January 31, 2014

Couple hosts home tour to raise money for dog rescue

It’s no wonder then that Carla Hanson and Clif Hall will open their 8,000-square-foot Shawnee home as a fundraiser for Operation Wildlife and the National Borzoi Rescue Foundation. On Feb. 9, visitors can tour the house that features more than 40 stained glass windows, a 36-foot indoor lap pool and a large, light-filled gallery space that holds a large portion of Hanson’s mask collection.

Carla Hanson and Clif Hall’s arts and crafts home, on a hill in Shawnee, looks like a chichi mountain lodge with its large, beckoning veranda and trio of gables.

The entrance to its long driveway is marked by a green street sign that reads “Borzoi Bluff Blvd.” Two life-size borzoi statues stand sentry in the front foyer.

It’s no wonder then that the couple will open their 8,000-square-foot home as a fundraiser for Operation Wildlife and the National Borzoi Rescue Foundation. On Feb. 9, visitors can tour the house that features more than 40 stained glass windows, a 36-foot indoor lap pool and a large, light-filled gallery space that holds a large portion of Hanson’s mask collection. Tickets are $15 in advance.

While on tour, you can meet several borzois, including the couple’s own: Nadia and Tamara. Borzois, which were known as Russian wolfhounds until the 1930s, are tall, thin dogs with narrow faces, soulful doe eyes and a gentle demeanor. The fundraiser is the couple’s Valentine gift to the breed.

“I wish I could be there,” said Carol Backers, director of the National Borzoi Rescue Foundation. “I live in northern Michigan in a tourist area where they have a builder’s tour, but no one has ever done anything like this. It sounds like a rip-roaring good time. They’re just really great people. I absolutely love them. They’re very giving, wonderful, caring people.”

Backers pointed out that Hanson, 64, and Hall, 62, did a fundraiser last year that benefited her group and a canine cancer organization, after losing a borzoi to cancer a couple of years ago. They also had a birthday party for Hall and asked friends and family to donate money to the borzoi foundation in lieu gifts.

Hanson and Hall started building their house in 1999, and it’s still a work in progress. Despite its unfinished state, they wanted to hold the tour “because our goal is to raise money for these two groups, and this is what we have to work with. And I don’t think anyone will be disappointed,” Hanson said.

“As you can see, we are getting ready to work on the staircase,” Hall said, leading the way up to a landing with three large stained glass windows that Hanson made. They’re illuminated by natural light streaming in through the pool’s skylights on the other side.

“It’s her masterpiece,” Hall said of the windows. He climbed to the second floor, which has two guest rooms, his and her offices, the master suite and a TV room. All of them have hardwood floors and a lot of intricate wood moldings and framing around doors and windows.

The master suite and one of the guest rooms have doors leading to small balconies that overlook the pool. If they leave the doors open, the heat from the pool warms the entire second floor during the winter, Hall said.

“Here we are a little more civilized,” he said. “This is what the rest of the house should look like if I live long enough.”

He’s referring to the first floor, which is unfinished. There’s still chipboard serving as flooring through most of the home, no baseboards and nearly all of the doors and windows have yet to be framed.

But light fixtures — many of them Tiffany style in keeping with the home’s arts and crafts theme — have been installed in all the rooms. The kitchen and bathrooms are mostly done, and every room is outfitted with furniture and accessories.

Hanson is a house painter and curator of her own “Spirit of the Mask” collection, which she lends for exhibition to galleries and museums across the nation. Hall is a commercial photographer.

The two owned five houses between them at one point, three of which were in Hyde Park, a neighborhood they love for its architecture. The TV room has two stained glass windows depicting birds of paradise that Hanson made for her Hyde Park house. They eventually sold those properties to focus on the Shawnee house.

A crew constructed the foundation and roughed in the walls and sub-floors, but they proved unreliable, and Hall and Hanson found themselves doing a lot of the work themselves. Hall did the electrical and plumbing installation, Hanson painted and they both put in the Sheetrock.

“There’s six miles of wiring in this house,” Hall said.

“And there are 15,000 shingles on the roof. I know because I stained them all,” Hanson added.

They created an apartment in the basement and lived there for nearly two years. They had three borzois at the time: Prancer, Dasha and Becky.

“It was such a big day when we got to move up here,” Hanson said.

Eccentricities pop up throughout the house, like the hardened spray-foam insulation protruding from one of the walls at the end of the entrance hall. Usually, it’s cut off and plastered over.

“Carla said, don’t cut that. It looks like a tree,” Hall said. So they painted it brown, like tree bark, and stuck stuff in it, including flags, sprigs of greenery and an apron.

Their 4,000-square-foot drive-in basement will also be part of the tour. It holds Hanson’s collection of vintage aprons, floor-to-ceiling shelves containing thousands of holiday decorations and boxed-up ethnic masks.

It also contains Hall’s photo studio and darkroom.

“This is my sixth-generation darkroom, starting with the one in my parents’ closet,” he said. “This is everything that I have ever learned over the years; my perfect chemical darkroom. I probably processed two rolls of film before I went digital, so this is probably a museum of its own.”

About the tour


: 8,300-square-foot arts and crafts mansion with more than 40 stained glass windows, a massive vinyl LP collection, a 1950-60s hostess apron collection, live birds of prey on display in a Tiki-themed indoor pool and a “Spirit of the Mask” gallery. There will also be live music, Valentine treats, a silent auction and several borzois.


: 17700 W. 66th Terrace, Shawnee


: Noon to 5 p.m. Feb. 9

Cost: Adults $15 in advance at

($20 at the door). Children 5-11, $5 in advance ($7 at the door)

The borzois’ story

Carla Hanson, Clif Hall and their fellow borzoi lovers will have several dogs on hand during the tour, so visitors can learn more about the breed.

The National Borzoi Foundation placed 70 dogs in homes last year, said Debbie Thomas, a borzoi owner and volunteer with the group.

Debbie and Randy Thomas of De Soto came across their dog, Nikolai, while searching for greyhounds on PetFinder. Borzois are often mistaken for long-haired greyhounds. The Thomases now go on rescue missions with the foundation.

Three years ago they rescued more than 45 borzois from a single Missouri breeder who had 141 of them living in a barn. A lot of dogs were sickly and several of the females were pregnant, Debbie Thomas said.

Borzois have aloof, cat-like personalities. They don’t bark a lot and aren’t usually aggressive with humans, though males can be aggressive with other male dogs.

As Hall put it: “They’re sort of like, ‘I want you to feed me, and if I want anything else, I will let you know. I’m not going to bring you a ball.’ They’re great companions, but on their terms. And you don’t want small kids around them.”

Borzois live between 12 and 14 years; males are between 30 and 34 inches at their shoulders and weigh 80 to 100 pounds; females are 26 to 30 inches tall and weigh 60 to 90 pounds.

“My husband had one when we married, and I always wanted another one. Then I saw Clif while I was walking, and he got me hooked up with my first rescue,” Robin Hill said. Her dog, Jillian, was one of the 141 found at the puppy mill three years ago. She shrinks from strangers and won’t make eye contact.

“She is still petrified from whatever happened there,” Hall said.

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