Chris Harrison and Lauren Zima Blend California Components with Texas Roots in Barton Creek Home
With the help of Kelle Contine Interior Design, the couple personalized their space with a wine bar, custom cabinetry and local artwork
By Liz Harroun
Portrait by Laura Morsman
Interior photos by Paul Bardagjy
When Lauren Zima and Chris Harrison, two prominent figures in the entertainment industry, decided to move out of California last year, they wanted to make sure they chose a new city where neither of them had lived before, so it felt like a fresh start. A place where they could put down roots together. Chris is from Dallas, and his kids are attending TCU, so his Texan blood runs deep. He’d already fallen in love with Austin while visiting over the years. Lauren, on the other hand, came to Austin for the first time with Chris as they were exploring potential destinations to call home, and immediately understood the lure. Austin encapsulated their fun yet ambitious spirits, and they decided it would be their new home base.
Now that they had chosen their dream city, it was time to start dreaming up their Austin home. Their vision for the house, much like that for their relationship, was to meld their lives and unique styles together. Also important to the couple was having a beautiful space to start their new, combined life. The 5,200-square-foot house they selected was completed by Heyl Homes in September 2021, in Austin’s coveted Barton Creek neighborhood. And they brought in Kelle Contine Interior Design (KCID) to consummate their new home with impressive interior design.
“The initial starting point for this project was learning about them as a couple,’’ says Kelle Contine, founder and principal designer of KCID. “Understanding how they live and what brings them joy was a big part of the process.”
“Working with KCID was not only stress-free, but also truly a joy,” says Lauren. “Chris and I look back on the design process with such fond memories thanks to Kelle Contine and her incredible team. We loved every brainstorming call and delighted over what they’d bring to show us. They understood our aesthetic and goals and were constantly surprising us in the best ways with their choices, and knew what we were looking for even when we had trouble describing it ourselves. KCID perfectly walked the line of bringing us options without overwhelming us.”
As their first shared home together, Lauren and Chris wanted a space that reflected both of their interests and personalities. Entertaining was a priority, so that was a primary focus of the project. The KCID team wanted to ensure the home felt cozy and intimate when the couple was home alone but also open and equipped enough to host large parties.
“We really focused on how to elevate entertaining potential and provide different spaces and functions that could cater to all different types of groups and formalities,” says Erin Judge, lead designer and studio director at KCID.
KCID is a full-service firm and is typically brought into the initial plan and development stage before the foundation is even poured. So this project was unique in that Heyl had already selected some of the flooring, plumbing, lighting and countertops, and those items were already ordered and being installed when Erin and Kelle were brought in during construction.
“Even though we entered this project more along in the process than usual, there was still a lot of open room to add special touches.” Erin says. The neutral palette and open layout of the house provided a blank canvas. For example, they were able to add in a teal wine bar (made by a local ceramicist) where there was an open niche — perfect for entertaining as it provides an easy, accessible spot for guests.
They also added a candy bar in the media room, where there was a big open wall. It came to life via custom cabinetry made by a local millworker, using the same teal paint tone as the tile in the wine bar. They incorporated some accent lighting, creating a space to display photos and awards from the couple’s careers.
“The media room with the candy bar conveys how fun and playful the couple really is,” says Kelle. Including family heirlooms and photos was also important to the homeowners. KCID incorporated hints and pockets of their memorabilia throughout the home, but primarily in the study, which has a more funky layout and design. The couple wanted the study to be a comfortable shared space where both of them could work at the same time. On one side, there is a big art wall, and on the opposite side is open shelving that displays decor and some nostalgic items, including family memorabilia. “We left opportunity and canvas areas to add to as they build their future together,” says Kelle.
The couple wanted aspects of the design to represent a merging of their Texan and Californian roots, which can be seen in pieces like the two side-by-side photos — one of palm trees and the other of a bull rider — by Dallas photographer Steve Wrubel that hang in the den.
They were also adamant about showcasing work from some local companies and designers, in order to represent their new Texas life. There are local vendors and artisans featured throughout, including steelwork done by Rabbet Labs, who KCID worked closely with throughout the process. Rabbet helped create everything in the study, including the shared desk system, the floating nightstands in the bedroom, the dining table, bar top and outdoor grill area. The outside area also features a beautiful pool and putting green (installed by Grass!365) so that Chris can enjoy some golfing in his own backyard.
Along the way when working with KCID, Lauren and Chris realized they have similar taste for decor. When Kelle and team would present what they had chosen for a room, they would almost always have the same reaction.
“Our vision for our home was Texas contemporary; modern and eclectic, but wrapped in that Texas charm that I grew up in,” says Chris. “We wanted to feature local area craftspeople and artists, and wanted a home built for entertaining all the friends we’ve made and continue to make here in Austin. From the inside out, from the custom bar to the candy bar, we got exactly what we were hoping for.”