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Sanjay Gangal
Sanjay Gangal
Sanjay Gangal is the President of IBSystems, the parent company of, MCADCafe, EDACafe.Com, GISCafe.Com, and ShareCG.Com.

Smart-Stell Residence in Durham, USA by Tonic Design + Tonic Construction

December 15th, 2012 by Sanjay Gangal

Article source: Tonic Design + Tonic Construction

The clients wanted a new house but not a new neighborhood. On one of their daily walks they found a 40-year-old structure for sale. The house, beyond repair, occupied a promising lot with a southeast exposure to a small lake. This gave the couple the idea to build their “home and vacation home at the same time, they said.

Image Courtesy Todd Lanning

  • Architects: Tonic Design + Tonic Construction
  • Project: Smart-Stell Residence
  • Location: Durham, NC
  • Architect: Tonic Design, Raleigh, NC
  • Builder: Tonic Construction, Raleigh, NC
  • Principals: Vincent Petrarca, Katherine Hogan
  • Building area: 2400 square feet
  • Budget: $432,000
  • Photographer: Todd Lanning

Image Courtesy Todd Lanning

The design of the new house addresses two key site relationships: (1) the existing neighborhood and its contextual scale, and (2) the landscape of the lake. From the street, the new one-story house’s form is low, quiet, and horizontal, with the only real opening towards the street at the main entrance porch. Because this house would be a dramatic departure from the typical houses in the neighborhood, we sited it deeply into the property.

Image Courtesy Todd Lanning

The 2400-square-foot house opens up to its surroundings at the back, where extensive glazing provides constant views of the lake and surrounding natural environment. This approach maximizes the interior connection to the outdoors without sacrificing the clients’ privacy.

Image Courtesy Todd Lanning

Programmatically, the house features: an entrance foyer; an open living/dining/kitchen space suitable for entertaining, especially with access to the deck from this space; a master bedroom suite with two separate bathrooms and walk-in closets; two generous office spaces; a guest room and additional bath; and a two-car garage. Square concrete “steps” lead from the driveway to the front porch. A wooden deck spans the lakefront elevation.

Image Courtesy Todd Lanning

As both the architect and contractor, Tonic’s challenge was to maximize the view of the lake from the open “public” space (living/dining/kitchen area), while providing the clients with an energy-efficient and comfortable living space. The solution came in the form of a hockey stick-shaped roof structure fabricated of wood beams and steel plate. This composite structure, designed with the help of the North Carolina Solar Center, supports an IPE pipe trellis. The form and composition ensure that the sun’s harsh rays are blocked in the warm summer months, while the lower winter sun is allowed to penetrate and warm the interior. A band of clerestory windows above the main living space, facing the street, allow more natural light to penetrate the interior and creates a glow above the horizontal structure at night.


To achieve a construction budget of $180 per square foot as requested by the clients, the building methods used in the house are standard, off-the-shelf materials that have been reinterpreted and used in inventive ways, such as the “pin stripe” siding that creates horizontal detailing for the street-facing façade.

The house won a 2010 Merit Award from the American Institute of Architects’ North Carolina (AIANC) chapter and a 2012 Honor Award from the AIANC Triangle section.

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Categories: House, Residential

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