View from the Top

View from the Top

Amanda Smith's rooftop terrace offers a bird's-eye view of downtown


While Amanda Smith’s top-floor condo in the Kress Building is a sight to behold – outfitted in a well-curated mix of decor collected over a lifetime of gender equality activism and travel – it’s her rooftop terrace that steals the show. “If you’re looking at the front of the building, where it says Kress, that’s the other side of the [terrace] wall,” Amanda explains. “I put a raised deck in because it really felt like an elevator shaft.” The result is a two-level wraparound patio with a retractable awning on the lower level, abundant potted plants – she makes marmalade from the mini sour oranges in one of them – and an eclectic assortment of furniture and art.

“I used to live out in the country, between Guess and Cole Mill roads,” Amanda says of the homestead she once shared with her late husband, David, a political scientist at Duke. She decided to move downtown in 2008, when she found this perfect vantage point. “I love it here during a storm, because you’re right up amongst all the wind,” she says. “It’s just terrific.” Now a self-proclaimed full-time “politicker,” she often hosts friends for drinks outside before walking nearby for dinner. The terrace stars in her daily routine, too. “I tend to come out here for breakfast,” she says, “and in the evening. This actually makes a nice room at night, so I like to sit out here and read.” DM 


Each year, from August to September, a handful of Durham Central Park supporters host dinner and donate ticket proceeds to the park. The series, called Meals from the Market, is the park’s biggest fundraiser event. Amanda will welcome guests into her home on September 27 for a meal cooked by Amanda Orser, who formerly worked at Magnolia Grill.

1How They Live – Amanda Smith

Amelia Hube, Amanda, Kurt Hube and Linda Hube enjoy a round of gin and tonics – and one beer – on the patio. The Hubes and Amanda are longtime friends; in fact, Amanda has known Amelia practically since she was born.

2How They Live – Amanda Smith

As Amanda and the Hubes discussed where to go to dinner (Dos Perros), a rainbow appeared! Talk about a porch with a view.

3How They Live – Amanda Smith

Amanda’s retractable awning is visible on the left, and her raised deck on the right. The kid-sized patio furniture is from when her now-adult children were growing up.

4How They Live – Amanda Smith

Along the stairwell of Amanda’s two-story condo (pictured above) is a wall full of snapshots – President Obama when he visited Durham in 2011, American Dance Festival banquets, international travel. “You want to have a place to put your pictures up, but you can’t frame everything,” she says of the photos. Her solution was to get the staircase wall covered with a magnetic steel plate. It’s now one of her favorite parts of the condo.

5How They Live – Amanda Smith

6How They Live – Amanda Smith

The large stainless steel sculpture is by artist Gretchen Lothrop of Pittsboro. Amanda bought it in 2008, the same year she secured and moved into her condo. “That was my lucky year,” she says.


Ed. Note: This article first appeared in our September 2014 issue.