Picking Pieces for Your Home

By Catherine Yang
Catherine Yang
Catherine Yang
July 18, 2013 Updated: July 17, 2013

When one thinks of “home,” a place to unwind comes to mind. A well-designed home can not only help you recharge, but it can shape your perspective by providing a mood personalized completely to you. 

“It changes [your] way of mind about the home, the sense of lifestyle,” says interior designer Matthew Leverone. “We all like to be surrounded by beautiful things—well-designed furniture, beautiful rugs, whatever it may be.”

After completing design projects, “I’ve had clients say ‘I never want to leave my house because it’s so comfortable,’” Leverone said. “They go away on vacation to these beautiful resorts like the Four Seasons and they say, ‘I couldn’t wait to get back home.’”

Balanced Selection

“I feel like when you walk into one of my spaces it needs to be comfortable, inviting,” Leverone said. “Not one particular thing needs to stand out, but the whole thing needs to work together. … There’s a balance of underlying order to everything I do.”

For example, in mixing organic with manufactured, simple with detailed, there’s a layering of materials, but it all needs to balance, Leverone says.

“That juxtaposition of materials, like the shape of a chair, one object against another—how will they interplay with each other? I think that’s really important,” he said.

“I love being really involved in the selection of the furniture because the scale and the shape—making sure that all the items and all the furniture sizes, shapes, and proportions work well together,” Leverone said.

There are many things to consider in selecting pieces for a balanced design, but in choosing something that works well for the home, the look can be timeless.

A Classic Look

Leverone, who grew up surrounded by iconic pieces in a house his father designed, is familiar with what creates a classic look. 

“There are the iconic pieces out there that are classic; you see so much of 20th-Century modern, which is so popular right now, but so many of those things are never going to go out of style. … I grew up with them and then they came back, and it’s still good design.”

For Leverone, classic pieces aren’t just the ones that keep coming back, but the ones that will last forever. 

“I think that something that’s really true to itself and has the element of simplicity to it is [timeless],” Leverone said.

For example, he recently purchased for a client a coffee table of glass and nickel, and it was made so “true to the materials” that the piece itself wouldn’t be lent to trends, or go out of style.

“It’s poured glass-top and it sits on this amazing satin nickel base. What’s so interesting about it is that the base of it is a brush-finish satin, but the edges of it are polished,” Leverone said. “It’s just so beautiful, and you have the honesty of using these very raw materials.”

“This table is going to be a classic forever,” Leverone said. “It’s like an art piece. It’s quite a bit of money, but you’re never going to get tired of it, and it’s not something that’ll go out of style.”


Sourcing these unique pieces isn’t easy if you don’t know where to start, and even then it can become a time-consuming search. On top of many wholesalers being open only to the trade, working with a designer with detailed information of various vendors gives you a curated set of unique things to consider.

Similarly, when it comes to working on a ground up project, Leverone says he feels it’s important for him to collaborate well with other experts, rather than decide all the elements. For example, interior designers will have a good sense of what art to incorporate and the best way to do so, but an art consultant will have the best knowledge and access to galleries you might be interested in. 

“The best projects include a team,” Leverone says. “It really needs an architect, a landscape architect, a lighting designer. I think that’s so important to have a team, from the beginning.”

Custom, Retail

When people think of custom pieces, cost usually comes to mind. But that’s not always the case; sometimes getting a custom-designed piece to ensure a perfect fit can actually help you save.

“That’s why a lot of times we do a lot of custom pieces, because we want to make sure it fits properly,” Leverone said. “Whether the space is large or small, it’s really important to me. And then secondly comes the layering of the colors, the textures, and having that juxtaposed where you have the smooth against the textured, how those elements are always playing with each other, how they’re wrapped in each other.”

“We will use the correct vendor that we have to help us develop the design elements that we want in the house, that fit appropriately, and still get across the overall design aesthetic that we’re trying to achieve,” Leverone said. 

And in the case that retail is less expensive and the client is cost conscious, or has budgeted less to furnish a guest house, retail is also an option. 

“We do projects where we’re doing retail, too,” Leverone said. “I’m not the type of designer who says I’m not going to do that. I think in today’s market they’re so prevalent. Crate and Barrel, Design Within Reach—clients are aware of them. You can’t just say ‘I only want to do custom.’”

California Style

“Classic to me is timeless, it’s not lending itself to trends that are out there, whether it’s the color of the year or the hot designer everyone’s promoting,” Leverone said. “I think architectural detail has a very important part in a room or home or house being classic design that is not going to date itself.”

“I get cues from the exterior of the house, what the house looks like, and I like to pull that into the interior, I think that’s really important,” Leverone said. “It’s not just about pulling in a lot of color and decorating, but it’s really being sensitive to the surroundings and the environment, architecture, and it should be all looked at and evaluated.”

For example, for a home in Hawaii by the water, Leverone worked to keep in matching blue tones and sand colors in the interior. 

“We’re working on a home the complete opposite of that [now], kind of a more Tuscan style in Atherton. The interiors tend to be leaning more on a cleaner, modern side, but we’re still bringing in the stone, some plaster colors from the outside to the inside,” Leverone said. “With California, there’s a lot of indoor/outdoor living or lifestyle. I think that’s really important, because most of the time the doors are open.”

San Francisco is so diverse,” Leverone said. “Everything from the people to the weather is so great, and you’ve got this urban atmosphere, but then you go half an hour and you’re in the wine country.”

The light in the Bay Area is also unique, so the style of San Francisco interiors is a bit different from other cities with different lighting.

“It’s more of a whiter, cleaner palette,” Leverone said. “I think here it’s more about casual lifestyle, texture, easygoing, comfortable, fabrics, the use of a lot of linens.”