The Samuel Noakes house in Winchester, Va., was built in 1810 with a large addition in 1840. About 100 years later, it was sloppily turned into apartments and hasn’t been touched since. Local firm Reader & Swartz Architects was enlisted to restore the building back as a custom residence. Our jury applauded the firm’s efforts, noting that the project “kept its historic shell and nature, but creatively transformed interiors.”

Early on, the team realized they couldn’t earn a preservation designation because of the building’s dilapidated condition. Windows were caulked in place without frames, for example, and wiring was tacked onto outside walls. Their client lives alone, so architects Elizabeth Reader and Charles Swartz devised a duplex plan that divides the building vertically with the original structure and the addition as separate dwellings. According to Reader, their goal was to “create high-performing, livable houses that save the building’s historic elements and spirit.”

Windows, wiring, insulation, and interiors are all new while timber joists, wood flooring, and masonry walls were restored and exposed. One significant challenge was running wiring through 1 ½-foot-thick stone walls, and then between the ceiling joists and floors. By matching existing window and fireplace proportions, the team was able to make those duct runs look like part of the design. “We paid a lot of attention to the new materials and details,” Swartz explains. “When you do things that are both old and new you have to keep your diction straight.”