A refined yet restful atmosphere comes to life in a 1950s home
You know you’re on to a good thing if your interior designer can finish your sentences for you. After working together over the span of eleven years and six projects, Dallas-based interior designer Jan Showers and client Kimberly Whitman find themselves doing just that.
“I called Jan when I was decorating my first apartment ten years ago, and she’s helped me with every project since. She’s more like family than my interior designer,” says Kimberly, “like a really stylish aunt.”
That would be an aunt with sinfully sophisticated taste and a flair for the glamorous. Showers is known for designing interiors that manage to be simultaneously elegant and personal. Sophisticated yet utterly livable. Coco Chanel meets kick-your-shoes-off comfortable.
So when a six-months-pregnant Kimberly (son J.R. is now almost 2) and her husband, Justin, bought a 1950s home in Highland Park, Texas, she called on her honorary aunt for a little divine design advice.
“I had pregnancy brain,” laughs Kimberly. “I kept changing my mind and really depended on Jan. I’ve worked with her from such a young age that she really knows what I like—and what I don’t.”
What she wanted was right up Showers’s alley: refined interiors with subtle color and hints of 1940s glamour.
The inspiration for the serene scheme was a dreamy hand-painted wall covering in gray-blue with hints of gold that the designer recommended for the dining room—a suggestion that received instant approval from both husband and wife.
“We immediately fell in love with the wallpaper,” says Kimberly. “It gives the dining room a jewel-box effect.”
What they weren’t enamored with was the home’s lack of entertaining efficiency. Kimberly—an entertaining and lifestyle expert who has written four books on those subjects—and Justin frequently host gatherings both large and small, so a few structural changes had to be made to improve traffic flow.
Because there was no direct access between the dining room and kitchen, it was awkward to get from one room to the other, notes Showers. “We added two doors between the rooms and covered them in wallpaper on the dining-room side. They are virtually invisible but still allow easy access between the spaces.”
Playing off the dining room’s polished palette, Showers painted the adjacent living room blue-gray and added splashes of yellow—including the sumptuous silk window treatment, canary-yellow lampshades, and buttery upholstery on the sofa. Symmetry reigns here. A pair of Dorothy Draper commodes flank the fireplace—tucked inside twin niches as if custom-made. Doppelgänger sofas face off across a Maison Jansen coffee table—a treasured gift from Justin’s mother. Chairs from the Jan Showers Collection (jokingly described by Jan as “Louis 17th” in a playful reference to their union of Louis XVI style with sleek 1950s updates) hold court facing the fireplace.
The refined yet restful atmosphere is equally suitable for cocktail parties or rainy-day reading marathons. The clean-lined sofas had to meet the family’s coziness test, and while the buffet by Maxime Old may be ultra-elegant, it also offers practical storage space (and an ideal hide-and-seek location for J.R.).
“The last thing I want is for a space to feel like a hotel room. I like to mix things up,” says Showers. “It has to be personal.”
While the family has a use-it-or-lose-it philosophy for all rooms in their home, their preferred hangout is the unabashedly blue library.
With a palette reminiscent of ?Van Gogh’s Starry Night, the cocoon-like space is lacquered from baseboards to bookshelves in high-gloss blue. Silk window treatments faithfully match the paint color and blend seamlessly into the walls, creating the perfect backdrop for two of the designer’s favorite pieces—acid-green leather chairs found at the Paris flea market.
“The green leather is absolutely gorgeous,” Showers effuses. “You just can’t re-create that kind of patina and color. It’s so wonderful and surprising.”
Upstairs in the well-dressed master bedroom, it’s no stretch of the imagination to envision Coco herself perched daintily on the edge of the bed, slipping on a pair of heels (although she might have to share the space with the resident bed hog, Lola—the family’s admittedly pampered Chihuahua).
Silk hangings behind the bed are as functional as they are opulent. They conceal two asymmetrical windows and add balance to the room. Taking the symmetry one step further, Kimberly requested that antique mirrors she found in Paris be suspended atop the silk above each nightstand.
A similarly adorned guest bedroom saturated in soft coral is a replica of the one Kimberly had until she was married. While she didn’t want to part with the charming color scheme, the feminine palette wasn’t necessarily Justin’s first choice for the master bedroom. The solution? Everything from the bed curtains to the tufted bench and silk window treatments was repurposed for the guest room—compromise at its best.
Now if only Showers would compromise as well and share her signature design blueprint with the rest of us. If anyone could discover that top-secret formula, it would be Kimberly. “I’ve worked with Jan for so long that she’s really trained my eye. She has amazing style—in everything she does.”
Photography: Werner Straube
Interior design: Jan Showers, Jan Showers & Associates Inc., 1308 Slocum St., Dallas, TX 75207; 214/747-5252, janshowers.com.
Coffee Table Detail
A interesting collection of vintage cigarette lighters on a silver tray.
Yellows pop against soothing neutrals in the living room. A Murano-glass bowl accompanies an eye-catching urn on a coffee table from Maison Jansen.
An ultra-elegant buffet by Maxime Old continues the clean lines and refined sense of the living room.
The dining room—with its hand-painted wall covering, round table, and twin-door access to the kitchen—is built for entertaining. The smoky-gold chandelier, which came with the house, adds dramatic flair. “It works so perfectly in this room that no one believes it was already here,” laughs Kimberly Whitman.
An admirer of red-lacquered libraries, Justin Whitman wanted a “bold, shiny” room of his own. Conceding that a bright red room would be jarring with the subtle scheme of the rest of the house, the couple opted for high-gloss navy blue.
Rich woods and luminous metallics glow against the deep navy in the library.
Homeowners Kimberly and Justin Whitman outside their Dallas-area home with two-year old son J.R.
The Whitman home in Highland Park, Texas.
Designer Jan Showers veiled unsightly (and unbalanced) windows behind silvery-blue silk draperies. Antique mirrors hang on either side of the bed directly atop the fabric.
Lola, the Chihuahua, protects her well-earned status as resident “bed hog.”
A piece by artist Rusty Scruby hangs over the white console, adding textural interest to the master bedroom.
Showers favors objects with a unique patina, like this antique monogrammed hand mirror.
The pale-coral guest bedroom—complete with tufted bench and silk window treatments—was transplanted from one of Kimberly’s previous homes. The pretty palette (a little too feminine for Justin’s taste) was relegated from master to guest bedroom status.