Historic barns dot the countryside around Hillsborough, a region that traces its agricultural roots to the 1750s. So when John and Stacy Crabill contacted Tonic to design their new home, the firm gleaned inspiration from the local typology while taking things in a decidedly modern direction.
"They really trusted us to do something different," says Tonic’s architectural designer, Katherine Hogan. The house’s skewed cubic form is clad in plank-like Cor-Ten steel panels and shielded by a rain screen. Over the years, the Cor-Ten will develop a rich patina that will liken the home to the weathered and rusted farm buildings in the area. "As time goes forward, we’re catching up to the past in a way," says John Crabill. The relationship to the land dictated the house’s orientation, not just to maximize natural daylight but also to frame views. A beloved three-trunked tree, for example, can be spied from multiple rooms.
Remarkably, Tonic completed the home at a modest $155 per square foot. Its in-house team of skilled builders constructed the house and crafted the custom touches without subcontracing— a costly and common undertaking. They also reined in expenses by using readily available materials, like oak and steel. Though the home is nearly 800 square feet larger than their previous residence, the Crabills’ energy bills average 30 percent cheaper thanks to spray foam insulation, tightly sealed ducts to reduce drafts, low-e glazed windows, and Energy Star appliances.