The Best Residential Architects in Sonoma, Santa Rosa, and Napa

Northern California’s wine country is notorious for its world-class wineries, top restaurants, and beautiful landscapes. And tucked among these highlights are amazing homes designed by some of the best architects in the country. There is a casual elegance to the homes in this area. Their architecture takes direct cues from the beautiful landscape and relaxed style of living of Napa and Sonoma.

These architects design wine country homes to reflect the expansive views of rolling hills, valleys, and sprawling vineyards. Many have a feeling of a retreat, inviting their owners to slow down and admire the bountiful lands before them. It is not uncommon to see homes made of natural materials, making them look as though they have always belonged there. And these architects are masters at site planning and positioning a home to take advantage of the views.

We looked at hundreds of architects to pick the best residential wine country architects. Some of these firms may be located in San Francisco, Sonoma, Napa, and across the Peninsula — but the exceptional work they do in Napa and Sonoma makes them dream choices for new home designs and the renovation of the area’s historic homes into elevated, 21st-century estates.


10) BAR Architects

Website | (415) 293-5700 | Featured Principal: Jeff Goodwin

The award-winning design firm BAR Architects has a long portfolio of elite homes throughout Northern California. The practice has designed some of the most beautiful homes and wineries throughout Wine Country. With over 40 years of experience contributing to the built environment, the practice has been recognized with over 180 regional, national, and international awards and honors, including the AIA California Council Firm of the Year award in 2000.

BAR Architects was over 40 years ago by Bob Arrigoni, Bruce Ross and Howard Backen. They have since earned a national reputation for excellence in design. They excel at a wide range of projects, from custom homes and multi-family buildings to retail, commercial, academic, and entertainment projects.

BAR Architects is one of a small number of architecture firms certified as a San Francisco Bay Area Green Business. And the firm proudly participates in the Public Architecture 1% pro-bono program, meaning they donate their time to nonprofit organizations. BAR Architects has purposefully staffed their studio with individuals from diverse backgrounds to create an innovative and collaborative environment.

AIA member Jeff Goodwin, who became one of BAR Architects’ Principals in 2007, has over 25 years of experience specializing in the planning and design of custom homes. Goodwin is also an expert at designing wineries in Napa and Sonoma, giving him a deeper understanding of the local aesthetic and unique qualities. Paramount to his design approach is a sensitivity to context. He stresses the integration of spaces, materials, and finishes with the site and landscape elements to form a unified, seamless design statement.

Wine Country Residential Architecture

Featured Projects

BAR Architects designed a stunning home high on the side of Soda Canyon. The client’s  vision was to construct a home in which it was hard to tell where the house stops and the landscape begins. On one of the last available ridge top sites in Napa Valley, the 13,000 square foot main home offers sweeping views of the Bay and Valley. The site includes a guest house that incorporates the use of wood trellises, stone elements, and colored stucco that reflect the colors of the surrounding hills. A covered loggia connects the main home’s bedroom suites, decks, and a courtyard. Highlights are the rich white Alhambra limestone flooring in the entrance and a dramatic wrap-around stone-paved terrace. A door from the home’s game room opens to a spiral staircase leading down to a stunning wine cave. Made of a series of rooms, the wine cave leads outside through a portal to a landscaped seating area with unparalleled views.

And in Healdsburg, they designed a contemporary custom home on one of 45 exclusive private home lots that are a part of a new five-star luxury resort owned and operated by Montage Resorts. On an oak studded rolling hillside above the Russian River and Alexander Valley, the home is designed to capitalize on views of hills, vineyards, and valleys. This home was inspired by the simple rural barn vernacular of Sonoma County. It is composed of simple abstracted barn shapes positioned to preserve the large oak trees on the site, create spaces for outdoor living, and orient the house’s wings towards specific viewpoints. Large corner openings are carved out to break up the simple masses. Interior spaces flow into the outside with oversized windows and large sliding glass doors that open onto decks. The home’s material palette – grey wood siding, dark window frames, and simple dorms – were selected to minimize the home’s visual impact and help it blend into the surrounding oak woodlands.


9) Aidlin Darling Design

Website | (707) 539-4228 | Featured Principal: Joshua Aidlin and David Darling

San Francisco-based Aidlin Darling Design has over 200 regional, national, and international awards, including a James Beard. Their portfolio includes everything from custom homes, to the area’s best restaurants, and large public and commercial projects. Their residential designs in particular stand out and have received significant recognition. Their designs are as artistic as they are practical, and also have a heavy dose of sustainability.

Principals Joshua Aidlin and David Darling founded Aidlin Darling Design in 1998. The firm designs a wide range of buildings, including institutional, academic, commercial and residential. They also produce furniture, design landscapes, and do interior design work. The firm offers a collaborative and unconventional design approach and creates truly unique spaces. The firm’s philosophy is to “bridge the demands of artistic endeavor, environmental responsibility, functional pragmatics, and financial considerations.” Their approach has turned their studio into a sort of creative hub for their large network of designers, engineers, builders, artists, and chefs.

The firm has won more than 100 regional, national, and international awards, including the 2013 National Design Award from the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt Nation Design Museum for their body of work, 2 AIA COTE Top Ten Awards for sustainable design, and 4 American Architecture Awards from the Chicago Athenaeum.

Before founding his own firm, David Darling was the Vice President at BraytonHughes Design Studios and a project architect at Stanley Saitowitz | Natoma Architects. Darling and Aidlin both earned their degrees at the University of Cincinnati.

Wine Country Residential Architecture

Featured Projects

Aidlin Darling Design designed a residence for carefully sited on the edge of a sixty-acre Sonoma Vineyard. The monastic stone structure establishes a temporal frame of reference for mapping its physical environment. The building and landscape elements were selected to enable harmonic coexistence between the day-to-day vineyard operations and home life. Its design poetically layers a complex program including agricultural operations, utility infrastructure, auxiliary structures, sculpture, orchards, gardens, follies, and domestic life. The home is organized around a long reflecting pool, which enhanced the relationship of the indoor and outdoor spaces. Natural materials were selected to capture a serene spirit and help the home feel at peace with its natural surroundings.

And among the rolling Sonoma Hills, the firm designed a residence at Bloomfield Farms. Located just below a high ridge, the layout and positioning of this home offers panoramic views of neighboring farms. Incised into the earth, the home is composed of glass and board-formed concrete. Aidlin Darling Design incorporated many green design techniques, including passive heating and cooling, wind and solar power, and green roofs. These aspects reflect the farm’s commitment to sustainable agricultural practices. Inspired by Isamu Noguchi’s early bas-reliefs, the architecture and land become indivisible elements of the design.

Additionally, their Sonoma Spa Retreat, which extended the living space of an existing rammed-earth house by adding an intimate new spa and pool, received an Honorable Mention in the 2014 Residential Architect Design Awards and was featured in Custom Home.


8) KUTH | RANIERI Architects

Website | (415) 544-9880 | Featured Principals: Byron Kuth & Elizabeth Ranieri

KUTH | RANIERI Architects have earned a national reputation for building innovative homes that integrate contemporary design principals. Based in San Francisco, Kuth Ranieri Architects work throughout the city, Peninsula, and wine country. Founding principals Byron Kuth and Elizabeth Ranieri have both been recognized as Fellows by the American Institute of Architects. They are at the forefront of sustainable practices and green design and have received many awards from the AIA.

Byron Kuth, Managing Principal, and Elizabeth Ranieri, Design Principal, founded KUTH | RANIERI Architects in 1990. They are leaders in the field of green design and sustainable building practices. Both are LEED AP certified and in 2003 launched the Deep Green Design Alliance, a multidisciplinary architecture and urban design think tank focused on sustainable strategies. As a firm, they are committed to research and development on new materials, water conservation and treatment, and ways to handle and adapt to rising sea levels. Kuth received the 2004 AIA ExRes award for a sustainable artists’ retreat and a 2005 AIA Best of Bay award in Urban Design for an environmentally friendly design proposal for Martyrs’ Square in Beirut, Lebanon. His work was also featured in the 2004 AIA traveling exhibit on the future of sustainable architecture.

Kuth and Ranieri have taught at the California College of the Arts, the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and as Friedman Professors for the Masters of Architecture program at the College of Environmental Design at the University of California, Berkeley. Ranieri is currently an Industry Partner for a Masters of Mechanical Engineering Capstone Project at UC Berkeley’s Fung Institute for Engineering Leadership. And she recently served as a Presidential Nominee (2012-2016) on the MIT Corporation Visiting Committee for the Department of Architecture. Kuth and Ranieri earned degrees in Architecture and Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design.

Wine Country Residential Architecture

Featured Projects

KUTH | RANIERI Architects re-designed a unique Hillsborough home. Originally designed by Jim Nagle of Nagle Hartray Architects in 1980, the house was conceived in the Chicago modernist tradition. KUTH | RANIERI Architects’ goal was to rescript key tenants of the modernist orthodoxy and introduce elements specific to the setting. Their design brings the outdoor zones into better relation with the home, including with new window and wall systems that blur the indoors with the outdoors.

In Napa Valley, the firm converted an existing stone structure into a private residence and to be used as offices and gallery for LEF Foundation. This project, in collaboration with Jim Jennings Architecture, won an AIA San Francisco Best of the Bay: Honor Award. Originally built in the 1880s, the stone enclosure offered a context that was pure and iconic in its space and monolithic in its construction. The firm maintained its purity and openness and created a series of autonomous systems that float freely, resisting and preserving the perimeter walls. The plan included the addition of a concrete tower at the west corner, that holds a salon and library. The result is a one-of-a-kind, open and airy home.

And KUTH | RANIERI Architects designed a vacation home for a family of five in Calistoga. Situated in the hills of Napa Valley above the Silverado Trail, the house commands sweeping vistas and was created for an open connection between the interior and landscape with a courtyard scheme. It was designed to preserve energy and respond to Napa’s unique and dramatic change in temperature. The result is a home that creates an environment both contiguous with its landscape and cave-like in its retreat.


7) Field Architecture

Website | (650) 462-9554 | Featured Principals: Stan & Jess Field

Founded and led by Stan Field and his son Jess Field, Field Architecture is dedicated to deepening the connection between people and the places they love. Their beautiful homes can be found throughout California’s wine country and as far as Argentina and South Africa. Their work has earned at least 10 awards from the AIA and its chapters, and they are the winner of multiple Progressive Architecture Awards. Stan Field has been recognized with several prestigious honors and his work has been published extensively.

Stan and Jess Field bring a wide range of experiences. Both born in South Africa, they now work together in Palo Alto. They place a heavy emphasis on sustainable design and their buildings respond directly to specific landscapes, working together with the natural climate, topography, flora, and fauna.

Stan Field received his Bachelor of Architecture at the University of Cape Town and his Masters in Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania, where he was taught by Louis Kahn. He has practiced in three countries, including as the Chief Architect to the City of Jerusalem. In 1990, he was appointed as a visiting professor at the University of California at Berkeley and relocated to Palo Alto. His experience includes everything from large-scale planning projects to wineries and religious institutions. He has lectured at many universities and was selected as the 24th Sophia Gray Laureate. He is a member of RIBA, SAIA, and the International Association of AIA.

Jess Field was introduced to architecture at a young age in Johannesburg, South Africa. He later received his Masters of Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley, where he graduated with honors and won the Eisner Prize for the highest creative achievement. Prior to founding Field Architecture, he worked as a project designer in San Diego with Teddy Cruz and later with Tom Wiscombe in Los Angeles and Vienna. He has lectured at Berkeley, University of San Francisco, and the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. He has won numerous Progressive Architecture awards. Jess Field is an AIA member and is LEED AP qualified.

Wine Country Residential Architecture

Featured Projects

Field Architecture designed a Yountville residence to accommodate three generations, with an emphasis on coming together over food, wine, and outdoor living. Located amongst continuous vineyards on the broad floodplain of the Napa River, their design celebrates the history of the land and responds to its context as a reimagined agrarian compound. The project was conceived as a family of smaller buildings, the kitchen, dining, and living spaces come together around a shaded patio, pool, and gardens. The structures feature low-sloped gable roofs, reflecting the gentle slope of the nearby foothills. Window walls slide open on either side of the house, drawing the indoors and outdoors together. The home’s design incorporates passive cooling techniques and captures tons of natural light.

And Field Architecture recently finished ‘Sentinel Ridge’ home in Howell Mountain, which has received broad acclaim and was featured in LUXE. Set on a dramatic mountain site high above the Napa Valley on protected land, the father and son pair approached this project in a way that would create a spatial dialogue with the landscape and made the home a vehicle through which the land’s nuance and character could be revealed. Using building modeling, they produced a straight-to-fabrication design, thereby reducing extensive site impact. The understated home is a string of three simple rectangular form, composed of wood, metal, glass, and plaster. It displays contemporary and agrarian aesthetics and blends together the vineyard terrain to one side with the forested land to the other.

The pair has also built homes in San Mateo County – where their Hillside House won an AIA California Council Merit Award, Monterey County, and Santa Clara County.


6) Signum Architecture

Website | (707) 963-8831 | Featured Principals: Jarrod Denton & Juancarlos Fernandez

Signum Architecture, located in the heart of wine country in St. Helena, are staples in the region’s design scene. Run by partners Jarrod Denton and Juancarlos Fernandez, the firm has been hired to design homes across Napa and Sonoma counties in a wide range of styles, showing their expertise to blend their talents to different aesthetic tastes, client needs, and site concerns.

Signum Architecture partners Jarrod Denton and Juancarlos Fernandez met early in their long architectural careers and formed their practice together in 2011 in St. Helena. This full-service firm focuses on winery, residential, and custom commercial projects. Although they work on major projects – the firm remains small and intimate. Their designs feel natural and reflective of the region’s sounds, smells, tastes, and sites. The firm is also deeply dedicated to responsible design, making each project as sustainable as possible given a client’s needs and interests. Specifically, Denton is a pioneering expert in the use of German Passive House technology in the United States.

“Our mission is to engage the power of architecture to stir emotion and invoke reflection while setting the stage for inspired living.” – Signum Architecture

Jarrod Denton, AIA, drives proactive environmental stewardship at Signum. He views architecture in terms of long-term community building, linking his designs to context and culture. His architecture is forward thinking and informed by his joy in travel and appreciation for diversity and commonality in how people and architecture interact across cultural divides.

Juancarlos Fernandez, IAAIA, grew up in Guadalajara and earned his architectural professional degree and licensure in Mexico. Prior to moving to California, he worked and traveled in Japan, New York, and Europe – experiences that greatly influenced his architectural vocabulary.

Wine Country Residential Architecture

Featured Projects

In Calistoga, Fernandez designed a contemporary farmhouse for a professional chef and cookbook author. The center of the home revolves around the kitchen, designed specifically for the owner, and is built for everything from professional cooking to entertaining family and friends. The kitchen spills out into an adjacent outdoor kitchen, terrace, and vegetable garden. The home’s interior is clean and simple, giving it a comfortable, fresh, and airy atmosphere. And the same artisanal concrete work that tops the kitchen island, surrounds the fireplace in the living room and forms the walls and walkways that define the exterior landscape. A covered front porch leads to the main entrance, where your eyes are drawn through a wall of windows at the back of the house, looking over a gorgeous water feature towards the perfectly framed Bennett Valley. A separate pool house contains a kitchenette, bed, and bath – a private retreat for guests.

And in Sonoma, Denton, while at Lail Design Group, designed a family home that evokes the indoor/outdoor comfort of Northern Italy with its entry courtyard, arching shapes, stone, and ironwork. And the home’s color palette embodies the rural elegance of the Sonoma setting. With many sheltered areas for year-round outdoor living, the home takes advantage of expansive views of a nature preserve. The home’s material palette was crafted specifically for a natural feel – from its exterior stone vestibule to the reclaimed, hand distressed wooden beams over the main living space, and the kitchen’s beautifully crafted wood and steel chandelier. It has a mix of intimate nooks and grand spaces. The home integrated many energy efficient elements, including passive design.


5) Nick Noyes Architecture

Website | (415) 512-9234 | Featured Principal: Nick Noyes

The impressive residential designs of Nick Noyes Architecture have earned the firm a prominent place in the architectural community of the Bay Region. Their projects have been published nationally and internationally and have earned the firm numerous awards.

Founded in 1992, Nick Noyes Architecture operates out of a converted warehouse in the Dogpatch/Potrero district of San Francisco. They concentrate on new residential construction and residential renovations. Their work is consistently rich in formal clarity and expressive of the material nature of construction. They place a strong emphasis on designs that respond to site and context and include environmentally sensitive and sustainable methods of construction and design.

Nick Noyes’s extensive travel and residence abroad equipped him with the skills to creatively design for a diverse clientele and geographically varied set of commissions. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley and a Masters of Architecture from Yale University. A member of the AIA, Noyes is licensed to practice in California and Delaware. Along with his practice, Noyes has also taught architecture at the University of California, Berkeley and most recently as an Adjunct Professor at the California College of the Arts.

Wine Country Residential Architecture

Featured Projects

On a 10-acre vineyard and scrub oak site, Nick Noyes Architecture designed the ‘Glen Ellen Residence’ in Sonoma, a single-family home that was recognized with an AIA East Bay Award. Noyes was challenged to creatively integrate the foundations and roof of a small existing home into a new structure. Composed of three iconic metal-roofed gabled wings that are connected by an open, cedar-lined arcade and a steel and cedar trellis – the house and a new pool and landscape design. An outdoor courtyard, with four high canopied trees to provide shade, invites its owners to embrace the gorgeous climate and landscape.

And on Fitch Mountain, the firm designed the Healdsburg Residence with expansive views of the Alexander Valley. This single-family estate is composed of four iconic metal-roofed gabled wings that are connected by an open breezeway and transparent entry and passage zones fabricated from a steel window and door system. To showcase the stunning views offered by the site, the home has a large central courtyard that leads down to a peaceful hillside pool. Composed of a mostly white and natural wood material and color palette, this home feels breezy, intimate, and perfectly suited to its remote location.

Nick Noyes Architecture also undertook a complete renovation/addition to a turn of the century farmhouse in Calistoga. This project involved the complicated job of designing how to keep the existing living level and adding a new first and third floor. The end result features a new wrap-around porch that maintains stylistic references to the original structure but with a new clarity of plan. Noyes integrated an unexpected combination of re-used and new materials, that work together spectacularly to animate the unique property.


4) Bulter Armsden

Website | (415) 674-5554 | Featured Principal: Lewis Butler

Butler Armsden Architects was founded in 1985 by the firm’s principals, husband and wife team Lewis Butler and Catherine Armsden. The pair’s innovative designs can be seen throughout the Bay Area and into wine country. The firm, which has worked with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, has a diverse portfolio of award-winning residences.

Butler Armsden specializes in new builds and renovations in the Bay Area. They are well-known within the region’s architecture scene for their commitment to helping client’s through every stage of home design and construction. Lewis Butler is the president of Butler Armsden and is an AIA member. He works directly with clients, city officials and, importantly, neighbors of the project to ensure each project’s designs will be approved. Butler earned his Bachelors of Science in Civil Engineering from Stanford University and a Masters of Architecture at Harvard University.

Wine Country Residential Architecture

Featured Projects

Butler designed an AIA award-winning residence in Sonoma’s Valley of the Moon, located between the historic Sonoma Plaza to the southeast and Jack London’s former estate to the west. The home reinterprets the wonderful spaces of the original Spanish haciendas of Mission-Era California using a truly modern vocabulary and adopts the courtyard model that was adopted in the early architecture of the region. The home was designed with the environment in mind – earning LEED Silver designation.

In the heart of Sonoma’s wine country, the firm designed a timeless country house, guest quarters, and barn complex for a couple embarking on a second career as owners of a working vineyard. The complex’s design echoes the aesthetics of the vineyards that surround the home and the area’s working agricultural structures. The 3,500 square foot main residence is made primarily of indigenous wood and stone that give the home a look of natural belonging.

They also did a renovation of a neoclassical home in Atherton and an extensive remodel and re-built of a residence that was originally built in 1930 and had been added to haphazardly over time.


3) Nielsen Schuh Architects

Website | (707) 996-2746 | Featured Principals: Amy Nielsen & Richard Schuh

Sonoma-based Nielsen Schuh Architects are modern architects that are known for their innovative, site sensitive, sustainable, commercial and residential designs across the San Francisco Bay Area. They are particularly known for creating gorgeous homes in wine country that are uniquely personalized to each client and landscape. The pair has received numerous accolades for their work – including AIA awards – and their projects can be found in several publications, such as in Custom Home Magazine.

Nielsen Schuh Architects is run by founders and principals Amy Nielsen and Richard Schuh. Although they are well known for their residential designs, the firm also excels at winery design in Napa and Sonoma. The pair takes a unique approach to design that compliments each site. They pursue ideas expressive of structure and refined use of materials, with dynamic flowing spaces that become a part of the setting. With a modern sensibility, their work also emphasizes a richness and depth of character and has a timeless quality. When designing any project, their priorities include site sensitivity, meaningful functional relationships, and environmental sustainability.

Wine Country Residential Architecture

Featured Projects

Nielsen Schuh Architects designed Split Rock Springs Ranch, extending from the mountain ridge several hundred feet from the ravine floor. This project won a 2016 Exceptional Residential: Bay Area Regional Design Award from the AIA East Bay. The home tucks into the slope of the knoll, offering views across the valley to the coastal range and of the surrounding olive orchards and native oaks, madrones, and firs. It is composed of two offset pavilions – the main house with the master bedroom, and a guest room combined with an outdoor kitchen. The entry to the home leads to the main outdoor space – a pool terrace. The home includes an off-grid solar photovoltaic system, inconspicuously located below the house on the site.

The firm also designed Alexander Valley Ranch – a peaceful estate on largely unobstructed native California terrain. The goal was to create an intimate home that complemented its setting while providing space and privacy for a large, extended family. The result is a series of buildings organized as discrete spaces, linked together by a concrete loggia. The loggia connects the main house, remote bedrooms, and several outdoor terraces. Materials were chosen to complement the land: board-formed concrete portal walls, oxidized steel, and fir planking were left to naturally age. Terrace areas are captured by rubble stone walls. The stonework serves as a transition between built elements and natural setting, linking the building to the curve of the natural contours. This project was the cover story of both San Francisco Chronicle Magazine and Custom Home Magazine. It was a featured project in West Coast Modern and received an AIA East Bay Exceptional Residential: Design Award.


2) Turnbull Griffin Haesloop Architects

Website | (415) 441-2300 | Featured Principals: Mary Griffin, Eric Haesloop & Stefan Hastrup

Turnbull Griffin Haesloop is a long-standing San Francisco-based architectural practice that has been widely recognized for their award-winning residential work throughout the Bay Area. They also have extensive experience with wineries, churches, libraries, and independent schools. Run by principals Mary Griffin, FAIA, Eric Haesloop, FAIA, and Stefan Hastrup, AIA, the practice continues to pursue founder William Turnbull’s commitment to producing buildings of enduring architectural value. And Turnbull Griffin Haesloop is renowned for sustainable, site sensitive designs.

Mary Griffin, a native of Atlanta, Georgia, studied at Brown University and earned her Masters of Architecture from MIT, where she studied and worked with Donlyn Lyndon. She worked at Hartman-Cox Architects in DC before moving to San Francisco to marry William Turnbull and join his practice. She continues to pursue Turnbull’s commitment to site sensitive sustainable design. She has served on many juries, including the AIA National Institute Honor Awards for Architecture. Griffin has taught at UC Berkeley and was the Friedman Visiting Professor of Professional Practice in 2008.

Eric Haesloop was raised in Indiana before he graduated from Washington University and received his Masters of Architecture from Yale, where he studied under Charles Moore, James Stirling, and Aldo Rossi. After graduating he worked at the prestigious Cesar Pelli & Associates in New Haven, later joining William Turnbull Associates in 1985. Haesloop has taught architectural design at Yale College, Stanford, and UC Berkeley and was the Friedman Visiting Professor of Professional Practice in 2008.

Stefan Hastrup studied art and architecture at Brown University and at the Institute for Architecture & Urban Studies in New York City. He then earned his Masters of Architecture from the Yale School of Architecture, where he studied under visiting professor William Turnbull. Hastrup joined Beyer Blinder Belle in New York before returning to his native California to work at Robinson Mills + Williams and later Polshek and Partners.

Wine Country Residential Architecture

Featured Projects

Turnbull Griffin Haesloop Architects designed a Sonoma Residence which won an AIA East Bay Merit Award. Located in a meadow dotted with magnificent mature oaks, the site slopes gently down to a spring fed pond. To take advantage of this unusually lush landscape, the firm created a home for outdoor/indoor summer living. Its design frames the verdant oak meadow and pond within the larger landscape. A thin floating roof reaches across the primary outdoor living space to frame the entry and create a dramatic threshold from the car court to the pond beyond. The bedrooms, kitchen and support spaces are housed under a living roof that visually links the house to the surrounding landscape. And impressively, this project was designed to be a net-zero home and to remain comfortable without the use of air conditioning.

And they designed a gorgeous home on a vineyard located above Cloverdale. On a steep south slope overlooking the valley, the property included mature oaks and rock outcroppings. The original home was a 1970’s kit log home that had few connections to the landscape and was not positioned for views. The new home’s design reflected the owner’s commitment to sustainable practices. Turnbull Griffin Haesloop Architects utilized all of the existing site improvements and reused the previous structure’s wood for the new, 2,150 square foot home. It opens onto the land and offers expansive views and south facing exposure.


1) Backen Gillam Kroeger

Website | (707) 967-1920 | Featured Principal: Howard Backen

Considered by many to be the creator of “Napa Valley style,” Howard Backen could be included in nearly any category of best architects for wine region- restaurant design, wineries, residential, or general commercial. His residential projects in California’s wine country have won countless awards. In fact, in a recent list by Architectural Digest highlighting some of the best-designed homes in wine country, four of the 15 homes featured were designed by Backen. Backen has been named to the prestigious AD100 list.

Backen, Gillam & Kroeger focused primarily on residential projects and wineries. The firm is run by James Gillam, Loren Kroeger, and Howard Backen. A signature of Backen’s work is that it fits in easily with the land, both visually and in terms of environmental impact. Trademarks of his work – stone, timber, and concrete – seem to enhance and become one with their surroundings. Rather than focus on one dominant style, the firm’s projects are the result of a careful consideration of site, use, purpose, practicality, and setting.

Prior to founding Backen, Gillam & Kroeger in Napa in 1996, Backen co-founded Backen, Arrigoni & Ross, now the world-class practice BAR Architects. Backen earned his Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Oregon. He moved to San Francisco following graduation and went on to work at the prestigious firm Wurster, Bernardi & Emmons.

Wine Country Residential Architecture

Wine Country Residential Architecture

Featured Projects

For a couple in St. Helena, Backen helped convert their charming temporary residence, a 1890’s farmhouse, into a modern, site-appropriate home. Backen reworked the home to preserve its original character but make it practical for the family. The rear of the farmhouse was rebuilt in the original footprint to provide volume, air, and light. To add space without changing the farmhouse’s modern scale, Backen added a master suite that connects to the main home at the foyer and is separated by a garden path. Inside the home, hundred-year-old wood from a barn in Eureka was used for the floors and finishes and furnishings are modest and casual. Backen placed an emphasis on bringing natural light into the residence and creating an open environment that provided the couple with plenty of opportunities for outdoor living. The home’s porch features the large pocket doors – one of Backen’s signatures.

Backen also designed a gorgeous retreat environment for Fred and Mary Constant’s residence at their Diamond Mountain Vineyard in Calistoga. He was tasked with the goal of creating a simple structure that took advantage of 360-degree views, but still remained authentic and at peace with the viticultural nature of the land. The home is organized for central living and a greater connection to the outdoors.The main living space is composed of a single pavilion with living, dining and kitchen areas flowing together under one roof. Large glass doors from every room open onto covered porches to enjoy the stunning wine country views.

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