A Contemporary Classic

Kelly and James Hanson’s custom home blends
modern design and warm, comfortable accents

By Jon Shoulders

When you’re not able to downsize, then simply resize.

That’s the philosophy Kelly and James Hanson brought to bear when designing their four-bedroom, five-bathroom residence on Indy’s southside.

In 2015, the Hansons realized the physical layout of their previous home in the Greystone subdivision was no longer ideal for hosting parties with friends and frequent visits from their three children, Katie, Chris and Drew, as well as their children-in-law and six grandkids.

“The kitchen we built in our old house for a family of five was not really accommodating for 14, and we toyed with doing a remodel, but the pricing for that can be ridiculous,” Kelly recalls. “We ended up getting an offer on that house, and since we wanted to stay in this neighborhood, we bought a lot across the water.”

Room for more

Soon after discussing several design scenarios with Greenwood-based builder Ron Wampler of Wampler Builder Inc., they decided on an open floor plan for their new home’s main level, doing away with formal dining and living room spaces.    

“We kind of wanted to downsize but needed to make sure we had room for the kids and grandkids who come over every Thursday for dinner,” Kelly says. “So my thought was that instead of a downsize, we’d do a resize.”

The result is a 5,500-square-foot design that’s sensible without sacrificing style, spanning two levels and built into the lot’s steep decline overlooking one of Greystone’s lakes. As a passionate interior designer who used to run her own design company in Indianapolis, Kelly worked directly with Wampler on the floor plan details and the home’s interior and exterior material selections throughout the yearlong design and construction process.

“It’s definitely a modern style,” Kelly says. “I like contemporary lines, but I also like a lot of color, so I just tried to keep that contemporary feel, with modern-looking blinds and lighting and things like that, but yet still make it feel like who we are is reflected throughout.”

Several homey touches work to achieve this balance throughout the central living area, including a range of soothing blue tones from the furniture and wall-hung artwork, as well as a mantel fashioned to resemble piano keys — a brainstorm of Kelly, a longtime musician.

“The kids weren’t too sure about that mantel, but they learned to trust me on it before it went up,” she says with a chuckle.

Hearth and home

The kitchen design could well be characterized as casual contemporary, with decorative lighting, a spacious island and quartz counters, one of which has an ice bucket built directly into the shelf space below it for convenient countertop access when serving cold beverages for guests.

“We really don’t cook too much, but the way the kitchen opens onto the living space works well for when the whole family is over and we’re all having drinks and stuff,” Kelly says.

The upper level floor plan also includes a screened-in porch (the couple’s favorite spot to relax) overlooking the backyard and surrounding neighborhood of Greystone, a master suite with a Jack-and-Jill bathroom, and a study equipped with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and a professional sketch of James, a labor and employment attorney, from the time he argued a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Kelly did a great job doing her own decorating for the whole house and picking out everything outside and inside,” says Wampler, adding that the two-story construction on the steep lot necessitated an 18-foot retaining wall. “It’s a different kind of house from what you normally see as far as the way it’s laid out, and she did a great job using her interior design sense.”

Guests descending the stairs to the home’s lower level are greeted by the word “Dwell” printed on the wall in stylish, oversized font — another of Kelly’s personal touches. “It’s my favorite word, and the Bible verses on the wall all have the word “dwell” in them,” she explains. “I thought the black-on-black printing tied in well with the wrought-iron stair railing, too.”

Upstairs, downstairs

The downstairs level offers functionality with an emphasis on fun, featuring an exercise space where the Hansons are in the process of installing a full-course golf simulator, a secondary laundry facility and a well-equipped playroom for the grandkids complete with a wooden treehouse, which the Hansons have affectionately dubbed the Treehouse Room.

“We put in a second laundry room on the lower level for resale value since three of the four bedrooms are down there, and it does come in handy when we have swimming parties because everyone can just come straight in from the pool outside and throw their stuff in there,” Kelly adds.

The Hansons even managed to achieve a modern-yet-classic look for the home’s exterior walls, opting for dryvit, a synthetic material that can be fashioned into blocks of any size. Dark hues for the roof, exterior trim and garage doors offer an eye-pleasing contrast to the dryvit coating’s lighter tone.

“A lot of people use dryvit just for accents up in gables and things like that on their homes, and it was a challenge for the whole exterior with getting it to look like stone slabs, which was what Kelly was going for,” says Wampler, who also oversaw construction of the Hansons’ previous Greystone home. “It’s a unique and fairly distinct look.”

A Muncie native, Kelly met James while they both attended Anderson University, and the couple moved to Indianapolis in 1982 after he finished law school at IU. Having been married for 40 years and lived in Greystone for 25, Kelly says she and James have come to see their southside neighborhood as a residential sweet spot, a tranquil, family-friendly setting with easy access to lively downtown amenities.

“We couldn’t really find another neighborhood we like as well as this one,” she says. “James works downtown and it’s easy to get on I-65, and yet we don’t feel like we’re in the city. You just can’t beat that about this part of town. It really feels like we have our own community.”

Photo by Angie Jackson