The Hanson house in Overland Park is literally a work in progress. Not in terms of renovation or remodeling, but rather a vibrant rotation of original art that frames a dynamic and fluid interior. Seventeen-year-old artist phenom Jeffrey Owen Hanson, the family’s youngest member, has a hobby-turned-career that punctuates every surface of the home.
Jeff is an award-winning philanthropic artist whose mission statement of creating kinder communities, more compassionate nations and a better world combined with his creative soul have touched hearts from Sir Elton John and Warren Buffet to Bill Gates and Harold Ramis.
“We embrace the journey we’re on with Jeff’s painting career,” says Julie, Jeff’s mom. “Plus, we needed a room where clients and nonprofit executives coming to the house could view the art.”
And though it might sound odd to tag a high-school kid with the word “career,” Jeff has donated more than $225,000 to local, regional and national charities and painted nearly 700 pieces in the Hansons’ unfinished lower level that, in 2007, was transformed into a working studio.
In fact, Julie and Hal, Jeff’s dad, were so inspired by their young son’s art that they decided to dedicate a room off the foyer to a revolving gallery of canvases that fetch upward of $5,000 at charity auctions around the country and commissions that eventually hang in the offices and homes of high-profile contemporary art collectors worldwide.
When the Hansons overhauled the former sitting room in their traditionally decorated home into a contemporary showcase, it was natural that Jeff was the lead designer on the project. Along with Julie’s decorating flair that offers the eye something unexpected and lovely at every turn in a house that unfolds as you walk through, the Hanson Art Gallery was destined to be another meticulously conceived space.
Explosive color has been Jeff’s muse since he was a youngster. His vision is impaired from an optic nerve tumor associated with a rare genetic condition called neurofibromatosis that triggered his severe vision loss in 2005. Jeff’s signature abstract paintings trademarked by bold blocks and splashes of color reflect his kaleidoscope impression of beauty. His disease doesn’t allow him to paint concrete images. “If you give Jeff a picture of a house, it might be an abstract interpretation — a large block of pink or purple with a red triangle on top,” Julie says.
The Hanson Art Gallery is a dramatic coal black, with walls covered in a Valtekz crocodile upholstery fabric that figuratively frames the art. Jill Tran, IDS, of Tran + Thomas Design Studio, helped Jeff and Julie select the unusual material.
“Jeff, Julie and Hal see the Hanson Art Gallery as something created around the art — not around the home,” Tran says. “The room is completely void of color, including the woodwork that’s painted a Benjamin Moore black oil enamel and the chartreuse ceiling. The crocodile wall covering adds texture to the sleek environment.”
Tran says the Hanson Art Gallery is a definite departure from the rest of the home, but the black is a solid complementary color that becomes almost the cerebral thread that unites the room with rather than estranges it from the interior. When paintings such as “Outskirts of Cinque Terre,” “Hills of San Gimignano” and “Glimpse of Old Windsor” are hung on the walls with ultra-contemporary square black HALO ceiling lights spotlighting them, the feel is definitely an urban gallery, not a suburban residence.
Julie says the Gallery, which sports a gleaming Michelangelo black marble floor accented by Botticelli sienna marble flecked with ivory veins, emulates the straight, clean lines that Jeff favors in his painting and decor. She points up the stairs to the second floor, where Jeff’s urban-flavored loft-style bedroom was his first project in 2006 when he was a mere 12 years old. Bright, lacquered red, gray and black paint comprise a room that features some of Jeff’s earliest pieces, including a painting titled “Wall Street at 4” above a black laminate nightstand. Just like the Hanson Art Gallery, the focus in the room is Jeff’s art.
A glass block wall, China Black marble floors and glossy black doors with contemporary hardware are design elements in a room where Jeff likes to relax in a modern black Natuzzi leather chair to watch television or use his iPad. The ceiling, which is faux painted in silver, pewter and platinum, offers an interesting juxtaposition to the bright walls.
“Jeff chose everything in this room,” Julie says. “It’s really an homage to a boy with severe sight issues who knows what he likes. It’s color-saturated and expresses his design sense.”
For a young man on an upward-trending career, who likes to match his art with charitable causes, has learned to live in the moment and helps inspire others to give their passion back to the world, Jeff is matter-of-fact about his goals. “I hope I can make an impact in this world,” Jeff says. “Even one painting at a time.”
The Hanson Art Gallery — and the artist’s bedroom — reflects the personality and exuberance of color-drenched art fueled by a passion for giving back and paying it forward.