It all started with a stove. And then one thing led to another. For years, self-described old-house purists Amy and Alden Philbrick liked their 1880s red-brick farmhouse just the way they had found it: largely untouched since the day it was built, complete with high ceilings, center gables front and back, and a wraparound porch. Perched on a hill in historic Alexandria, Virginia, it had survived the years without losing its rural roots or unusual T shape.
As the family grew—the Philbricks' three children are now 20, 18, and 12—they thought about adding bathrooms, updating the heating and cooling systems, maybe enlarging the kitchen. But each time, they resisted. "This house was very pristine," says Amy. Hanging a great room off the back and calling it a day was just not an option. "We didn’t want it to be like other old houses that had been blown out and messed with."