29 Dec Designing the West: Breaking the Convention
When it comes to “thinking outside the box,” designer Jason Lenox just might be the man who wrote the book. With his own brand of Western design, Lenox will reach out and grab you by the collar with something so unusual that you can’t possibly resist. Take, for example, the antler chandelier — perfectly beautiful in its own right — that he dipped in candy apple red lacquer. Or the rustic Old Hickory chairs that he upholstered in snow white cowhide. With Lenox there are two givens: One, he likes color; and two, he goes about his business utterly unafraid.
Jason Lenox’s business is Western design, which came as something of a surprise to him. He was raised in Dallas and went to school in Colorado, where he earned an English degree. After college, he sold real estate. But Lenox was drawn throughout to Western design, something that was familiar to him since childhood. His father, Bill Lenox, helped found Circle T Western Wear and Jason learned both about design and about the entrepreneurial spirit that it takes to make one’s own way. The little store that beckoned to him on his return to Dallas was supposed to be a short-term gig. Now it is his life. Lenox’s exquisite store in the Dallas Design District is called Anteks.
For Lenox, life is punctuated with flashes of inspiration in color and materials. He never hesitates, instead going straight to work fleshing them out. He loves to see what works and what doesn’t. He also finds the unexpected to be irresistible. “Right now I have a plaid thing going,” Lenox says. When he found gorgeous, 100-percent Scottish Tartan Plaids from Scotland, Lenox got to work upholstering chairs.
“Jason comes up with new ways to use old ideas!” says John Maloof of Mason Maloof Designs in Lake Tahoe, California. “He has an uncanny ability to take divergent styles and put them together in such a way that it is terribly inviting and sophisticated. He does something that most people are afraid to do and he pulls it off.”
Beyond stepping out of the box, Lenox is himself a collector of vintage Pendleton and camp blankets, often using them to upholster benches and chairs. “I am really into the Wabi Sabi idea that things acquire a soul,” he says with a laugh. “When you put one of those extraordinarily cool blankets with so much soul on a bench, it suddenly has history.” For Lenox, history suggests comfort: memories of days spent listening to old radio shows, when life was simpler and less hectic. That comfort finds its way into everything that Lenox does. “Rooms should look like they have been there forever; they should look timeless,” he says.
By combining timeless style with unexpected materials, Lenox distinguishes himself and attracts major clients. Reiner Brasch, partner in the 505 Cedar Creek Ranch Club in Texas, asked Lenox to come take a look at the property he was working on. “He got it right away,” Reiner says. “He has a unique style that you don’t see anywhere else in Dallas. That is what we were looking for. He is truly a visionary. He took the ideas and ran with them. Now he is furnishing all the common buildings at the club.”
Lenox’s unconventional and unexpected style is a significant departure for a guy who grew up in a traditional American home. He tells clients that if they surround themselves with things they love, a room they love will emerge. That is why he breaks with convention, why he has so many artists featured in his store, why he goes about design with a sophisticated recklessness. Lenox is quick to point out that everyone possesses and values individuality: “No one wants to walk into a neighbor’s house and see their sofa,” he quips. Explaining that he likes to be different, Lenox designs most of the furniture in Anteks.
There is no doubt that Jason Lenox is different. Distinctive. Inimitable. He is, after all, making an art out of breaking with convention.
Jason Lenox on freshing up a room
1. Start with a fresh room. Take everything out and do the basics: cleaning, paint, etc. Don’t put things back where they were. Hang art differently, situate sofas and chairs differently. Try something you’ve never tried before. I wish I could tell you how many times I’ve moved a chair in a client’s house only to have them say, “I wish I had done that!”
2. Remove accumulation. In other words, get rid of things! Take half of your picture frames down and edit the room.
3. Rearrange the room. Try things that you haven’t thought of before. People have a tendency to develop room blindness. They walk past the same room setting they live in, but don’t think about it.
4. Look at your room from a critical or outsider’s perspective: What could make it more interesting or comfortable?
5. Use color somewhere. Paint a wall, even a small wall. It can transform a room when you add a strong/complementary color.
6. If you have something in the room with a strong element (sofa with a bold pattern, wall covering, window covering, etc.), change it.
7. It may sound insignificant, but try having your windows cleaned professionally inside and out. It makes all the difference in the world.
8. Use an unexpected material somewhere, like colored mohair. Think of fun ideas like taking a really gnarly leather club chair and putting a nice bright mohair seat on it. Or use a plaid, interesting blanket or kilim rug.