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A Family Home Full of Art and Soul
Jean Liu lets her heart guide the design of her family’s historic Dallas home
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This house had everything. Designed by Hal Thomson in the 1920s, it showed the prolific Dallas architect’s grand and graceful style. Yet its limestone exterior offered a color and material departure from the period’s ubiquitous red brick. A sprawling yard could be landscaped into natural glory. Inside, architectural details abounded: paneling, dentil molding, and intricate ironwork.
It was perfect, interior designer Jean Liu and her husband, Erik Hansen, thought—except for one key detail: No “for sale” sign sat in the front yard.
“Initially, this house was just a dream because it wasn’t available, so we bought a different house two streets away,” Jean says. “But as luck would have it, just as we packed our boxes and closed on that house, Erik and I learned that the house we really loved was going on the market. I impulsively said, ‘Yes, we’ll buy it.’ I figured we would deal with our other purchase later.”
Erik Hansen, Jean Liu, and their daughter, Cricket.
While Jean and Erik’s love for the home was all-consuming, it wasn’t blind. They knew the house needed a palette change from its decades-old peach and forest green color scheme. It needed modern interiors that would carry the tone of a chic Paris apartment. The design had to feel like home for the couple, their now 7-year-old daughter, Cricket—and their burgeoning art collection.
Jean’s passion for art encompasses all its forms, but she and Erik prefer to share their home with contemporary works, especially by fledgling artists. Creating a base that would allow them to show off each piece in all its splendor—and provide flexibility for artwork to be moved around—was top priority.
“I love the process of collecting,” Jean says. “I’m an art enthusiast as a hobby, but I do it professionally, too. Every day I’m learning how to ‘see.’ My friend Caesar is my art trainer, and we have regular discussions about pieces and why they work or don’t. For our collection, it was most important that we bought what we loved, not with the hopes of the art being an investment.”
To highlight the paintings, prints, and sculptures, Jean fashioned rooms that are equally arresting and artful, spaces that showcase the things she and Erik love—a collection not married to any particular era.
A contemporary print by Jonas Wood captures attention through the dining room opening.
The foyer illustrates her style perfectly. A teaser of what’s to come, the entry space is a mélange of a contemporary hair-on-hide rug, an Empire-era table, and a brutalist chandelier, accented by art—a marble sculpture of a female form. A striped stair runner unfurls the thread of black and white that runs through many rooms. “A lot of what I design has to do with high contrast,” Jean says. “Black and white is classic, and I know that I won’t tire of it.”
The foyer is a lesson in mixing furniture and objects of many styles and eras.
Spaces that connect to the foyer illustrate Jean’s penchant for high contrast with intensity, each showcasing a modern wallpaper that is arguably artwork itself. Crisscrossing lines race across the ceiling of the living room.
Many of Jean’s new art acquisitions make their debut in this neutral space. Glass pill sculptures pop color onto the cocktail table.
Black teardrop shapes wrap a diminutive powder room.
Jean packed pattern into the small powder room with a dramatic graphic wallpaper.
Oversize organic lines atop a fine gray web encase the dining room—a space that juxtaposes the modern wallscape with traditional furniture, including a Swedish cabinet and French chairs.
The dynamic pairings result from Jean’s willingness to be organic, to follow her imagination wherever it leads in her own home. “I don’t think that I probably could have sold this room to a client,” she says. “It just happened.”
A Swedish cabinet holds homeowner and designer Jean Liu’s porcelain collection. Drapery panels made of Pindler linen are edged in Kelly Wearstler trim.
Her two favorite rooms, in fact, diverged completely from her original vision. The black lacquered library was earmarked as an office but became a gathering space where everyone retreats after dinner.
A bold geometric pattern applied to walls behind the bookshelves contrasts the black lacquered library. “I have a thing for camouflage, and this seemed to be a modern take on it with the acid green,” Jean says. A pair of chairs from Mecox Gardens and a goatskin table temper the business of books and objects that live on the shelves. The antique chandelier was moved from Jean and Erik’s former home.
The vaulted great room initially didn’t hold great appeal for Jean. Now it’s the place every day starts with breakfast and ends with family time. Linen-covered sofas, a Saarinen table surrounded by Gustavian chairs, a massive oil painting, a bench, and a beanbag sculpture make it light, youthful, and comfortable. Going with the flow has produced the spaces—and the home—that embodies Jean and Erik’s love of art, comfort, and family.
“People tend to aim for perfection,” she says. “This house shows that accepting what the house was and learning to work within its boundaries and confines made a version of perfect that we didn’t know existed. It would be hard to leave this. It’s a part of who we are.” No “for sale” sign will be appearing in this yard anytime soon.
Light blue punctuates the great room on pillows and on Gustavian chairs with contrasting camel-color leather. Woven sisal grounds furniture arrangements. Oversize art and a bean bag sculpture bring big drama above a functional bench.
The neutral kitchen serves as an aesthetic buffer between spaces that were designed to be more dynamic. Metal bar stools and woven shades add textural interest.
Jean and Erik’s retreat calms in soothing mocha. A large painting by London artist Nick Goss, a sketch of a child by John Currin, a plaster lamp by John Dickinson, and a Murano glass vase are reminders
that Jean loves a variety of media.
With full autonomy, Cricket selected furnishings for her room. The turquoise space was finished with her own framed artwork.
The outdoor gathering area is an inspiration for Jean, who in addition to working as an interior designer also is the CEO of Woodard Furniture and the creative director and founder of Stori Modern, a brand that produces luxurious contemporary outdoor furniture.