The interior design luminary graces Architectural Digest’s top 100 list — again.
by Lisa Martin
Jan Showers ’63, a Dallas-based designer celebrated for her interiors, furniture and lighting. (photo by Carolyn Cruz)
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Topics: Friend in the Business
by Lisa Martin
Long before ascending to the top tier of American interior designers, Jan Showers ’63 honed her formidable work ethic during her years at TCU. More than five decades after graduating, Showers maintains a breakneck pace, jetting around the country to install design projects, traveling to Europe to hunt for treasures and meet with her manufacturers, and visiting showrooms from New York to Los Angeles that carry her collections.
The January 2017 release of the AD100 – Architectural Digest magazine’s annual ranking of the top 100 designers, architects and landscape architects working today – further cements Showers’ influence on the national stage. Besides Showers, the magazine’s list includes design luminaries such as Kelly Wearstler, Jacques Garcia and Michael S. Smith, who redid the Obama family’s private quarters in the White House.
“Very few designers in the flyover states are represented on the list,” said the Dallas-based Showers, who also earned the national design magazine’s prestigious distinction in 2014 and 2016. “It’s an honor to be included with such an impressive group.”
Nearly every national shelter magazine of note (House Beautiful, Veranda, Elle Décor and, of course, Architectural Digest) has published a Jan Showers project. In 2016, a new collaboration with Kravet, a home fashion brand, expanded Showers’ style with an entire line of furnishings and decorative accessories.
Showers never predicted design as her career path in 1960, when she traded her small hometown of Hillsboro, Texas, for campus life in Fort Worth. The longtime film lover had her sights on Hollywood and intended to study acting at TCU.
However, Showers’ father, a prominent surgeon, had other ideas about what his daughter should study in college. “‘No way, sister,’” she recalled Nellins Smith telling her. “‘You’re getting a degree in business.’” In hindsight, Showers credited what she learned as an undergraduate business major with enabling her to weather financial downturns that crushed the careers of many of her peers.
In 1961, she married fellow student Jim Showers ’63, who was one year ahead of her. The newlyweds moved to a little cottage on Bellaire Drive, near where Amon G. Carter Stadium stands today. “We had a wonderful time playing house,” she said. “All of our neighbors up and down the block were young and married like we were.”
She also made lifelong friends at TCU, including many sorority sisters at Delta Delta Delta.
Showers decided to graduate a year early to follow her husband to Austin, where he attended law school. “It meant all I did was study my junior year!”
It paid off. She graduated with honors.
“Back then, TCU wasn’t very big and drew from a lot of small towns,” said Tri-Delt sister Allie Beth Allman ’62, whose eponymous luxury real estate brokerage in Dallas boasts more than 300 agents. “Jan was always so attractive and had this wonderful personality. She made such a name for herself at TCU and then in the world of interior design.”
While her husband studied law, Showers taught business courses to high school and college students. As he built a law practice in Hillsboro, Showers stayed home with their two daughters and decorated their 1938 Greek Revival-style residence. Interior design seemed almost a birthright for Showers, whose French-born mother, Margaret Anne, collaborated for years with Waco-based decorator Lucille Neblett.
Starting in elementary school, Showers sat in on the design planning sessions between her mother and the decorator, all the while absorbing Neblett’s signature wisdom and wit. “Lucille had no edit button and said everything she thought, but she was a wonderful designer in the Sister Parish mode,” said Showers, referring to the originator of the American country style. “My mother also had an amazing eye. I remember how much I loved listening to them talk and, later, helping.”
Friends and neighbors, agog over Showers’ efforts with her own home, started soliciting assistance for their interiors. Then one day in the mid-1970s, the Hillsboro mayor called. He wanted to pay Showers to redecorate his house in the town’s historic district.
“Around that same time, I read a book by Gail Sheehy called Passages, which talks about the stages women go through in life,” Showers said. “The book made me realize that I needed to do something for myself beyond being a wife and mother. It was this confluence of ideas and feelings and opportunities that really led to my career.”
Showers embraced the challenge of her first official design job for the mayor. By the end of the 1970s, her reputation enabled her to expand into the Dallas design market. With their nest empty, Showers and her husband bought a townhome in Dallas’ Turtle Creek neighborhood and began shuttling back and forth to Hillsboro.
In 1996, Showers bought a building in the Dallas Design District. From that 6,000-square-foot showroom on Slocum Street, a dozen employees now help the sought-after interior designer juggle projects around the world, including in London, Toronto, Nantucket, Telluride, San Francisco and Hawaii.
For her furniture collection, which debuted in 1999, Showers designed more than a dozen pieces, many of which incorporated midcentury French elements. Her Dallas workroom then fabricated the chairs, sofas and tables to her specifications, which included the scaled-up proportions popular for contemporary living.
Today, the ultra-high-end Jan Showers Collection is sold to the trade (architects and designers) at eight showrooms across the U.S. In 2001, she expanded into lighting, which currently represents a quarter of the Jan Showers Collection sales. She travels to Italy a couple of times a year to visit the glass factories that manufacture her wares.
“I always go to Murano at the end of buying trips to Paris, where I find antiques for client homes or to sell in my showroom,” she said. “At the glass factories, I hand over drawings of new ideas for lamps and chandeliers.” Showers might select one or two of 10 prototypes to produce for her collection.
Showers plans to add ceramic lamps at a lower price point to her new line for Kravet. The 16-piece furniture collection debuted in the spring of 2016; in the fall, she added fabrics, rugs and wallpaper.
“The chic yet versatile style of the collection resonates with designers who are looking for casual, European-inspired glamour,” said Beth Greene, executive vice president in marketing and strategic branding at Kravet. “The lifestyle collection is cohesive in that each design marries beautifully with the next. We are thrilled to have such a special viewpoint included in the Kravet collection of licensees.”
In the meantime, Showers continues to partner with Texas-based product designer Kyle Bunting on a line of pieced-cowhide rugs and with Moattar on a collection of Oushak rugs in her signature shades of soft platinum, yellow, taupe and subtle sky blues. Beyond those projects, clients old and new clamor for the interior designer’s attention to make their homes, ranches and vacation houses chic and livable.
“The days are often very hectic,” Showers said. “But it’s all so much fun.”
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