For a seemingly simple house that accomplishes many tasks.

Interior/exterior of the Smart-Stell house. Photo by Todd Lanning.

Interior/exterior of the Smart-Stell house. Photo by Todd Lanning.

In hockey it’s called a hat trick, in horse racing a trifecta, and in bowling a turkey.
For Tonic Design + Tonic Construction of Raleigh, NC, it’s the third time in a row that their work has received top honors in the annual Matsumoto Prize for Modernist residential design across the state, sponsored by the non-profit organization North Carolina Modernist Houses.
On Thursday night, July 17, Tonic’s partners Vincent Petrarca and Katherine Hogan, AIA, received First Place in the Jury Awards category for the Smart-Stell House, a 2400-square-foot, single-story house they designed and built on a lakefront property in Durham, NC. The award came with a check for $3000.

This was Tonic’s second consecutive First Place prize. Last year, the firm’s Rank Residence in Pittsboro received First Place in the Jury Awards category. In 2013, a house they designed and built in Greenville, the Walters Residence, received Third Place in NCMH’s awards program, which is named for George Matsumoto, FAIA, a Modernist master and a founding faculty member of the NC State University School of Design.
Owned by George Smart and Eleanor Stell, this year’s award-winning house overlooks a lake on one side and a non-descript neighborhood on the other. Tonic’s main challenge was to maximize the view of the lake while still providing a comfortable living space inside. The solution was extensive glazing on the side facing the lake and 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 trellis. The size and spacing of the trellis’ slats ensure that direct sunlight is blocked during the summer but allowed to enter and warm the main living volume in the winter.

Jury organizer Frank Harmon, FAIA, presented the award to Petrarca and Hogan and shared comments from the professional jury, which included accomplished architects from New York, Massachusetts, and California:

“This is a seemingly simple plan…that accomplishes many complex tasks…They liked the quiet, private side of the house facing the neighborhood and the open, informal side of the house facing the lake. They admired the deep [roof] overhang facing the sun and views, and the clerestory that brings light from the street side into the living room while maintaining privacy. Here is a building that responds to the phenomena of the site. And in its openness, simplicity, use of materials, textures, structure, and solar aspects, it is exemplary of the best aspects of mid-century Modernism.”

“Needless to say, we’re honored and thrilled to receive a Matsumoto Prize again this year,” said Petrarca. “We would like to thank North Carolina Modernist Houses for continuing to sponsor an awards program that focuses so sharply on Modern homes in a state that’s dominated by traditional design.”

For more information on NCMH and the annual Matsumoto Prize, visit
For more information on Tonic Design + Tonic Construction and the Smart-Stell House, visit