Contact CassiLhaus

Chapel Hill North Carolina


Nur tote Fische schwimmen mit dem Strom.


So what's a Cassilhaus?

Cassilhaus is a home, a singular piece of architecture, a lifelong arts project, and a love-filled partnership between Ellen Cassilly and Frank Konhaus. Ellen is an architect and community activist and Frank is an AV System Designer, Director of the Cassilhaus Artist in Residence and Exhibition Programs, and arts entrepreneur.

After a five-year land search and a three-year design process, Cassilhaus was born as dream home/art gallery/artist studio and residency in the woods between Durham and Chapel Hill, NC and has grown into an exciting nexus for arts activity and community in the Triangle region. Cassilhaus hosts a diverse exhibition program and a multi-disciplinary residency program which bring extraordinary artists from our region and around the world to pollinate and stimulate our little corner of the art world. Cassilhaus was designed by the team at Ellen Cassilly Architect.

Ellen Cassilly & Frank Konhaus  Photograph by Mona Kuhn

Ellen Cassilly & Frank Konhaus
Photograph by Mona Kuhn

our Team


Jaco and Joni

Abandoned and rescued from a trailer park six years ago, they don't appreciate how great a gig they have at Cassilhaus. And yes, they are aware of how beautiful they are.

Pictured: Jaco is in the box, and Joni is on top.

Frank Portrait 2.jpg

Frank Konhaus
Co-founder, Co-designer, and the haus of Cassilhaus

Frank is a serial entrepreneur who started his first business at age 12. He studied chemistry and industrial design and is the founder of KONTEK Systems, a commercial AV integration company – hence the logical transition to running an artist residency and exhibition program at Cassilhaus. Frank serves on the Collections Committee at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University and the executive committee of the annual Click! Photography Festival. He fell into photography trying to impress an old girlfriend. He got photography and not the girlfriend. He and Ellen are both very happy about that.

Favorite piece in the Cassilhaus collection: It's a tie between Emmet Gowin’s Edith, Chincoteaque, Virginia 1967 and Olivia Parker’s Miss Appelton’s Shoes II.

Jaco or Joni: Couldn’t ever choose. Both melt my heart.

First photograph: While I don't remember my first photo, I do remember the first time I understood that a photograph could be more than a straight document. I was living in an older apartment complex that was undergoing renovation; they had gutted one of the buildings and all of the porcelain toilets from these units were sitting out randomly in the courtyard. Some vandals sprayed black spray paint graffiti on them and that night we had a huge snowstorm. I was taking a black and white darkroom course and I shot photos of the scene and it was pure magic – funny, beautiful, and other-worldly. I was hooked. 

An artist whose work you are inspired by: Artists are my heroes. So many artists inspire me: Ippy Patterson, Sally Mann, Georges Rousse, Zanele Muholi, Gabriel Garcia Roman, and Nancy Rexroth, to name a few.

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Ellen Cassilly
Co-founder, Co-designer, and the Cassil of Cassilhaus

Ellen has been the principal of Ellen Cassilly Architect since 1999. She received her Bachelor's of Environmental Design degree from Texas A&M University and a Master of Architecture degree from the University of Pennsylvania. In 2017 she was inducted into the Fellows of the American Institute of Architects (FAIA). Throughout her career, Ellen has collaborated with architects, artists and clients to design and build single- and multi-family homes, commercial, religious and educational buildings. 

First interests in art: I have always preferred doing over watching, be that in sports or in art. I grew up taking art classes of all sorts. In college I had classes in art and architectural history. Art and the appreciation of art was always in my midst without being over bearing. My mother had a strong personal style and my father was an avid, amateur photographer. It is a pity that he and Frank never met. It would have been a geek lovefest.

Jaco or Joni: I love cuddling with Joni in the evenings and Jaco in the mornings.

Favorite piece in the Cassilhaus collection: Elliot Erwitt's Valencia, Spain. I love the intimacy of the image, and the backstory of Elliot Erwitt and Robert Frank traveling together in Spain.

An artist whose work you are inspired by: Ann Hamilton


Jessina Leonard
Programs Manager

Originally from Philadelphia, Jessina Leonard came to Durham by way of Chicago to complete a Masters' degree in art and theology at Duke Divinity School. She worked at Cassilhaus from 2015-2018 and is now completing her MFA in Photography at Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island – but she is still a part of the Cassilhaus team from afar!

Favorite piece in the Cassilhaus collection: David Simonton's Blackboard, Chinquapin, NC, or Mitch Epstein's Untitled, Holyoke, 2000 – too hard to choose!

Jaco or Joni: Joni

First Photograph: My first memory of taking photographs was at the Moscow circus when I was probably five or six years old – but, honestly, I was most excited about arranging and sequencing the images in a scrapbook when I got home. 

An artist whose work you are inspired by: Graciela Iturbide


Sarah Riazati
2018-2019 Intern

Sarah Riazati is a filmmaker, animator, designer, developer, student and educator. In past lives, she has made videos, animations and websites at a music magazine, a creative agency, a communications research center, and a production company. She has also taught courses as an adjunct professor in digital storytelling, web design and media ethics at UNC-Chapel Hill, her alma mater. She used to live in Atlanta, New York and Italy, and now lives in Durham, North Carolina, where she recently received her MFA at Duke’s Experimental and Documentary Arts program. At Duke, she is the Project Manager for the Social Practice Lab and a research assistant in the Wired! Lab's Building Duke research team. She is also a 2018 Princess Grace Award winner for Film.