specifically for those rooms and conceiving spaces she describes as “truly designed to perfection.” Showers also saw a connection a connection between these pioneering designers and two of her favorite period styles: Directoire and Louis XVI—both of which are rooted in classical design.
Another profound influence on Showers’ visual psyche is the vernacular if English country houses. She champions their relaxed temperament and unexpected mixtures of elements. ‘There is nothing more sterile than everything in a room coming from the same period.” Showers’ digest of furnishings and accessories is informed by this point of view. Though her collection is inspired by period styles and mid-century Modernist sensibilities, each piece is interpretive. There is a multitude of finishes for the custom designed pieces produced in the company workrooms in Dallas, but there are also unexpected materials such as Lucite used for visual interest.
The JS Collection now numbers one hundred. Like many designers whose manufactured collections come from their design work, Showers developed her repertoire from her custom work for clients. For her, the best part of the job is the creative process. And that can apply to the creation of a chair or the design of an entire room. Yet she fully embraces the business side of the two complementary companies. “This is going to sound Pollyanna, but I truly love what I do. I may be a workaholic.” Even when problems arise, as they do in any business, Showers is the eternal optimist. “I enjoy moving into problem-solving mode.” She believes, “there is a solution to almost any problem.”
One of the first JS accessories, introduced in 1999, was a group of mineral lamps from oversize raw-cut and finished pieces of crystal and other minerals. They turned out to be showstoppers and drew media attention from the beginning. When it became apparent that it was going to be more and more difficult to find antique Murano glass in pairs, Showers introduced a line in the JS Collection. In 2002, she began designing and importing the bases from Italy and finishing them in Dallas. Most recently, she has added boldly colored glass lamps.
If there is one characteristic that remains consistent throughout the collection, it is Showers’ intuitive understanding of proportion. “My sense of scale was always there, and I think it is one of the most important aspects of design. You either have it or you do not. It is something one cannot learn.”
In her interiors work, Showers endorses Billy Baldwin’s premise that “decorating is never successful unless it is personal.” She and her staff of twelve take on six to ten design projects a year and introduce new pieces into the collection annually. In 2007, thirty-five pieces were introduced, followed by nine in 2008 and twelve to be introduced next year, including several coffee tables and a new chandelier. The line is represented in seven showrooms across the country.
Dressmaker details and a willingness to experiment give the JS line a distinctive character. One example is the Carleton Chair. Showers reversed its French welt, exposing the back side and then finishing it off very tidily, thereby creating a unique relief pattern. In the accessory line, mirrors are oversize and make luxurious focal points in any room. The strength of her lighting resides in an ingenious use of materials.
Showers calls her style “glamour you can live with,” maintaining that practicality and comfort are of paramount importance. Her style is tailored but has a fluidity that gives it an emotive quality. Some might call it glamour without pretense.