When Larry Owen first stepped inside the Riverfront Condominiums building behind the Old Post Office, he wasn’t looking to buy. He and his wife, Carol, loved their home in McCutchanville, and Larry merely was fulfilling a promise to a friend in Ohio who was interested in purchasing a condo in Evansville. But as Larry walked through the rooms, “the view just blew me away,” he says.
The prospect of downsizing and moving Downtown grew increasingly attractive to the Owens. Two years ago, when a sixth-floor unit in the Riverfront Condominiums was listed for sale, they purchased it right away. “We just wanted to simplify our lives,” Carol says. Moving into a smaller, two-bedroom condo suited that desire, and the space reflects the Owens’ sense of style: elegant yet comfortable, traditional yet eclectic. Art and antiques decorate the residence, and the pieces are made more dramatic by the backdrop: the Ohio River to the south, Old National Bank’s headquarters and the Riverside Historic District to the east, the Old Post Office to the north, and First Avenue to the west.
The Owens’ journey to Downtown Evansville began in Bloomington, Ind., where they met as Indiana University students. After the couple married 53 years ago, Larry brought Carol, an Evanston, Ill., native, back to his hometown of Evansville. Following the birth of their two sons, Brad and Steve (now grown, married, and living in Evansville with their families), the Owens settled in McCutchanville — most recently living in a spacious French Country-style home.
When they decided to move Downtown, they enlisted the help of numerous local professionals and businesses, including contractor Randy Elpers, who built the couple’s previous home; painter Jerry Loeffler; and cabinet company Fehrenbacher Cabinets. They also left most of their antique collection in the McCutchanville house (now home to their son Brad and his wife Mary-Beth) and teamed with interior designer Tay Ruthenburg, owner of Evaline Karges Interiors, to decorate their new condo. “They both really enjoy searching out things, learning about art, collecting furniture,” Ruthenburg says, “and they do it together. To both be interested is so special.”
“Tay has an eye for making things work,” says Larry, who’s retired from a career in the printing industry. The design sensibility is evident immediately upon entering the Owens’ condo, where a foyer opens to a living room decorated in chocolate brown, ivory, and turquoise. The seating area, with two 19th century French chairs, combines stripes, leaves, and zebra print patterns. Contemporary art decorates the wall above an English antique table. The contrasts, says Ruthenburg, show the Owens aren’t afraid to make a bold statement. “They’re traditional with a twist,” he says. “The twist is some of the things they collect.”[pagebreak]
Case in point: A cabinet above the wet bar in the living room showcases Delft pottery from the Netherlands, Japanese imari plates, and a 16th century statue of a Thai warrior missing his spear. (The Owens found the warrior in Bangkok on a trip for their 50th wedding anniversary.) The couple also collects pieces by Aurora, N.Y.-based MacKenzie-Childs, including a pedestal table base in the kitchen and a picture frame in the small library adjoining their bedroom. The company produces quirky, colorful furniture and home décor often covered in shards of broken pottery and glass.
One of the Owens’ simplest but most cherished pieces is a cognac leather sofa in the den adjacent to the dining room. Soon after they married, Carol ordered the sofa and didn’t tell Larry. She expected delivery to take four to six months, and she planned to save money each week from the couple’s grocery funds to cover the bill. To her surprise, the sofa was finished in one month, and the newlywed panicked. “I have something to tell you,” she nervously told Larry. He laughed when he found out her secret was a sofa, but still, “I’ll die with this sofa,” Carol jokes.
The sofa has been a fixture in the Owens’ lives from the early days of their marriage into the quieter years of their retirement, and their home in the Riverfront Condominiums suits their desire for a simpler life. They love watching Downtown happenings from their windows — from arena construction to the sea of pink at Race for the Cure — and they love the convenience of living Downtown. “It’s 10 minutes to anywhere,” Carol says. “We’re so close to everything.”