Interiorssneak peeks

sneak peek: steve soria

by Amy Azzarito

Steve Soria is a leather craftsman in Santa Barbara, California. He grew up working on DIY projects with his parents in this home. It was a fixer-upper that they purchased from Steve’s grandparents in the early 70s. His parents later bought a ranch house in the nearby Santa Ynez Valley, and Steve inherited this little craftsman gem just about three years ago. He has since been putting his own stamp on the place. Inspired by his love for the Southwest and as an homage to the previous generations of his family who lived there, Steve wanted his home to be a mix of Southwestern desert motifs and California craftsman. Thanks, Steve & Hairy! And special thanks to Nancy Neil for the lovely photos (whose own home remains one of my favorites!) — Amy Azzarito

Image above: This is the living room where I spend most of my time when I’m at home. The beautiful 1940s Victorian three-piece couch is super comfortable and really sets the tone for the room. It fits a lot of people on it, which is nice because I often have friends and family over for potluck-style dinners and wine parties. I picked up the mid-century France & Sons Danish coffee table from Jesse Keenan’s furniture section at Cominichi’s, and it seems to do well on the hardwood floors, and its size fits the long couch really well. During the day, this room has excellent lighting that pours through the craftsman-style windows above the couch, which is good for those little plants in the leather hangers. And at night, the sunburst wrought-iron wall lamp lights up the room with a nice orange glow. (Also pictured: vintage Pendleton woven throw blanket; Make Smith plant and candle hangers; needlepoint decorative couch pillows)

Image above: This is my bedroom, which, as you can see, I share with my dog, a poodle-terrier mix (Hairy). I like to keep my room pretty clean and simple, as it helps me to relax at night and feel clear-headed when I wake. I placed my favorite work of art on the wall next to my bed for inspiration. It’s from a series by Zack Paul called “drifters.” I was commissioned to make a leather pillow for a friend, which inspired a complete set of leather pillows that I made for Christmas presents. I also made one for myself and threw it on my bed. A leather craftsman’s bed has to have a leather pillow on it, right?! (Also pictured: Mexican folk art throw rugs and wall-hanging tapestry; Make Smith moccasins)

See more of Steve’s Santa Barbara home after the jump . . .

Image above: Tongan hand-painted tapa cloth (hanging in the white frame on the wall), Make Smith moccasins and, on the chair, a plaid Horner-Wool & Mills blanket.

Image above: One-horned cow scull, decorative plates from Mexican and Japanese designers, various fire-making items, handmade leather tobacco box (made by my father), various Hopi and Pueblo pottery from Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.

Image above: I found this cow skull on the side of the road while on a road trip to the Coachella Valley somewhere just outside of Palm Springs. We never made it to Coachella but somehow we found our way to the ACE hotel (insert smiley face). We ended up strapping the cow skull to the front of the 9-person RV the we rented, which made us look a bit suspicious. The first night we decided to crash in the RV after enjoying various hotel events and visiting with the local fellow tourists, which left us exposed to the wildlife of the desert. I was woken up in the middle of the night by the RV rocking back and forth. I first checked to make sure everyone was sleeping and then I heard some growling outside the RV. Wearing only my underwear, I jumped out the front door and sprung into action with a plastic butter knife. I saw a huge coyote taking off with the right horn of the cow skull RV decoration. When I came home, I mounted the cow skull over the fireplace.

Image above: The dining room table was the first piece of furniture that I bought. I found it while searching Craigslist one morning. I always had this late-sixties minimalism meets western-craftsman idea in my head. Which means lots of wood, really well crafted and simple in design and focus on form. When I saw the table, I just knew I needed to use it as the centerpiece, or at least a starting place. The tabletop is a laminate picture of wood, and the chairs are made of real wood and well crafted with nice brass details. So, it has a high-and-low craft feel to it. It’s fun but well made. I like that, the same way I like fake wood-panel wall covering.

Image above: The leather plant and candle holders — I’ve made a few of these in the past in my father’s leather crafting studio, although the design has changed over the years quite a bit. I grew up making gifts for friends and family members during the holidays and for birthdays. In our family, one of the ways that we say “I love you” is by making something for your loved one by hand. I recently resurrected these plant/candle holders for Make Smith.

Image above: The Catholic Cabinet — I was raised by my slightly hippy leather-crafting parents who made their own clothes and their living by sewing — so very open minded and liberal. But when it came to religion, it was Catholic, and my grandmother wouldn’t have it any other way. She was a Native American lady with a huge heart and an iron fist. I always loved the Catholic iconography in her house and have adopted a lot of it my own home. I like to keep her tradition and ritual alive and found it fun to make small vignettes of things she would build into her cactus and rose gardens.

Image above: This second bedroom is rented out to a friend. (Pictured: Refurbished military cabinetry repurposed as a dresser; yellow Harry Bertoia chair; old black and white biking prints)

Image above: When I was designing my home office, I was working on helping my friend, Chris, to fabricate the wall shields for a local motel, the Hamlet Inn in Solvang, which is a Danish-inspired motel. I was installing grommets into the corners of each shield/poster when I realized that the printers made us one extra. So I mounted it on the wall and waited for Chris to notice that I integrated it into the design of my office!  He was slightly confused and mostly just excited about how well it worked in my house. (Pictured: Make Smith market tote; 1960s industrial shop desk; wall poster from Hamlet Motel in Solvang, CA)

Image above: Hairy chillaxing in the dining room looking cute and being awesome in front of the built-in bench/storage area. I threw a hand-knitted runner on top of the built-in bench with a few handmade pillows made by friends.

Image above: Front of the house — giant bird of paradise are taking over my yard!

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  • I can’t see the text against the grey background – is it possible to fix this please? I’m dying to find out more about this amazing looking house! Thanks very much.

    • frances

      please switch to the most current version of your browser- that is an update problem. the site views fine in the most current versions of explorer, firefox and chrome.


  • Lovely house and I LOVE Hairy! I think there’s definitely a bit of wheaten terrier in there, maybe a bit of mustard dandie dinmont…..

  • The house has such personality and flair! I love that wall light over the couch and even the cute lined-paper note! It all just sort of smacks of creativity and self expression! Thanks for sharing!

  • I love this home!! I have a thing for more warm/masculine spaces. The repurposed military cabinet as dresser – hearts! And good grief that sofa is brilliant. XO!

  • What a cozy home! It has all the right elements too: succulents, a round dining table and that most awesome couch (is it velvet?). Also love the bedrooms.

  • Love the place. Love the unusual pieces and vignettes. Very personal without too much of the trendy formula that we see all the time. Also where did is that cool shirt from?? I would love to treat my husband to one of those.

  • This is such a cute house! It seems so much larger on the inside. I’m also glad to see I’m not the only one who stacks their shoes! Love the military cabinet redo.

  • I really like the rug that looks like a Navajo “Yei” rug by your bed. I think it is unusual to see one that is just black and white; no colors. Very cool!!

  • thank you so much for showing us inside this house. it’s not just a house, it’s an adventure, it’s a dream. i am so amazed by how alive this space can be.

  • Thanks everyone for the feedback! I’ll try to answer any questions as best as I can…

    @Bérangère Bouffard – I love the shirt as well. I scored it in a trade with a local clothing designer: Lori Stern. You can find her on Facebook under LOLO.
    @Eva – yes, the couch is velvet (but its super dense). I have a feeling its been re-upholstered.
    @Lil – I’m not sure but let me look into it.

  • I love the orange and the decor, though it seems that DS features quite a few homes with all or mostly white walls. Any chance we’ll get to see some more variety in that department soon? :)

  • This might be my favorite house ever posted! Such smart and innovative style. And not too “design-y”. Just the right amount of comfort.

  • Hi Steve! I bow to a master: Your home is a genuinely warm place, obviously a whole lot of pure, old fashioned love has been put into it. The result tells us a lot about its creator without being the least ostentatious. No fads. A rare feat!

  • Love the couch, love the house… especially love, love that the coyote was huge in your story!

  • dear steve. your house is lovely. i think i love you. marry me? i’ll bake a different pie for you every day.

  • Hi Liz – We are seeing a lot of white lately either this is a trend or artists just prefer living with white walls – the jury is still out on that one. We do our best to present diverse homes, but are just getting a lot of white
    . If you have something you’d like to share, feel free to to send it to me at amya at design sponge dot com
    Thanks! Amy

  • This is one of my top favorite homes you have shown! The furniture is wonderful..I just want to come sit in there..wonder if there are any more couches like that in the world?
    But everything here is wonderfully done.. the parts are great but the sum is absolutely fabulous!!!

  • I did not know how much I was going to like this house. I too favor a clean, simple, organized look and this house is just right!

  • This house is everything. Everything! Love love love the hanging plants over the couch. I especially appreciate the nod to his heritage and family history. Just so original- one of my favorites.

  • This is the first Sneak Peek I’ve REALLY liked in a few months. It’s original, not too messy or Planned in appearance, yet all the elements come together really well. LOVE the leather plant hanger…wish I could afford one!

  • Gorgeous home!! I love anything ranch style with lots of wood, and this has it and more!

  • Big fan of what you have here! Love the rusticity with modern touches. I just want to know where Steve found the plaid/denim shirt that he wears here in his photos….is that weird to ask!?

  • a true home. it reminds me of some people we used to visit during my childhood. and they had a huge influence on me.

  • @roxanne – what’s your favorite pie to bake?
    @sara – Im still not married yet ;)
    @Mandy – – That’s not weird to ask, but… I scored it in a trade with a local clothing designer: Lori Stern. You can find her on Facebook under LOLO.

  • Steve, would you mind sharing what the green paint color was that you used, for your second bedroom’s military cabinet and night stand?

  • Dear God and dear Steve, where to find a sofa like this? I live in Sweden but if you could give me a hint or some search criteria I will dedicate my life to find a couch like this.

  • I am in love. Not even kidding. I want that lounge set and dining area! Oh wow! This is seriously love at first site! Very well done.

  • Of all of the “sneak peaks” ever posted on design*sponge this is my all-time favorite! I am always coming back to look at your home for inspiration. Love love love it!!!! You also seem super cool! :)

  • I am utterly in love with the sunburst and looking to create a vintage 70’s style for my home. Any ideas on where I could purchase one? I love your style :)