“A true restoration” and “an incredible continuum of history” were among the judges' comments about this historic Virginia farmhouse. “As they peeled back materials, they discovered old timbers and expressed them in the end.” Constructed as early as 1730 as a one-room log house, “Four Stairs” underwent several acquisitions and additions before being purchased by its current owner, a devotee of old houses who had it listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The owner's requirements, said architect Stephen Vanze, were to make the home livable for a modern family while “restoring the simple, clear evolution of the building” without damaging its historic materials. “The goal was to recapture the original form of the house in its rustic informality and render it tangible and visible,” Vanze said.
Particular challenges included “surgically inserting” bathrooms in the hall-less configuration; replacing the structurally fragile kitchen with a porch-like post-and-beam kitchen and family area; and creating a clear line of sight throughout rooms and to the lawns without removing any of the four stairs for which the home is named. The judges also lauded the project's craftsmanship, noting the “honest joinery,” “ship's knee” brackets, and new mortise-and-tenon joints of this “incredibly sensitive” blending of old and new.
Old-house renovation, over $300,000
Great Falls, Va.
Contractor: Paul Novak, Vista Joinery, Baltimore
Stephen Vanze and Stephen Schottler, Barnes Vanze Architects, Washington, D.C.