Every once in a while, an extraordinary project comes along that becomes a professional game-changer, launching a designer’s career to a new level. For Matthew Leverone, the tipping point was this Atherton, California, home created for a South African expat family. “This project gave us a chance to push boundaries because the clients were so open and wanted each piece to be special,” Leverone explains. “We were free to select interesting pieces and design custom elements in the house.”
Leverone came aboard as the three-level house, a contemporary beauty by Pacific Peninsula Group clad in split-face Texas limestone, was coming together. Most of the structural details had been locked down, but the designer had the opportunity to offer input on the finishes, such as the flooring’s warm gray color. He also used the client’s vision to create a cantilevered oak-plank bar outside of the wine room and carve out a makeup area off the master bedroom. But it was the furnishings—luxurious yet understated, sculptural yet elegant—where the designer’s formidable talents shone.
Beyond informing Leverone that her husband wasn’t a huge fan of color, and that hues would have to come from the artwork and accessories, his client’s brief was simple. “She said she wanted items that would make her happy and make her smile,” the designer recalls. To that end, he encouraged a trip to New York and planned an itinerary of showroom visits to get a read on her preferences. The resulting scheme relies on neutrals, rich textures and gutsy pieces that both stand up to and soften the sharp lines and solid surfaces of the architecture.
Leverone looked for furniture that had great lines and sensual rounded shapes. He outfitted the living room with a sleek Holly Hunt sofa, a pair of perfectly proportioned cerused-oak armchairs and a quartet of faceted coffee tables in an oak veneer. The Bösendorfer piano—which the client helped select—even exhibits a moment of sleekness not usually associated with the form.
Similarly, a zebrawood top resting on a base of interlocking statuary bronze rings on the dining room table and a cabinet in the master bedroom with a chipped wood front bring pared-down gravitas. “They’re all simple but work well together,” the designer notes. He did allow for moments of levity. In the lower-level playroom, he paired a bench that reads as an attenuated wing chair with wood-frame stools covered in a long-haired blue sheepskin.
Sculptural lighting also has a starring role in this home. Leverone chose a Calder-esque fixture to hover above the dining room table. Composed of a pair of bronze tipped walnut arms projecting from a center rod and with natural linen shades at the opposite ends, it’s simple but packs a visual punch. The same goes for the light in the husband’s office: a Billy Cotton 5 Stick chandelier. Its satin brass finish adds a metallic note that plays off the stone fireplace.
Part of what makes the home such a triumph for Leverone are the many opportunities he had to conceive custom furnishings. In the master bedroom, he upped the sophistication factor on an upholstered headboard by trimming the perimeter in blackened steel. In a first for the designer, he created walnut bedside tables with bronze, etched-glass tops that are equipped with chargers for electronics. He outfitted the adjacent master sitting room, also known as the reading room—a spot the wife requested where she could do just that with her children—with a bespoke, low-slung sofa set on a wood base that extends to form an end table.
The designer relied on luxurious carpets for his biggest textural moves, animating the neutral-hued spaces. In the living room, for example, he installed a Tai Ping wool and silk rug in shades of tonal grays. “The silk gives it a luster, and it’s juxtaposed by the flat textural weave of the border,” the designer observes. In the reading room, he selected a lush silk and mohair number carved with a stripe pattern. For the pool house, he opted for a rug with a weave that mimics the trellis just outside. “We pulled the outside in,” says Leverone, who adds that the connection was particularly critical for his outdoorsy, athletic clients, whose pursuits include spirited games of underwater hockey.
Leverone values the level of faith his clients placed in him. “We’re so appreciative when we get clients who love the process and want to be involved but also let us do our job,” says the designer. “There is mutual respect, and it shows in the outcome.”