An early lesson from Jan Showers’s career: Buy what you love. It was the late 1990s, and the Texas designer was in Paris to buy a container full of antiques to kick off her Dallas showroom. This was her first big buying trip abroad, and she was facing a dilemma: At the time, Dallas was a brown furniture town, and there was plenty of that available in France. But Showers didn’t like it. She split the difference, buying half a container of classic 18th- and 19th-century antiques and filling up the other half with the stuff she liked, mostly pieces from the late 1940s.
“As soon as I got all the antiques in the store, what sold first? What I loved,” Showers tells host Dennis Scully on the latest episode of The Business of Home Podcast. “I had to book a trip back to Paris to buy more of it. And I then had to sit and look at all the pieces I didn’t like. That taught me never to buy something I didn’t love. If I don’t love it, I can’t sell it.”
Showers, an interior designer, product designer and showroom owner, is the wearer of many hats and a doyenne of Texas design. The Lone Star State is a particularly good place to be a success in the design industry these days, as it is benefiting from the same COVID-era boom as the rest of the country, only more so (the lack of a state income tax has helped draw pandemic-era city escapers, especially from California). That’s especially true in Dallas, a town that, perhaps unlike Austin, isn’t particularly shy about big houses decorated to the nines.
“We had the wonderful head of Dallas Museum of Art [host an event], and he said the thing that’s the best and worst about Dallas is materialism,” says Showers. “I don’t think that’s the case, but I do think people in Dallas want their houses done. It’s very easy to find houses in Dallas that can be published.”
In this episode of the podcast, Showers breaks down the recent Dallas Kips Bay Decorator Show House; talks about her own product line’s rocky early days; details what young designers need to do to put themselves on the right track; and explains why she recently pulled her furniture out of showrooms to sell direct to designers online.
“I had a couple of friends in the manufacturing business who encouraged me. My furniture has been out there for a long time, people know our product, people are buying online,” she says. “I’ve been thinking about [making this move for] quite a while. We have 6,000 square feet of antiques—we put those online and that’s done great. So I thought: It’s time.”