Tonic Design brought to life one couple’s abstract dreams of a tree house.
Text & Photography by Mick Schulte
Windows stretch floor to ceiling in the modern-style dream home of Jonathan and Ilsy Chappell.
The home, built in 2011, was designed to fulfill their love of the outdoors. They effectively created a modern oasis, tucked in the middle of traditional homes, in Raleigh’s Budleigh neighborhood. The couple, along with twins Hudson and Sienna, experience nature intimately from morning to night.
When he’s not enjoying contemporary architecture and family, Jonathan works as an orthopedic surgeon at Wake Orthopedics, and serves as the team doctor for the North Carolina Courage and the N.C. Football Club. The Chappells invited Midtown into their home to experience its unique design, and Ilsy shared thoughts about her beautiful residence and how it came to be.
Husband and wife say they appreciate a very similar aesthetic, which made the design process easier. “We would bring our ideas to Tonic and they would bounce back with some thoughts we never considered. I think that’s the reason you work with an architect—because they can take your abstract ideas and bring them to life,” Ilsy explains.
In addition to designing a home that would embrace its natural setting, the Chappells wanted to avoid any wasted space. The open layout that Tonic designed gave them clean lines, minimal clutter, and functional rooms that complement their lifestyle. “I grew up with a mother who is an art professor and collector, so every space in our home was filled with stuff,” Ilsy says. “I always appreciated the art and beauty of it, but I grew up wanting room to breathe.”
Because of the architecture school at N.C. State, I feel like Raleigh has a lot of wonderful [design] firms to choose from,” she says. “After looking at a few, we decided to go with Tonic Design. We really liked their aesthetic and the houses they’ve done in the past. Plus, they’re a design-build firm, so we knew they would be present throughout the entire process—that was the feature of their firm that won us over in the end.