sneak peek: chris & stephen harris-smith


Chris and Stephen Harris-Smith have lived in this Joseph Eichler-designed home in San Rafael, California for nearly four years. Joseph Eichler built airy and modern homes in Northern California between 1950 and 1974, and his close relationship between the interior and exterior is evident in Chris and Stephen’s home – the front door is a sliding class door that leads into an open atrium. Chris and Stephen have continued that interior/outdoor play by using river rock as the flooring throughout the home. They’ve done an amazing job of updating the home for modern life yet staying true to Eichler’s intentions. (Don’t miss the sneak peek extras on the design*sponge facebook page!) {Thanks Chris & Stephen! Big thanks to Hunter Lewis Wimmer for the fantastic photos!} –Amy A.

Image above: This is the original wood wall in the dining room. The stacked 70’s style wood speakers light up and the credenza is one of many Lane pieces we found and painted gloss white as homage to one of my favorite artists, Louise Nevelson. The images I found at the Alemany Flea Market years ago, they are from a 1958 Container Corporation of America annual report, I framed them in your basic IKEA metal frames. There is just a glimpse of the dining table in the foreground, this was a wood door panel I got along with two smaller panels years ago for $30. Stephen and I made it into a table, painted it our “signature” gloss white, added a glass top and metal legs I found online.


Image above: This is the door to the pantry in the kitchen, one of my favorite things in the house as it lights up when the door is opened like in a refrigerator. The word snippets are flash cards to learn English that make me laugh as I don’t know how often someone needs to use “The prune is in the cup”! We tore up the existing floors when we moved in and did the whole house in white river rock. We ordered the river rock online and it was delivered to our front driveway. Stephen schlepped all 2 1/2 tons of it from the front yard to the backyard using a hand truck and took progress photos as the boxes disappeared as the floor was installed. The wall color here is Benjamin Moore Blue Stream and the door is Pumpkin Spice.

CLICK HERE for more of Chris & Steve’s Eichler home!


Image above: A view of the living room. We lucked out big time, the modular wall unit came with the house (along with two original George Nelson lamps that were gritty but cleaned up nicely in the shower). There are a few representations of some of our other favorites, Alexander Girard, Joan Miro, Georges Braque, and a book of Margaret Kilgallen.


Image above: The dining room door that leads to the kitchen and laundry room is covered in paint-by-number postcards from the Alameda Flea Market (same vendor where I got the flash cards in the kitchen). On the floor, an unsigned Evelyn Ackerman rug (I actually have another in the living room and use them on my floors, blasphemy I am sure to serious collectors as yes, they get used and walked on. Oh and a third is on the wall of the guest room that gasp(!) the cats clawed up as kittens! Houses should be lived in methinks!).


Image above: We wall papered two select walls in the house, using the ever-popular birch tree print in the family room and Fornasetti sun faces in the master bedroom. I took the leftovers and lots of samples I sent in for and patchwork wall papered all five sets of sliding closet doors in the house (a typical Eichler design only our closet doors are not original). I love mix and match and the play of colors and patterns.


Image above: Here’s the wall in the master bedroom with the Fornasetti wall paper. Two more Lane units that hold Stephen’s clothes, a mariachi’s guitar, a gnarly wood lamp I found for $15 (we have A LOT of stuff in our house but none of it is expensive nor precious), a double-entendre sign that reads “Naked Options” (and makes me laugh) and the California King bed with the Orla Kiely comforter cover that we currently aren’t using because Stephen and I have a hard time sharing bedding at night (well, to tell the truth, I am a quilt-hog!). More of the river rock floors which work excellently with the in-floor radiant heating system in Eichlers.


Image above: Ah, the kitchen had been remodeled not so nicely in our estimation and we replaced heavy and dark black appliances with stainless and re-faced all cupboards and drawers with a mix of 11 different Formica colors/patterns that i chose and mapped out (we did the same in the two bathrooms too). The guy who installed asked if he could take a photo to show his wife because he had tried to describe it to her as most clients don’t go for this kind of a look! It completely changed the vibe of the kitchen without the major cost of a major re-do.


Image above: A wall in the laundry room. The over sized print on vellum I found in an antique store in Ohio years ago when I was out opening a store. Carried it home with me on the airplane (have transported many a find from the road on airplanes in my day!). The plethora of windows common to an Eichler means Hunter shot all of this naturally with no added lights other than the camera’s flash. The photo in the black frame leaning against the wall is Stephen’s. The wall is Benjamin Moore Pumpkin Spice.


Image above: Here’s looking from the family room back to the kitchen with a peek of the Alexander Girard La Fonda de Sol sun face rug squares available from FLOR. The globe ceiling lights are original to the house, two of these are from the garage that Stephen relocated. The black chairs are from IKEA, I assembled them myself on the driveway one weekend when Stephen was away.


Image above: The family room opposite wall with a photo montage by Stephen, Fornasetti plates, a Lane mirror that came with one of the credenzas, another panel like what is the dining room table, and a day bed couch with tons of pillows which has always been something I’ve done. The orange door with the cat door leads to Stephen’s office which is actually half our garage and had been added on by the previous owners. We currently have 3 cats and 1 dog, hence the need for a cat door. The wall color is Benjamin Moore Wasabi.


Image above: The dining room looking out onto the backyard through a wall of glass. The speaker lights are on and the chandelier is another flea market find, a European 45 arm Sputnik-like thing that a very dear friend re-wired for us years ago. The lamps are all mix and match and with 45 of them, no single lamp is more than 15 watts. The chairs were from a Salvation Army set that came with a table (all for $39) and I tossed the table, kept the chairs and recovered the seats.


Image above: My office that opens on to the entry atrium. A hot pink Plexi office chair (cool looking but not too comfy) with an Orla Kiely pillow when she did her line for Target. The desk is Chinese rococo and I love the pink poodle oil painting on the wall above the cork board of postcards. A Paul Klee poster (we have a few), a Man Ray plate and a postcard of my idol, Buster Keaton, in an ornate small frame.


Image above: The entry atrium with a gnarled teak bench and potted succulents that thrive in the hot dry Marin summers. We replanted some in here as there were lots of waxy leafed plants that make me think of an old folks home that we removed and added ferns, baby tears and more jade plants. Our cats (Mandu, Ballou and Sophia) are indoors only (coyotes in the neighborhood) so this is one of their favorite hang out places. The house sits on a large lot with lots of vegetation and no irrigation system built-in so our 1st year here, Stephen installed a drip system.

  1. chris harris-smith says:

    Patti, stratastones.net is where we got the river rocks for the floor. Leslie, the Lane pieces are probably from the 50″s or earlier, I have seen them from time to time from ebay sellers, search mid century modern credenza or Lane credenza.

  2. Norine says:

    I am a huge Eichler fan! Great job on yours!

  3. WoW. Not only is your home filled with love but it is so ALIVE and such a terrific reflection of your personalities, I imagine. Love your aesthetic and although the colors aren’t in my “repetoire”~ they are gorgeous here!

  4. Lisa says:

    The floors look like it is all little bumps – so my question is do chairs/furniture need to be leveled out with shims or are they so close together that it isn’t a problem?

  5. the floors are amazing! love the photo montage..

  6. issy says:

    great house tour. just the right amount of whimsy, color, and fun.

  7. katie says:

    Could you tell me more about where you got those throw pillows on the sofa?

  8. Summer says:

    So witty, so wonderful…. what an incredible house. I just love it!

  9. Eva Lindeman says:

    cool. very very cool.

  10. Gayle Cole says:

    This is the first time I’ve ever “commented” on something, but had to. I love Design Sponge and love this place. If you ever get to Sebastopol, Ca. in the summer visit us @ Cole Blueberry Farm, we have so much in common in our design sensibilities! Also love Cat Mandu and Cat Ballou. We have a Cat Stevens here on the farm! Thanks for sharing your place!

  11. chris harris-smith says:

    Me again, to answer more queries. No shimming needed on the rock floors, everything is level. Pillows on the couch are a bit IKEA, a bit Ebay, a bit Urban Outfitters, a bit thrift shop and a bit vintage fabric scraps.. And Gayle, we’d love to come see Cole Blueberry Farm and so glad you got the Cat references! I love Cat Stevens!

  12. Luce says:

    I LOVE this house! Awesome, awesome share.

  13. Gayle Cole says:

    Wow and a reply comment. Love this. Sorry I am going to be 56 on Sunday and very old school. Are you able to see my e-mail or website I just typed in here? If not am I allowed to share within this space? Come pick blueberries late June through July!

  14. madln easley says:

    Thanks for the best house tour ever!I think you may have started something with those kitchen cabinets. And every cat should have an atrium like yours!

  15. Amy says:

    Absolutely love the uniqueness of this home. No asking for permission, just doing what feels good. So eclectic and REAL. :)

  16. Nowvintage says:

    I love everything about your house! I wish I could figure out how to create the kind of layering that you have done. I have a lot of eclectic things, but how to get them all in here..that is my problem. This is one of my favorite sneak peeks. Sneak peeks are one of my favorite features, design sponge my favorite blog..so you are very high on my favorite list!! :)

  17. rebecca says:

    i agree. the floors are great! i’d love to use that idea in our bathrooms. any chance you can share more info on the grouting and how the floor ended up with a white cast to it? i love seeing the stone’s colors through that overall white haze.

    hopefully, chris, you’re still checking this for comments/questions.

  18. chris harris-smith says:

    Rebecca, probably waaaay too late but the rocks on the floor are white river rocks and we grouted in white. At almost 4 years, not quite as white but still just fine. Finish with a water proof sealer if you use in the bathroom, we did the white river rock through out all rooms in the house including the bath and so far so good but if your are at all worried about using white, the rocks also come in other colors too, go to stratstone.net.

  19. jamie says:

    LOVE the colors & whimsy of this house!! especially that back/courtyard – AMAZING.

  20. Pam says:

    Love your home and style. I have a question about the photo montage in the family room. Are the pictures in frames or backed with poster board of some kind? Thanks so much for the inspiration! Pam

  21. Patti Green says:

    Chris if you are still even answering any of these comments?? I would love to know if you just used the river rock on the floors in your bathrooms or if you did the showers as well? Any chance to see a pic of the bathrooms??

  22. Kelly says:

    Love your style and use of color. If you can answer, am curious – what did you affix the flashcards to the door with? Have been wanting to do something similar to this with the words of a favorite poem on the door leading out of our house. Want my kids to see the words every day and know how much they are loved.

  23. chris says:

    Late comments, I haven’t checked back in a while so might be too late. Pam, photos in the family room are all linked together with these plastic connectors, no backing. Patti, white river rock is in all rooms including our 2 bathrooms and up the walls partially in the master bath, no showers in the house but people often use the river rock in showers, you just have to reseal it every 6 months or so when used around water. Flashcards on the door are affixed with silver thumb tacks but I have also used earthquake putty to put stuff up as it doesn’t damage walls or your stuff and is re-useable.

  24. dee umpall says:

    Does Chris hire out interior design services? think Jonathan Adler should hire Chris immediately if not sooner.

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