This Historic Dallas Home Has Modern Interiors Full of Art

foyer with chandelier and table
Photo: Nathan Schroder

Jean Liu lets her heart guide the design of her family's historic Dallas home.

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.

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Dream House

limestone exterior of dallas home
Nathan Schroder

When interior designer Jean Liu and her husband, Erik Hansen, saw their house, they thought it was perfect, except for one key detail. There was no "for sale" sign.

"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."

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Artsy Updates

doorway with painting and seat
Nathan Schroder

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. It was a top priority to create a base that would allow them to show off each piece in all its splendor (and provide flexibility for artwork to be moved around).

"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. There are spaces that showcase the things she and Erik love—a collection not married to any particular era.

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Stylish Foyer

foyer with chandelier and table
Nathan Schroder

The foyer illustrates her style perfectly. 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. It's a teaser of things to come. 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."

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Work of Art Wallpaper

crisscrossing lines across living room ceiling
Nathan Schroder

Spaces connecting to the foyer illustrate Jean's penchant for high contrast with intensity, 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 debut in this neutral space. Glass pill sculptures pop color onto the cocktail table.

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Patterned Powder Room

black teardrop shaped wallpaper in bathroom
Nathan Schroder

Jean packed pattern into the small powder room with a dramatic graphic wallpaper. Black teardrop shapes wrap the diminutive bathroom.

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Imaginative Dining Room

doorway with painting and seat
Nathan Schroder

Oversize organic lines atop a delicate gray web encase the dining room. This space juxtaposes the modern walls with traditional furniture, including a Swedish cabinet and French chairs.

The dynamic pairings result from Jean's willingness to be organic and follow her imagination wherever it leads in her home. "I don't think that I probably could have sold this room to a client," she says. "It just happened."

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Library Retreat

black lacquered library with seating
Nathan Schroder

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 the 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.

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Versatile Great Room

vaulted great room with couches
Nathan Schroder

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.

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Neutral Kitchen

neutral kitchen with metal bar stools
Nathan Schroder

The neutral kitchen serves as an aesthetic buffer between spaces designed to be more dynamic. Metal bar stools and woven shades add textural interest.

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A Bedroom with Variety

bedroom with large painting
Nathan Schroder

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.

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Budding Artist

childs room with green chair
Nathan Schroder

With full autonomy, Cricket selected furnishings for her room. The turquoise space was finished with her own framed artwork.

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Outdoor Design Inspiration

outdoor gathering area with pool
Nathan Schroder

The outdoor gathering area is an inspiration for Jean, who, in addition to working as an interior designer, is the CEO of Woodard Furniture and the creative director and founder of Stori Modern. This brand produces luxurious contemporary outdoor furniture.

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.

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