​​​​​​​2020: ADAC Southeast Architect of the Year
2019: ADAC Southeast Architect of the Year
2017: Phillip Trammell Shutze Awards: Residential Renovation over 5000 sf
Atlanta Design Firm Has Connection to Unique Luxury Designations
Fifth Summerour Architects project achieves Relais & Chateaux recognitions.
Written by Steve Eubanks​​​​​​​
ATLANTA, Ga – Few new properties make the cut. Relais & Chateaux is an elite association of 580 luxury hotels and restaurants around the world, from Argentina to the Adirondacks. Entry into the collection is the hospitality equivalent of being invited to join the Dracula Club in St. Moritz or the Capital Club in Dubai. Nothing in the hospitality space is more exclusive. That’s because members must prove that they offer a one-of-a-kind experience that has no “chain” equivalent. Whether it’s staying in a luxury tent in Sri Lanka or a solar-powered chalet at the base of the Andes, guests understand that the Relais & Chateaux moniker indicates that a property has met some of the most stringent admission standards in the world.  
As such, many of the Relais & Chateaux member properties are historic landmarks repurposed for modern use. The Château de Mirambeau, a French castle built in 1570 that now houses 40 luxury rooms and suites, is one example. The Palazzo Ripetta is another, a 400-year-old structure that was once an orphanage and is now one of Rome’s premier hotels.
Anything cookie-cutter disqualifies you, which makes every property its own experience.
Admission into the Relais & Chateaux family is one of the most coveted invitations in the service industry. It is also why one firm has more Relais & Chateaux properties to its name than any other. That is Summerour Architects, the Atlanta-based design firm with offices in Chattanooga, Tennessee and Florence, Italy.
With the opening of Cataloochee Ranch in western North Carolina near The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Summerour is now the design firm of record for five Relais & Chateaux properties.
Cataloochee Ranch is a 700-acre preserve located 36 miles west of Ashville near the Eastern Cherokee Reservation. It is, as the name implies, a horse ranch, originally built in 1938 by the Alexander family as a mountaintop getaway. With the ongoing help of Summerour Architects, they have revamped and expanded their existing boutique hospitality experience. This dreamy mountain escape blends rustic living with 5-star accommodations, making it exactly the kind of property that qualifies for Relais & Chateaux recognition.
“It’s one of those things that we’ve never talked much about because not a lot of people outside the hospitality space know what a Relais & Chateaux recognition means, but everyone within the industry knows it well,” said Keith Summerour, who founded Summerour Architects in 1997 and recently retired from day-to-day activities. 
Relais & Chateau was established in France in 1954 and has maintained strict admission standards based on what it terms a “Five C” criteria: character, courtesy, calm, charm, and cuisine.
It doesn’t begin with a C, but the current president of the association, Lauren Gardinier, would add “sustainability” to that list.
“If we want this collection to be still alive in 10-, 20 years, we have to consider sustainability," Gardinier said. “Authenticity, perfection, family spirit, sustainability, and responsibility. I think that the key to keep delivering those things to our employees, to our members, to our customers, is to bring sustainability to everything.”
The culture at Summerour aligns perfectly with those values, which explains why the firm has so many Relais & Chateaux properties.  ​​​​​​​
Following in the footsteps of its founder, who was an outdoorsman from the time he could walk, Summerour Architects has maintained an ethos of being in tune with nature. In college Keith traveled to Florence for a summer abroad program as part of his Architectural Design degree at Auburn University. It was there that he began to understand the value of native materials in the design process and the melding of art and architecture.  
Combining those experiences with his love of the outdoors, Keith brought sustainable design to market before anyone else understood the word. His personal home, a 70-foot-high stone tower on his own farm in Meriwether County, GA, is a model of sustainable living for both urban and rural environments. It is also a property that his family is in the process of converting, in hopes of becoming a Relais & Chateaux event space.
In addition to Cataloochee Ranch, the firm designed accommodations at Blackberry Farm and Blackberry Mountain in Walland, TN, the Old Edward Inn and Spa in Highlands, NC, and The Swag, a rustic but luxurious lodge experience also in the mountains of North Carolina. 
All of those properties are distinguished by their Relais & Chateaux designation. ​​​​​​​
“It’s become a popular part of design now to incorporate native materials into construction and to make structures smaller and more intimate rather than packing as many people as possible under one roofline,” Summerour said. “We’ve always believed in being true to the environment where we’re working. If you travel to Italy or to the Cotswold villages of England, that’s what you see.”  
It is what you see in Summerour Architects’ commercial and residential work as well. With the culture in place and the portfolio expanding, it is no wonder that the world’s premier hospitality association has more properties designed by Summerour than any other firm.