ELEMENTS Home: A Respectful Renovation

With great care, a couple updates a 1936 center-hall colonial in popular Brandywine Hills.



Rich Soper has long been a fan of “This Old House,” the PBS show where craftsmen restore vintage homes.

Two years ago, he and his wife, Melissa, launched what might be “Their Old House,” where they would breathe new life into a property with some age to it.

“We were looking for an old stone house to do a renovation,” Melissa recalls. “So we started searching on the Internet.”

Restoring a house might be the ultimate reality show in which families balance their wish lists, budgets and coping skills. The prize the Sopers sought was a lovely, livable home that retains the charm and character of the original house while adding space and up-to-date amenities.

The couple, who were then living in Pennsylvania, found several prospective homes in Brandywine Hills, a community of stately residences in Wilmington that is experiencing a wave of revitalization.

“Not one house is the same,” Melissa notes. “They all have differences.”

To carry out a respectful restoration and update of the classic 1936 center hall colonial the Sopers eventually bought, they turned to architect Jeff Pack and builder Gary Munch of Boss Enterprises in Wilmington.

“Although we do all kinds of houses, we are very much traditionalists,” says Munch, a third-generation builder. “When we met the Sopers, we soon realized we were all on the same page.”

Meticulous researchers, the couple prepared for the project by calculating costs and studying resources and materials. Their strategy was to bundle several major projects: gutting and installing a kitchen, tearing down an attached garage and building a family room, adding a large master bath, and replacing a Florida room addition with a covered patio.

The most arduous part of the renovation was tearing down a stone bearing wall that separated the existing kitchen from the garage and creating a new support system. To carry out the entire game plan in a fast and furious six months, Munch brought in a team that included Amish artisans skilled in working on vintage homes.

“You need really good installers in an old house because nothing is plumb or square,” Melissa says.

In order to make a seamless transition to the new kitchen, the Sopers extended the oak flooring found in the rest of the house.

Those warm tones are reflected in honey-stained cherry cabinets with raised panels, enhanced with crown molding, fluted accents and forged bird-cage pulls. Arched trim defines the primary sink, and glass-fronted cabinets provide storage for barware. A granite counter, wine chiller and secondary stainless steel sink form the bar area. The tumbled marble backsplash is accented with a cluster of grapes.

“It’s the details that take a good kitchen to a great kitchen,” Rich says.

A six-burner Wolf gas range is set into a peninsula that delineates the adjoining family room. The stainless steel hood provides a dramatic sculptural element, as well as ventilation. As attractive as it is, the layout is supremely functional.

“I can see the TV and be part of the action while I’m cooking,” Melissa says.

The family room is eight feet longer than the turned garage it replaced, giving the couple more space without sacrificing the lines or proportions of the structure.

“We didn’t want it to look like we just plopped something on the back of the house,” Munch says.

In order to replicate the deep window wells found in the original part of the house, the contractor built a shallow false wall on both sides of the room. The ceiling is vaulted to more than nine feet. Transoms above the windows boost natural light.

“If we kept the ceiling the same height as the kitchen, it would have looked like a tunnel,” Melissa says. “We wanted it to be bright and open.”

One of the biggest decisions the Sopers faced was choosing which elements of their home to update and which to leave just as they were.

The couple embraced such period details as the gracefully curved overhead light covers, still in perfect condition after nearly three-quarters of a century. The center hall opens to a formal living room with a fireplace on the left and a dining room on the right.

Upstairs, a hall bathroom retains its vintage black-and-white tiles and porcelain sink on chrome legs. The floor is paved in the time-honored windmill pattern.

But the master bath wasn’t in keeping with the Sopers’ vision of a spa-like space they could share. So they created a new bath, an expansive retreat in a restful palette inspired by white Carrera marble flecked with silvery gray tones.

A deep soaking tub is outfitted with a retro-style hand shower. A large stall shower is framed in glass and marble. His-and-hers vanities with white stone tops, creamy, bow-front cabinets and vintage-style taps were purchased already assembled from Ethan Allen. Oval mirrors above the vanities are flanked by pairs of sconces, a subtle homage to the harmonious balance and symmetry found throughout the house.

The space formerly occupied by the master bath is now a modern walk-in closet for Melissa, with rods, shelving and an old-fashioned amenity that is making a comeback, a built-in ironing board.

Along the way, the Sopers added several minor projects to their wish list, such as updating the first-floor powder room.

“When people are going through a big renovation, it’s good to get as many things as you can off the list,” Munch says. “Then they can take a little rest before they move on to something else.”

A tired, ground-level Florida room was torn off and renovated as a 1930s-style covered patio, with a tongue-in-groove ceiling and classic, colonial pillars. The wood framing was painstakingly hand scribed in order to fit the contours of the home’s stone exterior, a detail common in the mid-20th century, but not often seen today.

After a brief breather, the Sopers have already moved on to their next project: installing an oversized, two-car garage, driveway and extensive landscaping.

“We want to do things right,” Rich says. “We owe that to our neighborhood.”  

DT

 

 

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January 2017

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Belly Dance Classes with Zahra Beginner & intermediate classes open to teens and adults Sundays in January starting Jan 8th Beginner: 2:30-3:30 p.m. Intermediate: 1 - 2 p.m (must get...

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Elements of Nutrition
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World Cafe Live Wilmington
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Delaware Museum of Natural History
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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
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Science is for everyone! Join us for hands on crafts and activities that highlight science contributions to natural history from scientists all around the world. Learn how YOU can make a difference...

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January 14, 15, 16 – Saturday, Sunday, and Monday – 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Invention Convention Lights, camera, action! This year’s Invention Convention features hands-on video...

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Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Road
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Sponsor: Hagley Museum
Telephone: (302) 65802400 x 238
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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
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Cinema Art Theater
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Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
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Do you want to learn how to make soap? This is your chance! Join me for a fun and informative class @ Liquid Alchemy. I will teach you how to create your own recipe and the in-and-outs of soap...

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Do you want to learn how to make soap? This is your chance! Join me for a fun and informative class @ Liquid Alchemy. I will teach you how to create your own recipe and the in-and-outs of soap...

Cost: 45

Where:
Liquid Alchemy
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, DE  19804
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Sponsor: Rocker Soaps + Herbals
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Contact Name: Rachel Binkley
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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30AM-12:00PM Fall session: Thursday, Dec 1st thru Thursday, December 15th Winter session: Tuesday, January 17th thru Thursday, March 30th   Drop in on Nature is...

Cost: see description

Where:
The Annex
501 Chandler Mill Rd
Kennett Square, PA  19348
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Sponsor: The Land Conservancy
Telephone: 610-347-0347 ext.104
Website »

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Thursdays from 4:00PM-5:30PM Fall session: December 1st, 8th and 15th Winter session: Starts January 19th, every other Thursday until March 30th This program is based entirely outdoors and is...

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Guest speakers Patty Dailey-Lewis, executive director of the Beau Biden Foundation, and Delaware Family Court commissioner Loretta Young will discuss how participation in social media can too...

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Wilmington University - Doberstein Admissions Ctr.
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The 3rd Place and Bike Lane Cafe along with WestSide Grows and Delaware Permaculture bring you the West 7th Street Bazaar.  Happening EVERY 3rd Thursday from January through May, there will be...

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January 19 – Thursday – 6:30 p.m. Research Seminar: Amyrs Williams (Wesleyan University) – Reimagining the Modern Farm The seminar is open to the public and is based on a paper that is...

Cost: $0

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Copeland Room, Hagley Library
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The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Bells by Theresa Rebeck. During the great Yukon gold rush of the...

Cost: $15 - $30

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Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
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World Cafe Live Wilmington
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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
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Tutto Fresco has live entertainment every Friday night from 6:30–9:30 p.m. Call for details. http://tuttofrescode.com/

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World Cafe Live At The Queen
500 N Market St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Cost: 0.00

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Ah, typecasting—the baritone is always the bad guy! In Devils, Drunks & Dastardly Dudes, we’ll go on an operatic journey of men behaving badly. We’ll add a tenor to the mix, too… but we...

Cost: $29-$59

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OperaDelaware Studio
4 South Poplar St.
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The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Bells by Theresa Rebeck. During the great Yukon gold rush of the...

Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
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Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: (302) 831-2204
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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

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Cost: $30 per person

Where:
Delaware College of Art and Design
600 N. Market St.
Wilmington, DE  19081
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Telephone: 302-622-8000 x 123
Contact Name: Mark Tajzler
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Cost: FREE for TLC members / $10 for non-members

Where:
Bucktoe Creek Preserve
432 Sharp Rd
Avondale, PA  19311
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Sponsor: The Land Conservancy
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Cost: $15 - $25

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Cape Henlopen High School Theater
1250 Kings Highway
Lewes, DE  19958
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Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 130-264-59095
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Cost: $18-$20

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE  19958
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Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
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Cost: $30. Ages 10-18 and one adult per youth.

Where:
Bethel United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall
Fourth & Market Streets
Lewes, DE  19958
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Sponsor: Coastal Concerts, Inc.
Telephone: 888-212-6458
Contact Name: Edna Ellett
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Cost: 45

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Ballroom at University and Whist Club
805 N. Broom St.
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Cost: $20 General Admission

Where:
Frankford Fire Hall
7 Main Street
Frankford, DE  19945
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The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Bells by Theresa Rebeck. During the great Yukon gold rush of the...

Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: (302) 831-2204
Website »

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Cost: $10 + FEES

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500 N Market St
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Contact Name: MP Intern
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