WHEN MAKING THIS 250-year-old house livable for the 21st century, architect Stephen Vanze borrowed the familiar physician's dictum: Do no harm. He was fortunate to have a client with a generous budget and a passion for doing things right. That meant meticulously restoring the historic log structure and its 19th-century appendages, which clearly tell a story of the original owner's growing wealth. Vanze sought out skilled craftsmen to surgically insert two bathrooms upstairs. Downstairs, they refurbished the historic fabric of the parlor, dining room, and sitting rooms.

A 20th-century kitchen addition by a subsequent owner had been less successful, however. It was removed and replaced with a low, glassy post-and-beam structure that houses a new kitchen and family room. “The new kitchen is framed against the log cabin in a way that lightly touches it,” Vanze explains. That space opens to an outdoor covered kitchen focused on an original well, bringing the story of Four Stairs full circle.

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Photo: Anice Hoachlander

Category: Whole-house makeover or significant addition; Entrant/Architect: Barnes Vanze Architects, Washington; General contractor: Owner; Lead carpenter: Paul Novak, Fairfax, Va.