Every now and then, a customer frequents Jan Showers’ Dallas showroom often enough that the veteran designer begins to suspect they have more in mind than simply casual shopping. Take Abby McMullen, the owner of this University Park home, as an example. For years, she stopped in the store for lamps, bar carts and other “bits and pieces here and there,” the client recalls. She purchased one of Showers’ elegant armchairs, and then placed an order for a custom sofa. Soon enough, Showers took notice. “She was buying things that show she has a really good eye,” the designer says. But Abby had reached the point of needing an expert’s help to build upon her collection—in which French and Italian midcentury furnishings feature prominently—in a way that would allow each room in her house to clearly communicate her tastes. “I wanted it to be more representative of me,” she explains. “With three sons, I was yearning for it to be softer and more feminine, with some pops of color, animal print and a bit more shine.”
When Showers and her senior interior designer and executive of operations, Zara Taitt, first visited their client’s classically detailed residence, they found well-proportioned rooms that were “not too grand,” Taitt notes. Rather, she adds, “It was a nice, cozy environment” finished with tasteful millwork and neutral colors. The library offered an inviting fireplace and tall built-in bookcases in every corner; the dining room ceiling was painted a rich bronze shade with a subtle metallic sheen. “We had a good base to work with but needed to add interest,” Taitt continues. “So, we did a blue-green hue on her study’s walls, and then went more feminine with a soft but not-too-sweet pink in her bedroom. In the library, we went deeper with a warm toast paint color that complemented the existing grass-cloth wallcovering.”
With the canvas prepared, the designers took stock of the homeowner’s treasures, including vintage rosewood buffets, Picasso charcoal drawings, midcentury barware and a large collection of classic books passed down from her grandfather. As these cherished pieces began to take their places, Showers and Taitt set about filling in the blanks with a variety of European antiques and items from Showers’ collection. “I prefer mixing periods because there are so many different styles that I love,” Showers says of her approach. “It also keeps the interior from looking like a museum.”
In the living room, the designers married Abby’s existing Biedermeier side table and vintage Lucite coffee table with their own distinctive finds. For instance, a pair of Alberto Pinto-designed brass side tables, which had once occupied the Ritz Paris, fill the space alongside a midcentury wood-and-mirror-paneled screen, which Showers initially purchased for her own home. In the dining room, the owner’s midcentury Italian sideboard, an oil painting inherited from her mother and a favorite beveled-glass mirror mingle with the designers’ creations. These include a brass-banded walnut table by Taitt, and a Showers-designed dining chair inspired by a Jules-Emile Leleu late-Art Deco seat.
“Jan is so talented at creating a juxtaposition of high and low in terms of the tactile softness from the upholstery she chooses mixed with touches of brass that really brighten a room,” Abby muses. An example is the family room, where a midcentury Marbro peacock table lamp (“one of the prettiest I’ve ever found,” Showers notes) provides light for reading sessions on a cozy, textured sectional. The client’s pink-painted bedroom offers a similar balance of comfort and charisma. Here, hides on the floor and bench hold their own amongst a vintage Murano chandelier, eglomise-trimmed mirror and raspberry-pink wing chair inspired by midcentury Italian designs. “Jan and Zara had to sell me on the paint color, as I tend to favor more muted tones,” Abby adds. “However, the result is fun and playful, and still so calming.”
When it comes to artwork, the owner embraces boldness. Scot Presley and Jill Rothenberg-Simmons of Presley + Rothenberg Fine Art selected Robert Jessup’s abstract swirl painting for the study and Terrell James’ vibrantly hued canvas for the entry. “Abby has such specific taste, in furniture and in art, and it had everything to do with how the home looks now,” Showers says. “We just enhanced what she had and made it a complete story.”