Design Spotlight: Clean Slate

By Jennifer Massoni Pardini

In preparing to become empty nesters, Peninsula homeowners designed a new nest.

The entry makes an initial statement in light and dark contrasting hues that are carried throughout the home; the Jiun Ho table is surrounded by custom ottomans by Leverone Design and topped with a white glazed ceramic vase from Morocco — all illuminated by a Lindsey Adelman fixture. | Photo courtesy of José Manuel Alorda

Leverone Design’s recent project in Atherton makes a soothing first impression in black, white and other neutrals, artfully carried through a five-bedroom home and pool house. On second glance, diverse textures, grounding furnishings and the retained architectural finishes also reveal degrees of dimension. The clients, whose four children were gradually leaving for college and launching independent lives, purchased this home with an impending empty nest in mind, intending to design for a simpler stage of life while still accommodating frequent family gatherings and visitors.

A Julie Mehretu painting enlivens the living room, which is furnished with seating by Caraggio. | Photo courtesy of José Manuel Alorda

“When we came in, the walls were plaster persimmon and very ornate, not this client’s aesthetic at all,” says Matthew Leverone, who asked of himself and his team, “How do we put a clean modern aesthetic with this very traditional house?” The answer included keeping the traditional detailing, painting the architectural millwork white and darkening the floors, which were originally redder in color, as were the banister and stair treads, where a simple braided sisal runner was added. And much to many a sentimental spirit’s chagrin — and admiration — “there were only one or two items that she had that she wanted to keep from the previous house,” says Leverone. Aside from a breakfast table and a big collection of books, the slate was otherwise clean when it came to adding furnishings, fixtures and accessories to the 10,000-square-foot space, as well as a 1,000-square-foot pool house with its own bedroom, open kitchen and sitting area.

A Gregorius|Pineo pendant hangs above the clients’ existing table in the breakfast room, where a contrasting palette is achieved with Holly Hunt dining chairs upholstered in Christian Liaigre leather. | Photo courtesy of José Manuel Alorda

Balanced neutrals and graphics, rather than bold color, led the way. “It’s more about linens and textures and then the actual pieces of furniture,” Leverone says. “They all had to have some kind of strong shape to hold their own against the architectural elements of the house.” In kind, a sculptural Jiun Ho table anchors the entry leading upstairs. In the living room, which is Leverone’s favorite finished space, custom block tables by LDI Custom Design are surrounded by skirted linen marceau sofas and barrel lounge chairs, both by Caraggio, and composite stone Gregorius|Pineo lamps. Steel and glass wall sconces by John Pomp Studios provide a note of contrast against the same square millwork that ascends the staircase.

Meanwhile, in the vaulted-ceiling family room, a largescale abstract painting by Julie Mehretu works as a rare and electrifying use of color. Tall draperies and a large circular light fixture also soften the height of the room.

How are the homeowners enjoying the nest now? “The clients were very happy with the transformation,” says Leverone, whose San Francisco–based firm is also working on two vacation projects for the clients to accommodate family winters in Montana and summers in Idaho. “It’s a large house that has become a very livable home.”

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