The House that Glass Built

by Danielle Boisse

Reflection, openness and transparency.

Retractable doors draw the eye toward the sparkling blue water just a stone's throw away. Reflective surfaces mirror the view, as the ocean is recreated on cabinets, countertops, doors and windows. A vaulted ceiling leaves the living spaces wide open with glass continuing floor to ceiling. Through the transparent walls a mirage emerges -- an infinity pool appears to pour into the sea.

McGonigal and his wife, Dorrie, designed their oceanfront dream home in Kure Beach using something they fell in love with decades ago -- glass.

E verywhere you stand in this house you can still see the ocean," Bill McGonigal says.

McGonigal was 19 years old when he walked into a Pittsburgh glass company looking for a job after high school. He soon started his own commercial glass installation company in the city and brought in Dorrie to handle the accounting. Eventually their three sons began managing the sales and installation.

"I was always a leader and a go-getter," he says. "I worked seven days a week until I was 39. That was my goal all my life, to retire at 50."

The couple began vacationing in Kure Beach in the 1980s. In 2011 they purchased a lot-and-a-half of oceanfront property that was not in a flood zone and was adjacent to a beach access. The lot originally had a bungalow and an apartment building on it. Knocking these down allowed them to plan for a house slightly under 5,000 square feet.

Inspiration came from a variety of sources.

"Over the course of years, this house was designed all on television shows, magazines and vacations," McGonigal says. "After the last three to four winters, I said I was ready to go."

The family worked to start transitioning Bill and Dorrie into retirement. The three sons not only prepared to take over the company their father started from the ground up, but they also helped start the process of building Mom and Dad's retirement home.

Our son went down and researched builders," McGonigal says. "He called the ones he thought could build this home. Jimmy Doster was the one that picked up the phone."

Doster, president of Doster Building Companyin Wrightsville Beach, was intrigued by the project.

"They told me they wanted something really modern that no one has seen before and that is exactly what we have done," he says.

The McGonigals wanted to use glass for the ocean-facing exterior to maximize the views. They used a hurricane-resistant, commercial-grade glass on the facade that was fabricated in large custom sections up to 7 feet wide and 10 feet tall.

"Hurricane Sandy made a [strong] glass exterior be in higher demand," McGonigal says. "After showing its durability, it opened up the market and made it affordable."

The family was hands-on in the early stages of construction, passing on their experience and expertise.

"Bill and his son installed a portion of the glass and we used our guys to finish installing the remainder of it," Doster says. "Once we learned how to do it, we could finish the process out."

The exterior of the home is a combination of white painted glass tile, sizeable glass panels, and bamboo planks. The outdoor porches have ipe decking. Electric solar panels sit on the roof.

"We wanted everything to be as maintenance-free as possible," McGonigal says. "I didn't want to have to repaint the outside of the house every few years. Everything we used is durable and easy to clean. Glass made sense for a lot of reasons."

The front door sits in a slab of marble beside a four-car garage and a ground-level apartment.

"The apartment is for our grandkids to run around," McGonigal says. "Our house isn't for children. If you are under 15, I am sorry but everything is glass."

Creating the home from scratch required patience. The homeowners did not rush Doster, allowing time for brainstorming and problem-solving during a two-year build.

"We just worked together," Doster says. "It was like a team between the two of us; he had his expertise and I had mine. It evolved the whole time. Once we started with the structure we didn't know what was next, and then they would come up with an idea and we figured out how to do it. Everyone still asks how we did it because we didn't use an architect."

The unconventional design infuses the interior with more unexpected features. A Pergo floor as the ceiling in the hallway, dynamic in color and texture, provides contrast in the crisp white shell. The interior glistens with high-gloss white cabinets that hug the perimeter of the kitchen. Carved concrete countertops mixed with cobalt and royal blue glass aggregates introduce the colors of the ocean. Radiant heated porcelain tile is used as the flooring throughout the home as well as on accent walls in the bedrooms.

A glass staircase imported from Italy becomes an architectural sculpture. Hand-blown glass light fixtures hang above focal spaces, illuminating more accents of saturated colors among the white walls. Glass railings, all one-inch thick, are fastened by metal clips at the base to allow full transparency between floors.

Believers of minimalistic and simple living, they didn't want their square footage wasted on storage space. There are only two closets in the home and no furniture in most bedrooms except for a bed. Instead of the traditional placement against a wall, every bed floats in the middle of the floor, all facing the ocean.

fter finding two sandstone vessels as inspiration for the master bathroom sinks, McGonigal found a craftsman in China to fabricate a custom sandstone tub to match. The polished tub is several inches thick and weighs more than 2,000 pounds.

"The tub was the first thing in the house. We had three of the exterior walls and had to use a crane to get the tub in there before we put the final wall up," Doster says.

The tub sits adjacent to an open concrete shower.

pstairs, guest bedrooms line the mezzanine and open with painted glass sliding doors. Each bedroom has a different color glass, including blue, green and coral. The beds overlook the living spaces through the glass railing.

"I wanted to have a house where every bedroom was oceanfront," McGonigal says. "There aren't too many houses that can say that with five bedrooms."

The floor-to-ceiling glass gives a taste of the outdoor living spaces designed for every season. The homeowners intend to use the infinity pool and the ocean in the summer and spend time on the rooftop deck in the spring and fall. A glass railing allows for 360-degree views of the ocean, Kure Beach, Carolina Beach and even Wrightsville on a clear day.

"This is where I wanted to be at this age," McGonigal says. "Do I golf or fish? No. I can sit right here and watch the ocean waves roll in. I worked 35 years to get to this place."


RESOURCES

Creating this Home of Distinction

HOMEOWNERS Bill and Dorrie McGonigal

BUILDING CONTRACTOR Doster Building Company

LANDSCAPE DESIGNER Mihaly Land Design

ENGINEER WD Jones Engineering

SURVEYOR Patrick C Bristow Land Surveying

APPLIANCES Atlantic Appliance & Hardware

AUDIO/VISUAL Pro AV Services

BATH AND DOOR HARDWARE Bird Decorative Hardware & Bath, Coastal Glass & Hardware

CABINETS Porcelanosa Tile

CLOSETS Unique Perspectives, Coastal Glass & Hardware

COUNTERTOPS Carve Surfaceworks, Sellers Tile & Custom Counters

DOORS TruStile Doors

DRYWALL Robbie Hubbard Drywall

ELECTRICIAN AB Blake Electrical

ELEVATOR Port City Elevators

HARDWOOD SUPPLIER Risley Padula Construction Inc.

HARDWOOD INSTALLER Ed Newsome's Hardwood Floors, Inc.

HVAC Airmax Heating and Cooling

INTERIOR STAIRCASE Carve Surfaceworks

INTERIOR TRIM Risley Padula Construction Inc.

KITCHEN/BATH DESIGNER Hollingsworth Cabinets

LIGHTING FIXTURES Ferguson

PAINTING Ryan Kerlin Painting

PLUMBER Kersey Coastal Plumbing

PLUMBING FIXTURES Bird Decorative Hardware

SECURITY SYSTEM Holmes Security Systems

TILE SUPPLIER Sellers Tile & Custom Counters, Porcelanosa Tile

WINDOW TREATMENTS Unique Perspectives

DECKING Going Vertical, Special Wood

DRIVEWAY PAVERS Evans Hardscape

EXTERIOR MATERIALS Professional Builders Supply, Special Wood

EXTERIOR TRIM FINISHES Going Vertical, Professional Builders Supply

FENCE Going Vertical

FRAMING Going Vertical

GARAGE DOORS Crawford Door Systems Inc.

OUTDOOR SHELL AND STUCCO Melvin Stucco& Construction

POOL AND SPA Wilmington Pools

ROOFING All Seasons Roofing Inc.

SITE WORK Coastal Grading

 


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