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An Eco-House with Hotel Style

An architect and a spa expert create a stunning, eco-conscious house with salvaged materials and breezy indoor-outdoor rooms.

Perched on a steep hillside in Mill Valley, California, Scott and Tracy Lee’s home is as comfortable as a five-star hotel, but as eco-conscious as a hippie’s yurt. The pair are a hotel-world power couple; he’s an architect who has designed resorts from Miami to Napa Valley; she masterminds spas for the luxury Auberge Resorts chain. The couple’s first home combines their years of high-end hotel experience with a strong commitment to green living (the house is certified LEED platinum) and the typical California embrace of the outdoors. “We moved a lot of things outdoors, even a bathtub,” says Scott, a partner at SB Architects. “It really helped make the most of our small plot”—and substantially increased their living area. The family room, inspired by the outdoor living room at Calistoga Ranch, is partially open on three sides. Old scaffolding boards behind the couch and grilling area add weathered style. “We didn’t need to stain or even clean them,” Scott says. The room is a great cooking and entertaining space, with a KitchenAid gas grill ($2,800; kitchenaid.com) and a Jenn-Air wine fridge ($1,800), ice maker ($1,750) and refrigerator drawers ($2,350; jennair.com). One of its most striking design elements is the custom light fixture, made with a steel buoy salvaged from Puget Sound; the other half hangs over a deck on the other side of the house.

An Eco Challenge

Green Living: An Eco-House with Hotel Style
Green Living: An Eco-House with Hotel Style
© Matthew Millman

The Lees’ home, built into a hillside, is certified LEED platinum. It is situated to maximize solar power and passive heating and cooling; the lower floors are naturally insulated by the hillside. The vertical design and blending of indoor and outdoor spaces also make the four-story, three-bedroom house appear larger than its 2,100 square feet. Horizontal cedar boards on the exterior, a motif repeated in the family room and kitchen, reinforce the indoor-outdoor connection.

Published August 2012
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