SB Architects

Scott Lee is the president and principle of SB Architects, an international firm well known for the design of site-sensitive resort and mixed-use projects around the world. We were first sparked by Lee's work on Calistoga Ranch, located in a secluded upper napa valley canyon on 157 lush, oak-lined acres. The natural spa has been a Coyuchi favorite for years, carrying an assortment of our organic bath towels. Diving further into Lee's robust portfolio, a newsworthy favorite is Lee's own home, the first certified LEED platinum home in Marin County and one of only a handful in Northern California (to view this property click here.)
Q: How would you describe your signature style?

A: Our (SB Architects) signature quality is that we do not have a signature style. Our design solutions derive from the intersection between the site – its natural characteristics, history and culture – and the client’s program and dreams for the project. This is where our design process begins. Since each design process is an authentic response to the site, each design solution is unique.

Q: When first visiting a future site, what metaphysical origins do you take into consideration?

A: Our first source of inspiration is, always, the site. By this I mean not only topography and natural resources, but also the culture and community of which it is an integral part.

Q: What role does environmental and social sustainability play in your work?

A: They are inextricably entwined. As designers, we recognize that the site is our project’s most important amenity, and the core of its identity, and that it is our role to advocate for the environmentally responsible design. We strive for three attributes in every project we design – that it be beautiful, sustainable and livable, expressing and supporting the lifestyle and ideals of our increasingly environmentally aware clients and end-users.


Q: What proportions do you find hard to balance when designing for resort & hospitality?  

A: As an architect I am concerned about classical relationships of order and symmetry and balance. I want to be sympathetic to those classical values, yet not replicate structures from the last century.

Q: Do you see trends in hospitality design?

A: Sustainability…authentic design…relaxed luxury…the use of technology to make service effortless and sustainable maintenance a given.


Q: Trends in residential design: Favorites? Least favorites?

A: Sustainability…an emphasis on local craftsmanship…playful yet sophisticated and unexpected children’s spaces…small is the new big.


Q: The future of sustainable architecture: What does design look like and what types of construction methods will emerge?

A: The best buildings have always shown a concern for their immediate environment and how they fit within it, whether they were conscious of “sustainability” or not. Now, all architects and buildings are expected to be engaged with sustainable standards. I think the future of sustainable architecture is that these standards will become a given, rather than something that designers advocate to their clients. 


Q: What are three key questions future property owners should ask- oneself or an architect- before purchasing land?

A: There are a multitude of nuts and bolts questions about zoning, access, utilities, land quality, water issues, lot boundaries and restrictions, when considering purchasing land and building your own home, but here are a few more esoteric questions:

  • Can I build here? (Take this with a grain of salt – I was told the lot for my home was unbuildable, which I took as a challenge, and built an award-winning, LEED Platinum home!)
  • Am I passionate about the site? Does the type of home the topography calls for fit my lifestyle? Does the community fit my lifestyle?
  • Can I envision a design that both fits my needs and respects the land and community?


Q: What do you want to be remembered for?

A: As I get older, I am more and more intrigued with the idea of old meets new in architecture, the merging of classical ideas and traditional cultural influences with a modern aesthetic sensibility. This transitional approach to architecture allows the freedom to respond to what is most important in the site and history of a place, and create something new that exists only in that specific place. What I like is the deviation from the norm – the opportunity to take familiar building types and re-think the way we design them, or use them.  Architecture is a three-dimensional interpretation of a lifestyle, both an envelope for – and an expression of – the way we choose to experience the world.

Q: Who inspires you?

A: I’m inspired by Mimi Morton Buckley – an architect and founder of the Greenwood School in Mill Valley. I am reading her book, and just recently heard her speak. I’m inspired by her sense of education, home, family, and by her beliefs about living consciously on the planet.

See more of Calistoga Ranch here.

Visit SB Architects' website here.