TALK ABOUT style.
The black cowhide rug, antique Nepalese prayer chest and stone wall modeled after a French château in the foyer outside offer a clue about what’s coming. But it’s just a small clue.
Door opens and there is Carol Overdahl. She is dressed all in black. Behind her is her home. It is dressed all in white. White upon white upon white, in leather and tile and glass and velvet and quartz and wax, and even the flowers, white orchids.
“To me, if you do one thing, it’s to have an interesting mixture of light. If you do that, all of a sudden you have atmosphere. I wanted more glamour, reflectiveness, mirrors, full-spectrum paint colors (that use more pigments) to interact with the light we do have here.
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“To me, the concept was a modern beach house, bringing the out-of-doors indoors.”
You can tell that Carol Overdahl has thought a lot about her Seattle home (built in 1936) and the things she surrounds herself with. The place is all Overdahl: painter, poet, mountaineer, spiritual healer and, for 16 years, manager of Barneys New York in Seattle.
“It’s all the same energy,” she says of the passion for style, whether it’s clothes, floor tiles or art. “The creative spark is from the same source. It’s easy for me to go into a shop, scan, and boom!, find the right thing. ‘Just open your eyes,’ as (designer) Vicente Wolf says.
“I like mixing things unexpectedly.” For herself that means “sleek nomad” and “modern hippie,” looks she seeks from fitted athletic clothing with a touch of rock ’n’ roll and a little sensuality. “We have an incredible backyard of performance clothing companies here. I’ve always loved black, and white.” For her home it’s a blend of masculine and feminine. Hits of color are held to her paintings, which fill her home, gallery-style. Overdahl often throws open her doors for art sales to benefit local charities.
“I was a military brat. We lived in 16 places in 18 years,” she says of the places she’s lived before this, her home for more than 25 years, her first and only as a grown-up (3,000 square feet, three bedrooms, art studio in what once was the garage). “This is my everything house; it’s my studio, my work, my gallery.”
After Overdahl’s husband, Dan, died she felt a call to “live full throttle. There’s nothing like grief to break you wide open,” she says. Overdahl has summited Mount Rainier seven times, ascended Mount Everest-Tibet to advanced base camp (21,300 feet) and last year made the pilgrimage around Tibet’s most sacred mountain, Mount Kailash. At home (2005) she took to the house with architect Jerry Chihara, contractor Bill Mathers and landscape designer Daniel R. Yarger.
Overdahl made a narrow hallway function bigger by swapping out hinged doors for pocket versions, added more archways. She opened the kitchen, created an outdoor living room (yes, in white) and separated it from the studio with a waterfall that is quite a raging thing for a city lot.
“I wanted every inch to function,” she says of her urban compound. “When you do that, it expands the space dramatically.”
There’s something else about all that white Overdahl surrounds herself with: “I’m an enormously spiritual person, and, to me, this is heaven on earth.”
Rebecca Teagarden writes about architecture and design for Pacific NW magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.