Beyond the casinos and the bright lights of the strip, designer Stephen Leon knows that the real Sin City aesthetic is more about projecting a modern vibe than being garish and over-the-top.
Thanks for joining us, Stephen. Tell us a little bit about how you got your start in interior design?
A few years ago I was honored to be chosen by the ASID as Keynote Speaker for the annual Student Career Forum held for the past 40+ years in San Francisco. Naturally, I wanted the audience to know how I began my career and I think I surprised them by showing a video of my first chosen career – the theatre! Even though I had always been interested in design even as a child, I never thought I would be doing it as a professional designer. I went to Los Angeles and in seeking part-time work I found myself working in a high -end Italian showroom – and that was when I literally found myself as well and I’ve been at it ever since. I segued into opening one of the first custom furniture and design showrooms and worked with many celebrity clients until moving to Las Vegas in early 1994.
You live and work in Las Vegas. What are some Sin City themes you carry into your design. Is there a prevalent nautical influence in area designs? Which elements do you use?
Yes, I live and work in Las Vegas – and have loved it from the start. Personally, I don’t think there are any Sin City themes because the modern Vegas is not at all like the stereotype that people have associated with it in the past such as garish, over-the-top looks. Most clients that I’ve encountered here in Las Vegas have been quite sophisticated and well-travelled. And , of course, everyone is now so much better informed about design through the internet and all those TV shows p- even though they may have little to do with the reality of good design work. The only nautical influence that I’ve really encountered is in the community in which I reside which is referred to as “The Lakes” and has countless streets with nautical names. For example, I live on “Mast Drive!”
All spaces are unique, but in Vegas you must find that there are design features every client wants. Which are most popular? Any type of furniture or finishing you find dependable in pleasing your client?
You can count on most clients having stone or wood floors with area rugs. Many now favor dark, wenge wood in their kitchens and steel appliances, of course. When I was coming up and for a long time, clients loved beautifully lacquered pieces, but the trend through the years has been away from lacquer to wood – much more practical. Still, when I can, I specify a piece here and there in lacquer, steel or stone or a combination of those finishes. Interesting, I began my career with many geometric shapes, simple lines but well executed and finished, and now these shapes are once again all the rage. Everything old is new again!
What are you first priorities when meeting a new client in a new space? How much are you matching their needs to your design experiences and current forms of inspiration?
No doubt my first priority is to discover whether we’re going to be compatible working together. Do we click? Will we like each other and will we have a good time while engaging in the design process. Over the years, many clients have become good friends. It’s important to experience trust and truth early on in the interview process and to really feel that I can help a client achieve their goal of a beautiful home. The fact that I’ve always been a custom designer is extremely helpful because there really isn’t a style of design that I haven’t yet worked with. That’s one of the benefits of being around for so long!
Vegas is unique city. Tell us how you use area rugs in your designs.
In a word, I love area rugs! Really I do. In my own home, for example, there are area rugs to be found in the kitchen, breakfast room, family room, living room (zebras), my office (zebra again!) and in the bathrooms as well. Probably my favorite look of all are beautiful wood floors graced by an area rug. They warm a space, anchor it and help to create the mood. I’ve even been known to use an area run on top of carpeting. They work like magic in any type of design, from contemporary, to traditional and eclectic.
Do you have a type of area rugs that you lean on most? Or is it a case-by-case basis?
It’s absolutely a case by case basis. The client’s budget and type of design has a great deal to do with the choices I make.
Is there a price limit on what you’ll spend on the area rug?
No, there’s no price limit. Again, it will depend on what works and what the client is comfortable with. I’m there to help guide them, to help them make good sensible choices, but in the final analysis I have great respect for the fact that it’s the client’s home, the client’s money and they will be living in the space long after I move on to my next assignment. I want them to be happy and to speak well of me always.
Any words of design advice for the wannabe’s out there?!
Yes. It’s a tough business. It’s not glamorous. Yes, it may beat sitting in front of a computer all day long – but there’s a price to pay. A wannabe needs to feel instinctively that there’s nothing else they would want to do – or could do – aside from design. Without that extreme commitment – they migt dabble – but should leave it at that.
Where can readers see your work, or make an appointment for consultation?
My web site is soleildesigninternational.com. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone: (702) 873-5358. I’ve also written for a number of publications on design (of course) and articles can be found on Google – especially the many I’ve written for the Las Vegas Review Journal.
Thanks for your time!