December 11, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

An interior designer would have to possess an abundance of chutzpah to place a Paul Bunyan-sized silver chalice vase filled with giant sprays of faux white flowers in the middle of a hotel lobby. Eric James not only pulled it off, he pulled everything together inside Omaha’s Hotel Deco XV.

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Taking his cue from the name of the historic boutique hotel at 15th and Harney streets, James created a wonderland of Art Deco décor that transports a visitor to a time synonymous with elegance and a post-World War I “anything goes” mentality. “It’s early 1930s glam and glitz, one of the highlights of my career so far,” says James, 40.

Clean lines, geometric patterns, bold accessories, and lots of mirrors surrounded by a sea of black and white, chrome and crystal, offer a stunning look into the past with a decidedly modern twist. Small crystal beads that cover one wall, a sheath of tufted velvet on another wall, and sofa pillows in hues of gray with raised fabric designs reveal James’ eye for a variety of textures.

The designer’s balancing act is evident in the accessories and sculpted art pieces found on tables, stairwell ledges, and window sills: white beside black, tall beside small, round beside square.

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“As I’ve developed my business, I’ve become very good at fabrics and florals, two of the hardest things to do,” James says. “To get a style to flow with fabrics and flowers is difficult, but for some reason it comes naturally to me.”

Born Eric James Seymour in the Ponca Hills/Florence section of Omaha, the boy who toyed with the idea of becoming a marine biologist found he had a knack for taking his mother’s old decorations to create a unique, functional space in his bedroom. Pretty soon, family and friends started asking for his help with their houses.

“I’m a self-taught person, very hands-on. I imagine the whole space and then just do it,” he says. “It’s my passion.”

After spending two years in management and sales at the now-closed Z Gallerie at Village Pointe, James 10 years ago started his own business, Interiors by Eric James, and dove in headfirst.

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Traditional? Sure. Contemporary? Absolutely. Funky? Why not? Rustic? No prob.

“I’m working on a farmhouse in rural Iowa that started as a kitchen remodel and has turned into a whole house remodel,” James says. “We built an all-season room with raw wood flooring—knots and cracks and all. The room has exposed beams throughout, a wall of jagged stone, two oil-rubbed bronze chandeliers, and high-back wing chairs of cowhide. Very unique.”

One of James’ greatest assets involves the ability to listen to a client.

“I asked him to style our house and his ability to interpret our wishes and bring them to fruition was awesome,” raves Chris Hamilton, a hair stylist. She says James preferred to work while they were out of the house, “so when we walked in, the transformation was just incredible.”

James’ upbeat, positive personality, his willingness to please a client (“I never argue with people,” he says), his eclectic designer palette, and “reasonable prices” keep new and repeat customers calling.

“I’ve never had an unhappy client,” he says. “If I did, I couldn’t sleep at night.”  OmahaHome

Visit interiorsbyericjames.com to learn more.

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