A Beautiful Sunset

By staff July 1, 2008

Just about anyone who ever met Matt Overstreet considered him a friend, and even the mention of his name evokes a smile and stories about his gracious Southern bearing, self-deprecating humor and irrepressible delight in life. Just weeks before his untimely death of cancer in May, the Sarasota interior designer summoned his strength to talk about his final project. Confined to bed, he had called us to suggest the story—not to boast (even though he had transformed some of the grandest homes in the country, Overstreet refused to call himself an interior designer—“Honey, I’m just a decorator,” he’d often say) but to promote the work of friends bracing to carry on without their beloved associate.

At his side were his protégé and former assistant of 21 years, Roger Metz, who will continue working with Overstreet’s longtime clients through his own RosemaryDistrict firm, Silverforrest Studios, and Jonathan Slenz of Jonathan–The Wallpaper Store, a friend and trusted supplier. The trio had worked together for years, Overstreet explained, but he knew this project, a local surgeon’s luxurious guest home in The Ritz-Carlton Beach Residences, was the last he would see completed.

As the three reminisced, they were stoic yet cheery. It’s hard to fathom, but Overstreet was quietly putting everyone at ease instead of the other way around. “I’m ready to go,” he declared, “and I am at peace with it. I have my funeral planned, right down to the food, the flowers and the music. It’s going to be a great party.”

Overstreet’s charm, like his work, was irresistible. Although he and Metz did not design this condo from scratch, the design practices and objectives employed were the same as they apply to much larger projects. “As we did the initial walk-through, it was obvious that the furniture came from more than one residence, but most of it was Donghia,” he said. “We used the existing furniture because it was the best quality. We eliminated some, added very little and rearranged a lot.”

“The walls were painted in three different colors: muddy red, bright yellow and blue,” added Metz. “All the furniture fabrics were blue, and the color scheme took focus away from the incredible views from every room in the house.”

Overstreet and Metz decided on a palette of neutral tones for seating, area rugs and walls. “We neutralized the competition from the Gulf,” Metz said. “We were sort of the antacid,” Overstreet chuckled.

The 4,189-square-foot condo was repainted in a creamy beige called Lighthouse Landing, and Jonathan Slenz was commissioned to supply Hunter Douglas shades to soften direct beachfront sunset views.

“In the living room, Honeycomb Duette Vertiglides stack back and completely disappear behind the simple silk drapery panels so as not to interfere with the view,” said Slenz, who recommended Duette Easy-Rise pleated shades in the master bedroom to coordinate with custom draperies of Kravet striped silk.

Dark-stained wood, black metal furniture and lighting fixtures were contrasted with off-white, cream and beige textured fabrics throughout the three-bedroom condominium. “All the fabrics are from Designers Source of Sarasota,” Metz explained. “The day Matt and I laid out the fabrics for our client, he looked at them for at least a whole minute, and said, ‘This is perfect; you interpreted exactly what I wanted.’

“He is the perfect client,” Overstreet said of the owner. “His main concern was the comfort of guests who would be using the house—his family, friends, and visiting celebrities who are patients.” The space is elegant yet comfortable, a trademark in any Overstreet interior, whether traditional or contemporary like this one. “In my own home, everything also had to be comfortable,” Overstreet explained. “If it isn’t comfortable, it’s not worth doing.” In fact, Overstreet said proudly, his home, “all pale yellows and natural cotton and silk fabrics,” was so comfortable that a client took one look and bought the rooms intact when Overstreet became too ill to stay there alone and had to move in with a friend.

The designers moved an oversized leather ottoman, which had looked out of proportion in a corner of the living room, to fill up what Slenz describes as a dance hall of a master bath. A painting of a Buddha found tucked away in a closet now makes a stylish statement in the master bedroom. Existing red pillows were moved to the sitting room to complement wood-framed chairs the designers reupholstered in Beacon Hill’s plaid silk.

Overstreet and Metz custom-designed new area rugs, including a stylized zebra pattern in taupe and off-white, and added only one new piece of furniture to the living room: a contemporary armoire with Oriental lines custom-outfitted with a flat-screen TV that can be viewed from any point in the room. They created architectural interest with lighting fixtures hand-picked at The Lamplighter Shop, including metal chandeliers above the dining room table and a sleek, custom family room game table.

Overstreet refashioned a space off the dining room into what he called a wonderful after-dinner room to serve desserts and coffee while watching sunset views. “Matt had a unique style,” explained Metz. “I don’t know where he got the style, but he intuitively knew the right scale and the right furnishings.”

“Though the years we’ve had so much fun working together we didn’t even realize we were working,” Slenz added. He and Overstreet recalled the day they walked through a Paris flea market, enthusiastically purchasing enough to finish three different clients’ homes. Overstreet’s career and his life were one, Metz explained. “He lived interior design, and for all of us, it’s been a great ride.”

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