Soleil Design

Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal - May 17, 2008- "Focus on Furniture" By STEPHEN LEON

The hat was the first thing I noticed as I approached the older couple intently studying the oval goatskin dining table with its astounding violet color. It struck me a little odd to see such a conventional man and woman so obviously attracted to my newly introduced, out-of-the-ordinary (but nevertheless, divine) table.

​Wisps of silver hair peeking out from under her hat along with her tailored two-piece suit instinctively made me think "little old lady from Pasadena"; I approached them nonetheless with my usual warm welcome and explained that the table was custom designed and available in other colors, shapes and sizes.

The gentleman nodded in agreement as the lady sweetly, but emphatically replied, "Custom won't be necessary as the table is quite perfect as it is and will work beautifully with my new, powder blue dining chairs for my home in Pasadena." Incredible. She was from Pasadena after all and, though old school in her manner and dress, she instinctively saw the beauty and excitement of pairing powder blue chairs with a violet table. I was enthralled and realized that, as the old saying goes, you can't judge a book by its cover.

Yes, the divine spark of inspiration and creativity flowed through this woman's incandescent spirit and I was once again encouraged to follow my instinct to pair the accepted with the unexpected and to present the traditional with a new viewpoint that would truly bring design to life.

To this day, I keep the thought of powder blue chairs and the violet table tucked away somewhere deep in my psyche and, coupled with my own innate need to create and design, always welcome the challenge to reinterpret a classic or give the familiar a fresh and unexpected twist.

And while there have been a number of designers who have gone on to fame and fortune by reinterpreting classic designs scaled larger for the modern man, I seem to have focused mainly on unusual and imaginative finishes for traditional and contemporary pieces coupled with rather surprising upholstery treatments.

For example, the time-honored bergère, probably the most typical of the Louis XV chairs, is normally seen as a wide, low and deep armchair. It first came on the scene sometime around 1720 and is characterized by solid sides, meaning there is no opening between the arms and the seat, and usually features a loose seat cushion.

When I decided to offer an updated version of the bergère, I chose to maintain the loose seat cushion. But, I also decided to make two distinct changes to its traditional appearance. Rather than a gilt or wood finish (which is still preferred by many traditionalists), I chose a high-gloss black lacquer, and thought the chair would look more "now" with the sides open. I certainly got a jazzier look when those changes were complemented with black kid leather upholstery. It was definitely not your typical Louis chair, but rather a more dynamic one.

Stepping out of the box and going beyond the traditional felt great and the chair was warmly received by those clients who embraced the concept of adding some zest to the tried and true.

In the recent American Society of Interior Designers' Showcase house, talented local designer Laura Fullow created a wonderful, highly creative design scheme for a young lady's bedroom that featured, among a number of exciting and unusual pieces, a traditional chaise lounge (from Andre Originals at the Las Vegas Design Center) finished in black lacquer and upholstered with zebra stripe fabric.

Funnily enough, in designing the master bedroom of the same home, I utilized the identical chaise only with a more time-honored worn-wood finish with a leopard fabric for a quieter and more elegant effect. I truly doubt if anyone ever noticed that the same chaise appeared in two different spaces, separated by only a few hundred feet. It's proof of the profound results that can be achieved by looking at familiar objects in a fresh, new way.

This concept of using atypical finishes for a more dynamic looking traditional piece is now more than just a passing trend in European design, and it's my fervent hope that this creative slant toward the more daring in color and contrasts will soon become less of an oddity here in America. I know that Andre Originals has embraced this trend and its showroom features a number of traditional, classic designs refreshed in super shades of red, pink and lime along with some very exciting fabric choices.

I exhort all design enthusiasts, whether professional or dilettante, to try and think out of the box -- at least some of the time -- for results that will not only put a new spin on the too familiar, but may very well lead to a whole new way of looking at the world.

Stephen Leon is president of Soleil Design International and has been designing and manufacturing custom furniture and cabinetry for more than 25 years. He is on the board of directors of the Central California/Nevada Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers. Questions can be sent to

March 20, 2014 Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal "Make a small space appear bigger" by Stephen Leon 

Not that long ago the consensus among homeowners seemed to be that bigger was certainly better, and, if at all possible, “McMansions” were the only way to go. Now though, in light of the great paradigm shift that has occurred in our economy and in the population’s mindset, many have re-evaluated their priorities and have come to realize that simpler is often better and that smaller isn’t such a bad thing after all. In fact, downsizing has become an attractive alternative. Thumbing through a recent copy of Icon, the official magazine published by the American Society of Interior Designers, I noticed an article that dealt with this topic, “Big Ideas for Small Spaces,” which reiterated the idea that bigger isn’t necessarily better when it comes to good design. The article went on to say that “the increasing popularity of ‘micro apartments’ (generally less than 400 feet) is evidence that good things do indeed come in small packages … with the trend gaining attraction worldwide.”Although most designers probably haven’t had to design for homes as small as 400 feet, they often have to rely on any number of design tricks and solutions that can help create the illusion of less being more. In a small space it’s essential to realize that everything counts. The basics to deal with are color, furniture scale, arrangement and, another key ingredient, lighting.Following are a few secrets of the trade that may help you get out of a “tight spot,” so to speak.To begin with, color is important in any size space, but especially in a small one where I strongly advise you to think in monochromatic terms, which means choosing colors that are in the same family. Try to avoid using dark colors as they generally absorb light and will tend to make a room appear smaller.Neutral light shades and bright colors, on the other hand, tend to work to greatest advantage. Generally whites, pastels, neutral cream colors along with soft tones of blues and greens are just a few of the color choices that can help to open up a small space.When you come right down to it, it’s all about “trompe l’oeil” (fooling the eye) or in other words, illusion. Light and brightly colored walls are naturally more reflective and thus will go a long way in making a space feel more open and airy and will help to maximize the effect created by natural light. Painting your wall trim and moldings a lighter color than your walls so that the walls appear further back, making the space feel bigger is still another aid in helping to create the impression (or illusion) of a bigger reality.Good lighting is another prerequisite in the quest for the appearance of more space. High quality lighting for your home is a great investment toward reaching that goal.The more light in your room the better it is for making it appear more than it really is. Artificial light will work just as well as the real thing and you’ll see for yourself that the more light in a space, the better. I’ve often used spotlights to highlight objects at opposite ends of a room to help create the illusion of distance between two focal points which helps to make a space appear bigger as well.One of the best and least expensive ways to decorate any size room as well as create the illusion of space is to use mirrors, which can actually serve as room expanders when they’re strategically placed to reflect light. Angling a mirror toward a focal point in a room will give the illusion of depth and, whether reflecting artificial or natural light, any room will appear brighter (and bigger) during the day as well as at night. Mirrors have the magical ability to bounce light deep into a space which serves to make it appear larger; and they even work great on cabinet doors to create an expansive and uncluttered look.As to furniture scale and arrangement, try to remember that it’s important to “see the floor.” That is to say, avoid oversized sofas and too much furniture for your room to appear larger than it really is.Negative space can be a wonderful thing. I encourage you to try it sometime. In addition, aim to use multifunction furniture with clean lines, and be sure to scale the furniture to fit the size of your space, placing the larger pieces against the wall to keep a clear pathway in which to walk.Also, consider having at least some of the furniture the same color as the walls as well as placing some of the pieces at an angle, which really works because the longest straight line in a room is its diagonal.What this means is that when the furniture is placed at an angle it tends to lead the eye along the longer distance rather than the shorter wall.Another design trick is to keep the furniture in the same tone color family because broken or contrasting colors that stand out have a tendency to make a space seem even smaller than it really is.Finally, keep in mind that taller furniture may make your ceilings appear lower than they really are and it’s best to choose a sofa and chair with open arms and exposed legs. Also, a glass or acrylic table will help to maintain the feeling of an open and free space as they allow light to filter under the furniture, which will help to make your room feel airier.We’re all starting to embrace the concept that bigger isn’t necessarily better and that small can not only be beautiful but easy and practical as well.But whether big or small, enjoy the “extra space” you create whether real or illusionary.Stephen Leon is a licensed interior designer and president of Soleil Design; he has been designing and manufacturing custom furniture and cabinetry for more than 25 years. He is president of the Central California/Nevada Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers (World Market Center, Suite A3304) and is a certified professional in green residential design. Questions can be sent to


Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal - January 23, 2014 - "There is value in using an interior designer" By STEPHEN LEON 

The American Society of Interior Designers is the oldest and largest professional organization of its kind. As president of the Central California/Nevada Chapter, I naturally have a vested interest in promoting the benefits derived from working with an ASID designer. Along with the many duties of my office, it’s also my own personal goal to educate the public as much as possible about why using a professional designer makes such good, practical economic and aesthetic sense. Whether you’re someone who hasn’t a clue of where or how to begin to design your home, or whether you’ve got some kind of a plan but need a little help tying all the pieces of the puzzle together, or you just don’t have the time to do it all yourself, ASID designers hold the key to helping your vision come to life. There are so many misconceptions about what an interior designer does and how their expertise can benefit you, but designers truly do serve a purpose for everyone and this is what they can do for you: n Money. While it’s true that there’s a fee involved when hiring a designer, doing so can often help you avoid costly mistakes while increasing the value of your home. Toss out the notion that designers are only for the rich and famous. In the long run, a well-chosen designer can and will actually save you money. Interior design is a skill and an art that will only serve to enhance your home and the quality of your life in that space. n Professional experience. A designer will help you with a budget and help to spend your money more efficiently. Doing things in the right order for your design plan is often key to a successful outcome. Designers are schooled to know scale, proportion, color, size and texture, and are an extra set of eyes trained to see things that you may not. A designer can tell you if something is wrong or right with your home from the get-go. Designers have the ability to make an immediate decision, which is the result of many years of experience. In a word, a designer will consider factors for maximizing your home’s potential that you probably never even thought about. n Solutions. Each project, whether large or small, comes with its challenges such as a lack of storage, poor traffic flow, color scheme, unusual window sizes or a need to maximize light and space. There are countless facets of a project to work out, many of which designers have no doubt encountered and dealt with many times before. It’s the designer’s job to see to it that every aspect of a project is completed to the client’s satisfaction. Most people underestimate how much time is actually involved when deciding upon a design vision, taking precise measurements, determining how to “work” the space, selecting and shopping for materials, coordinating with vendors and general contractors, and finally putting it all together. n Budget. Staying on a budget will always save time and effort. Designers know the best and most trusted resources so that you won’t have to spend precious time researching brands and prices on your own. They’ll do that work for you and help allocate your money by setting priorities so that you spend some money now and maybe save future phases of your design project for later. A designer will know more or less what products or materials actually cost and so can help you to work out a clear item-by-item breakdown of projected expenses before any work begins. n Connections. The designer will help to make that strong connection between you and your architect and contractor, plumbers and electricians from the conception of your project, helping to avoid design mistakes in your overall plan. Also, since they work with them on a regular basis, they’ve got more leverage to get things repaired or replaced when necessary and to ensure that prices match the quality. Things like lighting and furniture needs should really be addressed before construction even begins. Everyone needs to be on the same page and the designer is usually the one who makes that happen. n Resources. Often, things that are available to designers are not available to the general public. Trade-only resources are often deeply discounted from retail costs. Finding unusual fabrics, furniture and accessories are what helps to make your house a home. I’d like to share with you the following comments of a professional designer when asked to share how she sees her role in the design process: “A good designer is like a best new friend. They will be both sympathetic to your vision and empathetic to bringing out all of the finest qualities of the property. Their experience of having designed many more homes than you are likely to inhabit in a whole lifetime ensures that you will not be making expensive mistakes and will not feel the potential impact and stress of the project — as they take the strain. They will challenge your habitual way of thinking about space, texture and color and will inspire your own thinking to create beautiful and life-enhancing design.” NOTE: The ASID office is now located on the third floor of Building A (Suite A3304) at the World Market Center Las Vegas and is open to the public Monday, Wednesday and Friday each week from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Call 916-200-3976 for further information. Stephen Leon is a licensed interior designer and president of Soleil Design; he has been designing and manufacturing custom furniture and cabinetry for more than 25 years. He is president of the Central California/Nevada Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers and is a certified professional in green residential design.