The modern 3500-square-foot house was designed and built for art collectors John and Molly Chiles. It was constructed on the bones of an old modern, steel-framed and wood-paneled house overlooking Crabtree Creek in Raleigh, NC, that was abandoned in the 1960s.The original house was in terrible shape: Its wood walls and floors, camouflaged by kudzu and ivy, had rotted. Yet the “bones” were still strong in concept, and the couple saw through the clutter. They were confidant that the neglected remains could form the basis for a dramatic new house that would pay homage to mid-20th century modern design.
In form and plan, the new house provides both open perches and quiet retreats on its wooded hill site. Rusted steel panels, white painted steel beams, wood, aluminum, and glass frame views of the landscape and the clients’ extensive art collection. The main level’s modern, open floor plan creates loft-like spaces in which low walls, area rugs, and mid-century modern furnishings loosely define boundaries between living room, dining room, office, kitchen, and breakfast area. This plan encourages movement through the various spaces and levels of the house.
The roof garden combines elements that serve, both in form and reason, to counter the clearly defined steel structure and to evoke feelings of height and expansion. Because her house is sited halfway down a hillside and nestled in a stand of old-growth beech trees, Molly Chiles envisioned the roof deck as a large-scale “table on top of the house” where friends could gather for social occasions in a space with views across the treetops to the distant horizon.
As a design/build firm, Tonic worked with a structural engineer and steel crafters to fabricate a striking spiral staircase that connects the main living level to the roof deck. Clipped onto the side of the house, the outdoor stair’s helical form stands in contrast to the grid-like steel structure.
A gently curving driveway offers ever-changing vantage points to view the house’s exuberant form. A steel and ipe wood bridge spans a private walled garden and connects the drive to the front door.
In 2006, the Chiles residence received an Honor Award from the North Carolina chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
+ Project facts
Architect: Tonic Design
Contractor: Tonic Construction | http://www.tonic-design.com
Structural engineer: Richard Kaydos-Daniels
Steel craft: McConnel Studios, Raleigh, NC
Photographer: Jim West, Raleigh, NC
+ About Tonic Design + Tonic Construction
As two separate but interacting companies, Tonic Design and Tonic Construction work toward executing sensitive modern design solutions that make a difference in their clients’ lives and contribute to the architectural fabric of their buildings’ communities. Owned and operated by Vinny Petrarca and Katherine Hogan, Tonic has the flexibility to take on the role of architect or general contractor, or to collaborate together as an award-winning design-build firm.