Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A new book by one of my favorite designers: Jan Showers

When I reflect upon the evolution of my own personal design style over the past 10 years, I cite Jan Showers as one of the most pivotal influences. I first started to notice her work in my favorite magazines several years ago, and the discovery was a revelation; until I saw the work of design luminaries like Jan Showers, I tended to stick to a fairly traditional mode of decorating. The work of Jan Showers was something new for me - her style definitely has a 'French Moderne' influence, which is a different kind of French - a more modern, sculptural kind, highly influenced by the designers of he 1940s. Yet Jan's work can not be easily classified, as it also has a uniquely American style, with many glamorous Hollywood influences from the 1940s and 1950s. I love the palette that she uses in her projects, the sophistication of the art, the sparkle of the mirrors and the lighting, the light color of the wood in many of her furniture items, the gilded finishes. She likes to call her rooms 'the art of the mix'; the result is truly timeless, stylish, and elegant.


Jan Showers, seated on one of my favorite items from her furniture collection: the Daniele Tete a Tete. If you look closely, you will see that they are two pieces that work together to form a beautiful set.


Jan just released a new book, 'Glamorous Rooms'; it contains over 170 images from projects over the past 20 years, including 75 pictures never before published. 'Glamorous Rooms' is full of charming insights into both Jan Showers and her design process, and as the title would suggest, 'Glamorous Rooms' is organized by room. Each chapter begins with a discussion Jan's design approach and philosophy for the the room being featured (entry halls, living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, private spaces, and outdoor spaces), which is a dream for a reader who loves design and would like to create beautiful rooms, but needs a bit of inspiration and direction. In an interesting and sweet anecdote, as a child Jan Showers created her own personal scrapbook of inspiration rooms that, like this book, was organized by room. Seeds of the great designer were present even at a very young age! (Photography by Brian McWeeney).

I love the front cover of the book - the image captures the essence of Jan's design, but it also frames the words of the book perfectly. Jan says that even the most formal rooms of a home should be welcoming and comfortable, and the room in this picture looks very elegant but approachable. Just as Jan pays attention to every detail when designing a room, she paid attention to every detail when designing this book. It is truly a sophisticated and beautiful compilation of her work.

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My admiration for Jan Showers can be seen from the very beginning of this blog; on my very first day of blogging, 7/19/07, I noted my admiration for the Jan Showers 'Plaza' desk, with its beautiful curved 'X' motif (seen above). Photography by Jeff McNamara.


This is one of my favorite Jan Showers rooms, as it combines so many of my favorite elements: gilded furniture, beautiful lighting (the Niermann Weeks Swedish chandelier and the blue murano glass lamps), interesting side chairs, and a mirror combined with framed gestural ink sketches. They all come together to perfection. The coffee table, one of my favorites, comes from Jan's furniture collection. I love what Jan says about living rooms in her book: "Make the living room into a place where people want to spend time. Imagine ways to seduce and lure family and friends into using these typically neglected spaces, such as books stacked high on tabletops along with filled magazine racks, which never fail to make rooms appear more layered and welcoming". Photography by Brian McWeeney.


A wider view of the same room shows that there is both another seating area and a grand piano in the room. Upon further analysis, I see that this is the room used on the cover of Jan's book. Image via Veranda Magazine, October 2007, photography by Brian McWeeney.

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Another of my favorite rooms from Jan Showers' designs. I have collected so many pictures of Jan Showers' work here and there, it is wonderful to see so much of her work in one volume. Yellow is certainly a favorite color, and appears in many of the beautiful pictures in her book. I read on that when doing the final editing for 'Glamorous Rooms', there were over 100 pictures that did not even make it into the book!

The chapter on bedrooms was particularly interesting. Jan loves using canopies for a bedroom (which create a room within a room), and believes that bedrooms should not be too large - she thinks the feeling of intimacy can be lost in a bedroom that is too large. Photography by Jeff McNamara.


Entries are one the most important spaces to make a statement and be bold, according to Jan. Some of my favorite entry pictures in my personal 'inspiration files' come from Jan's portfolio of designs. Her new book contains even more examples of this important space, a space that defines the first impression of a home. Photography by Bill Bolin.

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This is one of my favorite entry pictures in my files, designed by Jan Showers. Although I usually prefer to have an entry with a view to the back, I would make an exception for this entry! The walls are delicately covered with silver leaf tea paper with gold undertones. The sunburst mirror, chest, and lamp are a beautiful combination. In reading Jan's book, I have learned that the star (seen in the floor) is one of Jan's signature shapes. Even the vent covers are perfectly designed in this space! Photography by Bill Bolin.


This is one of my favorite dining room pictures, and again Jan uses the Niermann Weeks Swedish chandelier to great effect (the living room across the hall - pictured earlier in this post - also has the NW Swedish chandelier for an effective repetition of a beautiful design element). Photography by Steven Karlisch.


This bedroom, featured in Western Interiors magazine, was one of the inspiration pictures for my own bedroom redesign. Again, the use of a cheerful yellow seems to be another Jan Showers signature element in a room. Photography by Dominique Vorillon.


Quite a few of Jan's rooms feature gestural ink sketches by Don Bodine. It takes a steady hand and many years of experience to create art that is so sure, so pure, and so elegant. The bench at the end of the bed is from Jan's furniture collection. Photography by Steve Karlisch.


A chair covered with Hinson snow leopard fabric, another one of Jan's signature design elements. Most of her rooms have some element of sophisticated animal print or skin. Photography by Jeff McNamara.

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I remember when this magazine spread came out (again with the influence of yellow in the design). The combination of the chairs, sofa, pillows, and window treatments made an already architecturally stunning house even more beautiful. The use of yellow and gray has been so popular lately; Jan was using this combination years ago, and likes to design with elements that are timeless and classic, yet somewhat unexpected. Photography by Steven Karlisch

For private spaces like libraries, a dark rich color can be used and achieve a stunning effect. Photography by Jeff McNamara.

Although I have been reading Jan's book over the past few days, only today did I catch a glimpse of the inside cover of the book, which was peeking out underneath the jacket. I should not have been surprised that a designer who pays attention to every detail in a room should pay so much attention to every detail of her book: the cover looks like Hinson's 'snow leopard' pattern.

For more information on Jan Showers, and to see her portfolio and furniture line, please check her website (click here). For an interesting 1st Dibs article on Jan Showers, please click here. To purchase Jan's new book 'Glamorous Rooms', you can go to any book seller, or buy it online here. I highly recommend it! The forward is written by Michael Kors, and it is a touching tribute to his good friend Jan and to the timeless quality of her designs.

Check out what the bloggers are posting about this week in the Hooked on Houses Friday blog party!