Matthew Griffith loves a challenge. In fact, the Raleigh-based architect thrives on obstacles when it comes to designing homes and commercial projects. “Most architects who are doing interesting work hope for constraints that create a thread of resistance,” he says. “Good design relies on resistance. Those challenges force you to solve problems and keep the process vibrant and the resulting design surprising and unique.”

Griffith’s project, located in the Hungry Neck neighborhood of Raleigh, proved to be one of his firm’s most challenging architectural feats. The lot was just under one-tenth of an acre and one of the smallest buildable lots in all of Raleigh. “They wanted to build a single-family home, but they wanted a few things that were unique to this small of a lot,” Griffith says. Most notably, the clients wanted a two-car garage, an elevator, and sizable outdoor living, all of which presented a monumental task for the architect. “The architecture itself was not difficult, but the variances and setbacks proved to be the biggest hurdles with this project,” he says.

After many rounds of approvals from the city regarding permits, Griffith and his team were able to finally bring their modern design to fruition, all the while checking off must-haves on their clients’ wish list. “It was one of the hardest things we had to figure out from a single-family home perspective,” Griffith says.“But it was almost guaranteed we’d create something unique and disarming in the end.” Here’s a look at some of the most interesting architectural details of this 3,200-square-foot modern stunner in one of Raleigh’s up-and-coming neighborhoods.

“Most urban homes are designed as a piano nobile, meaning the first floor is the living space of the home,” Griffith says. “But because of the grade of the lot, resulting in the first level with a basement with minimal light, it made sense to put the main living spaces on the top floor.” With impressive views of downtown Raleigh, it also made more sense to design the floorplan so that the kitchen, family room, and dining areas were all on the top floor with the private spaces like the bedrooms on the second floor.

Moving between floors requires accessing the stairway the majority of the time. So Griffith wanted that space to be interesting and unique in its design. A steel and oak staircase with open treads supported by a mesh metal screen winds its way up the three stories of the house like a piece of art while allowing natural light to flood the home.

One of the homeowners’ must-haves was ample outdoor living space. But with such a small lot, Grif fith and his team had to get creative when it came to adding space without sacrif icing square footage. Along the south side of the home he added a two-story deck, which is easily accessed by a large sliding door, making the transition from inside to outside seamless. The courtyard belowis defined by a concrete wall that provides instant privacy.

In keeping with a modern aesthetic, Grif fith used concrete tile for the backsplash to mirror the concrete detailing of the main
structure. Doses of Ipe Brazilian wood help warm the industrial lines of the interiors while also adding an or ganic feel to the
living spaces.