Best of Design 2022: Outdoor Space


Michael and Kim Pezzone had a vision. Inspired by their travels, as well as Michael’s Italian heritage, the couple — both doctors — dreamed of bringing the vineyards of Italy to their backyard in Upper St. Clair.

The Pezzones, who have also spent time in California’s Napa and Sonoma areas, love to cook for their four sons, extended family and friends — and they even make their own wine.

“It’s become a hobby that we really enjoy,” Kim says. “We were hoping to capture that and translate it into space.”

Pezzone Web 36To accomplish this, the couple enlisted Pittsburgh-based interior designer Lauren Levant to transform their backyard into a modern Italian vineyard that’s as impressive and luxurious as it is functional and practical.

“I wanted to create a space that gave others a glimpse of everything the family loves,” says Levant. “Making pizza, making wine, cooking and eating together and just having fun.”

Pezzone Web 1One of the centerpieces of the space is the entryway, which features an impressive doorway and pathway lined with tall arborvitae and fig trees, as well as planters filled with lavender and fresh Italian herbs used for her favorite recipes. Kim.

It was just one of the features that impressed this year’s Best of Design judges, who named it the best outdoor space for 2022.

“When you walk around the corner, wow,” says Judge Crystal DeCastro Knapik, senior project designer at Cleveland-based architecture firm Vocon. “I like the layers they have in the landscape.”

Pezzone Web 12Although 6 inches deep, the entryway’s porcelain-clad concrete walls look very thin. Levant says their zero-edge design used beveled edges and Porcelanosa tiles to create their modern, organic aesthetic.

The path flows seamlessly to the outdoor kitchen, Mike’s favorite part of the new design. Overlooking the pool is a spacious island with seating featuring Dekton by Cosentino countertops, a stain-resistant, low-maintenance material that has a smooth stone look. There is also a built-in grill, sink and pizza oven in custom steel cabinetry. Levant calls the space a low-maintenance, yet striking blend of function and form.

Pezzone Web 18“The service counter is a fun and beautiful place,” she says. “There is enough space to store their pool equipment as well as groceries.”

Pezzone Web 36A 22-foot-long sliding glass door separates the outdoor kitchen from its indoor counterpart, a clever design move that allows the two spaces to flow.

“If I’m in our kitchen and my husband is working outside in the pizza oven, we can communicate,” Kim says. “The whole design gives us connectivity.”

The patio’s grid-like design, constructed with ground porcelain and black pea stone pavers, adds to the beauty. Depending on the time of day, the trellises cast intentional shadows there.

“When you look across the trellis, it’s visually stunning,” Kim says.

In a nod to Italian vineyards, Levant also designed a series of custom aluminum trellises (some hung with exterior chandeliers) for family winemaking that encompass the dining room. As the vines in the arbor mature, they grow through the trellises, creating an intimate dining space under the lighting.

“It’s a design that’s meant to grow with the family and get better and better over time,” says Levant.

Interior designer: Lauren Levant Interior
General contractor: TK Construction
Cabinets: Lauren Levant Custom Cabinets
Counters: Cosentino Group
Rectified Porcelain Paver: Landmark
Porcelain stoneware covering: Porcelanosa
Outdoor devices: Alfresco
Appliance Distributor: Voss Appliance.