Rooms without rules: Interior designer Jack Collins is all about individuality

Jack Collins’ home is a study in contrasts. Entertaining is also a big part of Collins’ life, so a large dining table was a requirement.


Subflooring squares on the ceiling help set off a giant abstract piece from Collins and other artists’ work on an opposite wall. The 1950s-style furnishings help balance the old with the new.

Collins’ living room.

Collins’ Dog Ivan enjoys the comfort as much as the style of his owner’s creative interior design.

Rule No. 1 in interior design: Stop purchasing matching sets of anything!

There is nothing more homogeneous and uninspiring than walking into a retail store and selecting a set, whether it be a bedroom set or a living room set, that someone else paired together. Who knows how many other people are living with those same three or four pieces of matching furniture just like you?

“Find pieces of furniture and art that speak to you,” recommends interior designer Jack Collins, of McCaffrey/Collins Design. “Your house should look like you and be a reflection of your individual personality. Too many people are too cautious; people should pay more attention to their surroundings.”

Collins’ home is a showplace for individuality. Nothing is expected. Most items are vintage, antique, reclaimed and reupholstered. From the distinctiveness of the home’s actual layout, to the various color palettes that wash the walls, to the modern and representational pieces of artwork, this home screams of irreplaceable, oddly different and uniquely as individual as the fingerprint of the homeowner.

This is a haven of inspiration, a place where the stodginess of conformity is thrown out the window like Monet and Nagel prints.

“I like the remnants and leftovers — stuff with crunch,” Collins says. “I like items with a story and another life. Those are the types of items I’m really drawn to.”

Collins grew up in a creative atmosphere. His mother was a singer and his father grew up in a hotel, so he had a proficiency at fixing broken things early on. His sister was a sculptor, and Jack himself has earned a Master of Fine Arts from Kansas University and used to teach art at both Baker University and Johnson County Community College. He earned a degree in interior design from the latter.

“Good design should be affordable,” Collins says. “People should live with art and beautiful things as well. Almost all of our items are beat up, and we make them beautiful, but they require work. As we work with clients, we teach them and then they, too, start finding items that are fabulous.”

Collins’ panache for the reclaimed can be found everywhere, from the “robbed” items he swiped from his grandparents’ hotel to the used Persian rugs from eBay. Cast-off chairs from the closing of Farmland Industries encompass the dining table. Subflooring squares he instead used as a blond checkerboard wooden ceiling. Plus, retro circa 1950s furnishings are pristine and abundant.

Those are just naming a small handful of intuitive ways in which Collins has used or reused an item in a completely different manner than its original intention. It is a symphony of cacophony, and that is just the way he likes it.

“My art is a process of things becoming and dissolving. It is stacked collage painting,” he says. “I’m always taking that which is there and adding to it. In the interior, I’m really thinking about every view, each angle, across, up and down, and basically I make giant paintings of people’s homes.”

Art clearly plays a quintessential part in not only how McCaffrey/Collins designs, but in how Collins lives. The walls are cleverly hung with framed pieces and canvases, generally grouped in some enthralling fashion. They’re not themed or similar necessarily, just juxtaposed masterfully. The art is not limited to 2D either, there are sculptures almost everywhere the eye looks, whether it be freestanding pieces, a hand-crafted stained glass or wind chime.

“I’ve collected a lot of art from trading with other artists,” Collins explains. “When we travel, I try to pick up new paintings. My sister made the chandelier above the dining room table, and much of this is artwork from my students.”

He does have advice for framing and placing artwork together.

“Frame items in the right space, and give them a border so the piece has room to breathe,” he says. “Paintings have conversations with one another when placed together. Whether it be a color conversation or content conversation, group your paintings accordingly.”

— Jennifer Oldridge, a Kansas University graduate, is an avid gardener who previously operated a landscaping business.