This 1924 Colonial Revival Home was Lovingly Restored with a Couple’s Passion for the Past
Reviving the old home’s spaces involved creative reshuffling rather than clean-slate do-overs. It now exudes both historical charm and practicality thanks to the Delaware couple.
Both Ben and Leigh have ideal skill sets for reviving an old house. Ben works in urban planning and design, branding hundreds of U.S. communities and historic downtowns. Leigh, a full-time mom to five kids ages 5 to 15, grew up in a family of home restorers and is now back in school studying architectural design. The couple also makes full use of Leigh’s grandfather’s nearby commercial workshop.
“We appreciate the fact that old houses are generally smaller than new builds,” Leigh says. “We’ve learned that people don’t need as much space as they think to be comfortable. Every square foot of our house has a purpose.”
Reviving the house’s spaces involved creative reshuffling rather than clean-slate do-overs. In the kitchen, the couple moved some cabinets and removed others, ripped out linoleum, then “wielded a paintbrush and made do with what we had,” Leigh says. An existing walk-in pantry picked up the slack in storage. And because they converted the formal dining space to a library, the couple turned a narrow room just off the kitchen into a dining space with a counter-height table and stools.
Removing upper cabinets gave the kitchen a more expansive feeling. The wood countertop is made from heart pine salvaged from a textile mill built in 1883; it is sealed with Waterlox, a food-safe tung oil.
Navy-painted cabinets offer a twist on farmhouse kitchen style. Stone flooring and a wood countertop balance more typical materials—a marble counter, white tile backsplash, and gold-tone hardware.
Shelves in the kitchen are made of reclaimed 100-year-old pine from the parking lot of a Habitat for Humanity ReStore.
Ben and Leigh put their hands-on skills to good use in their Delaware home. Leigh says, “We love old-house detail, moldings, arched doorways, hardwoods, and plaster walls—and the beauty and imperfection that give a house a soul.”
Leigh revels in the resourcefulness of maintaining an old home. “We live in a disposable society now, but 100 years ago things were made to be repaired,” she says. “We have learned that when one of the kids breaks a windowpane with a soccer ball, it takes only about 30 minutes and $1.50 to fix instead of having to replace the whole window. We can repair plaster, patch a damaged floorboard, paint the siding, or just pick up a 5-cent washer to fix a leaky copper faucet.”