W. Howard Rooks, a former Fairfax County teacher who heads the rapidly growing Mt. Vernon Realty firm, is interested in old houses.

That's how the firm's Woodlawn office happens to be relocated in a rehabilitated house at 8301 RIchmond Highway.

Rooks had had his eye on the pillared house and when the owners decided to sell last year, he paid about $130,000 for it and did some remodeling. It now has work space for 20 full-time employees and some part-timers.

His wife, Sue, worked with suppliers, decorators and remodelers to furnish the large structure on the corner of Russell Road, midway between Mount Vernon and Woodlawn.

The result is a brokerage office that has colonial dining rooms as contract-signing offices, its reception area in a living room with an Oriental rug (plus a fireplace and a print of the real Mount Vernon), and needlepoint on the chair seats around the conference table.

The manager, Anthony Antonioi, has a small private office and his assistant, B.J. Herzog, shares an office with her husband, Alvin, a salesman with the firm. Verteran agents share semi-private offices and newer sales associates have space in the garage that was converted to a "bullpen."

Altogether, about $200,000 (including $70,000 for remodeling and furnishings) was spent on the house. But Rooks said that a lender recently appriased the house and its one-acre lot for more than $230,000.

The remodeled house-office has also gotten a fan letter. Last month an Alexandria couple wrote to say that "As we frequently drive down Route 1 (Richmond Highway), we had noticed the beautiful older home for sale . . . We were so concerned it might be demolished that we were pleased to see repair work and landscaping being done! Our curiosity ended when your sign was installed and we continue to watch the happy progress. Although we're happy that the building was kept pretty much in its natural state, we would have preferred the natural brick versus painted white. But that is a personal preference. We wish you much success in your new office."