Cabin Revival

This little dwelling went from near collapse to being transformed into a writer's haven.
Robert Martin / Photography by: Van Chaplin / Styling by: Alan Henderson

When you hear about an older home being restored to its former glory, most likely you picture a stately mansion or a place where some notable forefather slept. But preserving our architectural heritage is not only reserved for structures big and historically significant, but it's also for the smaller ones. That's what makes this year's restoration winner so special.

On Its Last Peg
Located along a gravel road, this diminutive log cabin hardly deserved a second look. The early 1800s abode was no more than one ground-floor room with a corncrib attic above. Then Ava Abramowitz and Neil Rackham stepped in. As the husband-and-wife owners of Wheatland Farms, a 550-acre agricultural complex that included the derelict cabin, this couple debated over what to do with the place.

The enterprising owners consulted architects Beth Reader and Chuck Swartz for help. "With Ava and Neil's input, we set about restoring the cabin, which also involved removing a ramshackle shed extension in the back that wasn't original," states Chuck. "Then Beth and I designed a sympathetic rear addition that's appropriately scaled to the cabin's modest size."

Built by Douglass Reed, the resulting add-on consists of a kitchen with a vaulted ceiling illuminated by dormers, a powder room and laundry nook on the same floor, and a full bath upstairs.

Perfect Writer's Retreat
With the logs and chinking meticulously repaired, along with the addition's skillful integration, this restored cabin is set to see at least two more centuries of service. In fact, now that the work is complete, Ava and Neil couldn't envision their daily lives without it. Both of them are authors, and Neil has christened the cottage his writing retreat.

SOURCES:

Cabin Revival
Page 110:  Architecture by Reader & Swartz Architects, Winchester, Virginia, (540) 665-0212; builder was Douglass C. Reed, Preservation Associates, Inc., Hagerstown, Maryland, (301) 791-7880; structural engineer was Painter-Lewis, P.L.C., Winchester, (540) 662-5792; mechanical engineer was Comfort Design, Inc., Winchester, (540) 665-2846; audio system from AVWashington, Sterling, Virginia, (703) 404-8900.