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Apartment Archeology

Friday, August 1st, 2014

Featured Company: Reader and Swartz Architects - Location: Winchester, Virginia - Project Type: Residence - Project Name: Samuel Noakes Renovation

Photos by Nathan Webb, Reader & Swartz Architects

By Risa Seidman

Before Beth Reader of Reader & Swartz Architects came to its rescue, one of the oldest buildings in Winchester, Virginia, was falling into disrepair. Originally built in 1810, the structure was last renovated in the 1940s, so it featured outdated wiring, ductwork, fixtures, and a tired floor plan.

“The client’s primary goal was to turn two very derelict apartments in a historic building into high-end rental apartments,” says Reader, who wanted to update the space while preserving the building’s original integrity. “We took an archaeological approach to the historic building, and exposed some of the building’s old construction methods and materials while adding modern interventions.”

The first task was to rearrange the layouts from single-story horizontal spaces into two-story lofts, one in the front and one in the rear of the red brick building. With the new organization in place, Reader could begin work on the interiors. The team exposed floor and ceiling joists to reveal original brick and stone constructions, and both units received modern staircases, appliances, and fixtures. Reader also re-milled timber from the demolition phase for use as shelving, bathroom vanities, and treads on the new stairs. The 200-year-old existing materials blend well with the new modern elements (such as a cracked glass floor and a steel staircase), creating two distinctly modern living spaces that still honor their shared colonial heritage.

“We are proud that we were able to save the old building but make it something fresh, new, and interesting,” Reader says. The true testament to Reader’s handiwork, however, was her client’s reaction: he liked the rear apartment’s renovation so much that he moved in.

Last renovated in the 1940s, this residence now features a pronounced contrast between original and modern materials, both inside and outside the building. Portions of existing brick and stone were revealed when possible and juxtaposed with newer ones for a blended aesthetic.

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