Sometimes life presents opportunities too good to be ignored. Such was the case for Henry Weaks Jr. and Laura Weaks, a Seattle-area couple who often vacationed in San Diego. So when an offer to sell Henry’s technology company meant more time to manage a second home, the couple began searching for a place in their dream locale. “We were looking for a comfortable Spanish-style house,” he says, adding, “It took more than a year to find the right one. We’d take a 6 a.m. flight down from Seattle, look at five or 10 properties, and then fly home.”
The search was worth it, though, because once they spotted a historic Rancho Santa Fe abode by the pioneering architect Lilian J. Rice, the couple knew they’d found their spot. “It was like magic,” says Henry. Designed by Rice, who also served as the lead planner for the community in the 1920s and who is considered instrumental in making Spanish-style architecture the style in California, the home had the vernacular exterior that the couple wanted. Inside, however, those classic exteriors were balanced with modern interiors thanks to an earlier renovation that yielded a sleek, updated kitchen and a luxurious main bathroom.
All that was needed was to put the Weaks’ stamp on it. To Laura, that meant California cool, full of texture and subtle hues. “I love walking into a home that feels inviting,” she says. “Not too stuffy.” A bit of research turned up designer Christine Harris, who, simply put, got it. “The only thing that Laura stated was that she wanted it to be unique and well-done,” says Harris. “My take on that was chic but approachable. The clients are not pretentious, and the house needed to reflect that.”
The home became a passion project for Harris. “I furnished it the way I would if this was my dream house,” the designer says. “I knew the vibe I wanted early on, and then the layers started to build from there.” That aesthetic—eclectic and casual with an air of understated elegance—is achieved with a muted color palette, carefully curated furniture and standout art.
In the living room, for example, Harris unexpectedly paired tailored, oversize, modern tub chairs with a sofa draped in a slouchy linen cover. Benches covered in a supple leather add another layer of texture. The tans, blues and creams of the palette play to the abstract diptych by Jackie Leishman that dominates one end of the room. Above the fireplace on the other end, a Sally King Benedict piece with the same color palette leans against a custom mirror.
“It became my mission to curate the art for the house,” says Harris of her thoughtful acquisitions for the couple. Another one of Leishman’s pieces appears in the dining room, where it is offset by curved armchairs, a sculptural chandelier and a collection of vintage accessories.
More than anything, it was important that the house was livable, not just for them but also for their kids and pets. To make a place where everyone can gather, the designer turned her attention to the family room off the kitchen, where a multitude of seating provides plenty of room for entertaining. Removing a wine refrigerator and display shelving in the room, Harris installed a custom banquette for an eating nook that allows for casual meals and football viewing parties.
While Harris and Laura focused on the interiors, Henry directed his attention to the landscaping. After purchasing the house, before the interiors were done, he stayed there for extended periods to develop his knowledge of the property. “I wanted to understand this place,” he says. So, in his unfurnished house—with nothing more than a mattress, a chair and a barstool upon which he could enjoy a glass of wine—Henry immersed himself in conceiving an outside oasis. He worked with landscape architect George Mercer to create a rose garden, pathways, trails, creek beds and bridges throughout the 5-acre property—and, this being California, a vineyard is currently in progress.
While they still live in the Pacific Northwest, the Weaks know that this is meant to be their forever home. “It really is spectacular,” says Henry. “When you come here, you don’t want to leave.”