Visit Matthew Smith in his 5,000 square foot studio in downtown Raleigh and you’ll witness his unique ability to transform a pile of wood and nails into functional pieces of art.

Since spending his high school summers as a pattern design apprentice at his father’s furniture company, Smith has always loved working with his hands. Even today, despite having the latest design software, he illustrates the old-fashioned way… with a pencil and sketchbook.

This isn’t just a matter of personal preference. Hand-drawn illustrations are the best way (and in many cases, the only way) to capture design elements and finishing touches that have never been dreamt before. Smith truly starts each project with a blank piece of paper, drawing upon client input and his own imagination.

Woodleaf Studios opened in 1987 and has accumulated a portfolio comprised of hundreds of one-of-a-kind pieces of furniture, including elaborate built-ins.

Along the way, Smith’s work has been recognized and featured in Architectural Digest and Southern Living, among other prominent publications. He has also been awarded a National ASID Industry Partners Merit Award.

More recently, Smith has become a pioneer and leading proponent in the emerging field of “Exhibit-Grade” furniture design.


Before commissioning work it’s important to note that not all custom furniture and cabinetry is exhibit-grade. There are a number of characteristics to look for that set exhibit-grade pieces apart from the bulk of custom furniture, including:

Precision: Exhibit-grade pieces and environments are measured at thirty-seconds of an inch, leading to a more seamless, solid appearance. Most custom furniture, on the other hand, is measured at eighths of an inch.

Materials: Exhibit-grade pieces and environments source the best materials from all over the world… many of which aren’t available at local lumberyards.

Vision: Exhibit-grade pieces and environments reference design and architectural influences from other cultures (past and present), turning furniture into unique story pieces.