Jean Jongeward, epitome of Northwest design

Jean Jongeward, the elegant designer whom clients and colleagues called "Seattle's queen of design," built a national reputation for originality, patronage of local artists and decades of influence in Northwest homes and businesses.

Largely self-taught, with a background in accessorizing model rooms for the old Frederick & Nelson store, she worked with top regional architects and helped establish the Northwest style.

That style relies heavily on natural wood and stone, understated colors and unpretentious furnishings spiced with art or crafts that reflect occupants' tastes.

Mrs. Jongeward's portfolio includes the Governor's Mansion in Olympia, and Canlis restaurant and the Sunset Club in Seattle.

Her designs "have been so imitated and are so timeless that they have become the standard for Northwest style," wrote a Seattle Times art critic in 1995.

"Very Jean Jongeward," say those who recognize her style, typified in her view home atop Queen Anne Hill. Geometric-patterned floors, New Zealand masks and pine-cone-filled baskets share space with books arranged by color.

Mrs. Jongeward died Friday (Oct. 6) from the effects of several strokes. She was 83.

Her work has been featured in design books as well as in national design publications such as Architectural Digest.

In 1995 her artist-commissioned sculptures, paintings, furniture and wall and floor treatments starred in a solo retrospective exhibition at the Bellevue Art Museum.

"I like (to cover) floors, walls and furniture in either custom-woven fabric or something that's very honest and direct, like canvas," to amplify clients' tastes and interests, she once said.

She was a voracious reader in the design field and had an an unerring sense of scale and color.

Born in Marshall, Minn., she earned a bachelor's degree in journalism at the University of North Dakota and wrote art and theater reviews for a daily newspaper.

She came to Seattle as an Army wife during World War II and fell in love with "this soft green place, like something in a poem."

Working at Frederick & Nelson's furniture department, she helped people coordinate furniture, carpets and fabrics. She later assisted architect Roland Terry.

Her career rocketed in the 1960s when she opened an office in Pioneer Square. Architects Ralph Anderson, Jim Olson and Gordon Walker had offices upstairs.

In addition to commissioning custom seating and tables, she designed stands and trays to hold collected objects. She designed metal wall moldings and even pillow tassels.

She designed several homes for gallery owner Don Foster.

"It's the most harmonious kind of space," said Foster of one home. (Jean is) never trendy about colors, so it's an absolutely timeless atmosphere . . . Her intention was that the inside and outside of the house should flow together" with the same shade of soft taupe.

"She detected subtleties in colors that most of us cannot even discern," said her son, Jeffrey Jongeward of Seattle. "She found inspiration in many contexts - in a painting by a Northwest master as well as in a storm-strewn collage of driftwood and rocks."

No other immediate family survives. Services are at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 23 at University Unitarian Church, 6556 35th Ave. N.E., Seattle.