When I designed and built a house for my wife and me in the late '90s, she gave me one instruction: "I don't care what it looks like, I just want it to be warm." Both of us had grown up and lived in "antique" houses infused with charm — and frigid drafts. We wanted to be comfortable in our new home.

The house would sit in a field, in a valley noted for high winds. The design was straightforward, a contemporary interpretation of a story-and-a-half farmhouse. But there were some twists: 48 windows, an open floor plan downstairs, and three bedrooms, two baths, and a central hall upstairs. Mix in a collection of family antiques to be placed...

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