In 1928, an Irish teenager named Joseph O’Daniel moved to Evansville from Waverly, Ky., with his parents and nine siblings in search of greater opportunity. He went to work washing cars in Downtown Evansville. Cars, it turns out, did hold the keys to his fortune. He would go on to buy several automobile franchises to establish O’Daniel Ranes in 1934. Later, his son D. Patrick O’Daniel established D. Patrick Imports, absorbing O’Daniel Ranes — today one of the largest mega-dealerships in the Tri-State, known as D-Patrick.
The 1920s also were a time of growth for vacation homes built around scenic Lake Talahi in nearby McCutchanville, where a third generation of Joseph O’Daniel’s descendants would live almost 70 years later. In 1926, the first home on the lake was built. Now, it is home to Missy Miller O’Daniel, Mike O’Daniel (Joseph O’Daniel’s grandson and an owner of the D-Patrick group of auto franchises), and their three children: Molly, 16; Margot, 18; and Peter, 21.
“We love the feel of this house that originally was a summer home on the lake,” says Missy of the 5,600-square-foot Nantucket-inspired home painted yellow and accented with black shutters. “We really have more of a traditional style,” says the Ohio native, “but I call it a farmhouse mishmash.”
Filled with collections of old family heirlooms, new acquisitions from local boutiques and travels around the world, and vintage pieces acquired at local auctions, each room of the O’Daniels’ four-bedroom, six-bath home is a blend of eclectic furnishings, art, and accessories that all have special meaning. “Most of the things we have in our house have been bought locally,” says Mike, “or have been passed down through our families.”
Mike and Missy met while they both were attending Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Missy grew up in Hudson, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. Mike, who grew up in Evansville and attended Culver Military Academy in northern Indiana, returned to Evansville after graduating from SMU in 1987. After Missy graduated a year later, the couple married, settled in Mike’s hometown, and stayed to raise their three children.
The O’Daniels purchased their current home in McCutchanville 11 years ago and embarked on updating the house that sits on three and a half acres overlooking the lake. “We really did very little cosmetically to the house,” explains Missy, who notes that the previous owners had done some extensive renovation on the property, but the O’Daniels gutted the basement — formerly a storage area and garage — and remodeled it as a hangout for their children and their friends. The basement now is outfitted with a full kitchen, bath, big-screen TV, and overstuffed furniture, plus a custom-made pool table manufactured by Escalade Sports in Evansville.
The landscaping was another major project that the O’Daniels took on shortly after moving into the house. In 2002, a major windstorm destroyed seven large trees on the property. “We had limbs down all over the place,” recalls Missy. “We even had a limb that blocked the front doorway.” The couple enlisted the help of Vincennes, Ind.-based Landscapes by Dallas Foster to redesign the landscaping. The result was more trees and serpentine borders of perennial beds edging the front circle driveway and the back terraced decks.[pagebreak]
The modern landscaping accents the farmhouse style inside the house. “I call it tradition with a twist,” Missy says. “I find eclectic rooms much more interesting.” Case in point: The master bedroom includes a table and desk from Missy’s parents’ home, a sleigh bed purchased at Lea Matthews, a Victorian marble-top table won at a Curran Miller auction, a 1920s armoire purchased at a Sohn and Associates auction, and an armoire from a local department store.
The elegant dining room features formal furnishings and family silver collectibles set against gleaming original oak floors. An elegant crystal and bronze chandelier illuminates the room. “My mother gave me and my sister several pieces of her silver when we both got married,” says Missy. “Each piece has special meaning to me because I grew up with it in Ohio.”
In the kitchen, antique cabinetry showcases Missy’s collection of blue and white pottery — a favorite color combination found throughout the property in toile fabrics and outdoor furnishings. “My mom collected blue and white pottery,” says Missy, “and I got hooked on it, too. I always liked it, so I started buying it at antique stores.”
Missy also has a penchant for rich colors. She incorporates vibrant hues of red, yellow, and green with the blue and white color palette. “I like the way the bright red and yellow pop against the blues and greens,” she says. “It livens everything up, and I think it gives all our antiques a more contemporary feel.”
One showcase of the family’s antiques is the living room, which features a chalk portrait of Missy at age 18. The artist, Avis Andrews, also drew a portrait of the three O’Daniel children: Peter, an Indiana University student; Margot, soon to be a freshman at SMU; and Molly, who attends Memorial High School. Oil paintings from local auctions also grace the walls, and an antique Persian Sarouk rug — passed down through generations of Missy’s family — covers the floor. The family and guests sit on three reupholstered antique sofas, and the red-checked “hired man’s bed,” which the O’Daniels use as an extra bench, is one of Missy’s favorite pieces given to her by her grandmother. The origins of the walnut bench date to the early or mid-19th century, when it would have been used as a day bed, child’s bed, or a resting spot for the “hired men” working around the house.
The layout harkens back to Missy’s description of “farmhouse mishmash,” which might aptly be defined as “the things the O’Daniels love.” Mike admits with a laugh, “There’s really no rhyme or reason to our decorating style.”
“We just have to like it,” adds Missy, “and then it all seems to fit right in.”