Rebuilding a House in Mill Valley

Photos by Liz Daly.

TWELVE YEARS AGO, Krista Harris and her husband David closed on their first home together, a tiny two-bedroom, two-bath bungalow in the flats of Mill Valley. Shortly after settling in, she gave birth to their first child. In the ensuing years, they were blessed with two additional children. Unfortunately, they were not blessed with additional bedrooms.

“We had all three girls sharing one room,” Krista says. “It was really tight.” The couple discussed relocating or expanding, but the timing never made sense. “We wanted to save enough money to do it right,” says Krista, who as a professional interior designer had very specific ideas about what it would take to create her dream home. Ultimately, it took until the girls were 12, 9 and 6 to pull the trigger.

And by the time they felt ready, the couple realized the best approach was to start from scratch. This meant razing the old house and coming up with a brand-new design. For the latter they tapped architect Ann Bool.

With permit in hand, the family packed up their belongings and moved out, into even tighter quarters. “We went from 1,300 square feet to 800 square feet,” Krista says. “You could barely fit three beds in our daughters’ room.”

In the rebuilt house, the girls would finally each get a bedroom of their own. “It was also important to us to have all of our bedrooms be upstairs,” Krista says. Another wish list item: blurred lines between indoor and outdoor spaces, which they achieved with a bifold wall across the entire family room and a passthrough window that connects the back wall of the kitchen to the adjacent bluestone patio. An outdoor counter makes it easy to pass food and drinks from inside into the yard.

The couple blew most of their budget on quality finishes, including high-end kitchen cabinets, premium appliances, designer plumbing fixtures and marble countertops. They also sprang for a fabricated-steel fireplace surround and stair railing. “I love all the steel,” Krista says. “Looking at it makes me happy.” As does her new yard, which is still a work in progress; they plan to extend the patio and add an outdoor kitchen and built-in sectional sofa.

For furniture, the couple reused most of their pieces, but did invest in a four-poster bed for their oldest daughter and a coffee table for the family room. “And my husband insisted on buying a 75-inch TV for the family room,” Krista says.

Stressful as rebuilding was, they couldn’t be happier with the results. “I never want to go away anymore,” she says with a smile. “I just love soaking it all in.”


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This article originally appeared in Marin Magazine’s print edition with the headline: “Clean Slate”.