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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Wilmington Drama League
10 W. Lea Blvd.
Wilmington, DE  19802
View map »


Sponsor: Wilmington Drama League
Telephone: 764-1172
Website »

More information

Make no beans about it—you won’t want to miss Jack face off against the mighty Giant. 

Where:
Delaware Children’s Theatre
1014 Delaware Ave
Wilmington, DE
View map »

More information

Epifania is pretty boss when it comes to making money. Finding love, though? Not so much. But when the richest woman on earth finds a guy who holds her fancy, will she meet his challenge to live...

Where:
Resident Ensemble Players/Thompson Theatre
110 Orchard Road
Newark, DE
View map »


Website »

More information

These ain’t your granddad’s matchboxes—check out 60 rare examples of decadent 19th-century cases.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Pkwy.
Wilmington, DE
View map »


Telephone: 571-9590
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Lynn discovered photography through working in wild bird rehabilitation. Her images  explore Delaware’s wonderful variety of life and landscapes. She is a regular contributor to Delaware State...

Cost: Free

Where:
Blue Ball Barn
1914 West Park Drive
Wilmington, DE  19803
View map »


Telephone: 302-577-7020
Website »

More information

Delaware native, Carson Zullinger, has been exhibiting his figural and landscape fine-art photographs for forty years. Zullinger often subordinates his dynamic and thoroughly modern compositions to...

Cost: 5.00

Where:
Biggs Museum of American Arts
406 Federal Street
Dover, DE  19901
View map »

More information

Prehistoric marine reptiles that ruled the primeval seas more than 100 million years ago are taking over Adventure Aquarium on the Camden Waterfront for a limited-time exhibit starting January 16....

Cost: $25.95 for adults; $18.95 for children ages 2-12

Where:
Adventure Aquarium
1 Riverside Drive
Camden, NJ  08103
View map »


Sponsor: Adventure Aquarium
Telephone: 856-365-3300
Website »

More information

Somerville Manning Gallery presents a solo exhibition of works by Jamie Wyeth concurrent with the artist’s major retrospective on view at the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, PA.  The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Somerville Manning Gallery
101 Stone Block Row
Brecks Mill, 2nd Floor
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Somerville Manning Gallery
Telephone: (302) 652-0271
Contact Name: Marisa Nolan
Website »

More information

This summer, Camden’s largest residents, Adventure Aquarium’s hippopotamuses Button and Genny, invite you to join them in their exciting new home, Hippo Haven. As the only aquarium in the...

Cost: $18.95 - 25.95

Where:
Adventure Aquarium
1 Riverside Drive
Camden, NJ  08103
View map »


Contact Name: Amanda Perez
Website »

More information

Visitors may take a two-hour guided tour of Hagley’s 235-acre site. Stops include Eleutherian Mills, the first du Pont family home built in America; the First Office of the DuPont Company; a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Hagley Museum and Library
Telephone: 302-658-2400
Contact Name: Meg Marcozzi
Website »

More information

Ditch the winter whites for a world of dazzling color at Longwood Gardens, where you can stroll through thousands of orchids in bloom.

Where:
Longwood Gardens
1001 Longwood Road
Kennett Square, PA  19348
View map »

More information

Delaware native, Carson Zullinger, has been exhibiting his figural and landscape fine-art photographs for forty years. Zullinger often subordinates his dynamic and thoroughly modern compositions to...

Cost: Free

Where:
406 Federal Street
Dover, DE  19901

More information

Tobacco Cessation Location: Bayhealth Kent General, Private Dining Room 1–2, 640 S. State St., Dover Time: 5 p.m.–6:30 p.m. More info: Must be at least 18 years old to register...

Where:
Bayhealth Kent General
Private Dining Room 1–2
640 S. State St.
Dover, DE
View map »

More information

In response to audience demand, the Rehoboth Beach Film Society is presenting an encore screening of the Audience Award winner for Best Documentary at the 2014 Rehoboth Beach Independent Film...

Cost: $9

Where:
Lewes Presbyterian Church
133 Kings Highway
Lewes, DE  19958
View map »


Telephone: 302-645-9095
Website »

More information

Chips for Charity is a Monte Carlo-style cocktail event that boasts table games and dealers, an open bar, catering, a photo booth, a silent auction, 50/50, raffle prizes, a DJ and much more! Unlike...

Cost: $75/ticket

Where:
Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts (DCCA)
200 S. Madison St.
The Riverfront
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Next Gen North
Telephone: 609-665-6001
Contact Name: Danielle Dick
Website »

More information

In response to audience demand, the Rehoboth Beach Film Society is presenting an encore screening of the Audience Award winner for Best Documentary at the 2014 Rehoboth Beach Independent Film...

Cost: $9

Where:
Lewes Presbyterian Church
133 Kings Highway
Lewes, DE  19958
View map »


Telephone: 302-645-9095
Website »

More information

“Smokey Joe’s Cafe” is a high-energy song and dance celebration honoring the works of two rock 'n' roll pioneers, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The show includes 40 of their hits, including...

Cost: $12-$20

Where:
Wilmington Drama League
10 W. Lea Blvd.
Wilmington, DE  19802
View map »


Sponsor: Wilmington Drama League
Telephone: 764-1172
Website »

More information

These ain’t your granddad’s matchboxes—check out 60 rare examples of decadent 19th-century cases.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Pkwy.
Wilmington, DE
View map »


Telephone: 571-9590
Website »

More information

Epifania is pretty boss when it comes to making money. Finding love, though? Not so much. But when the richest woman on earth finds a guy who holds her fancy, will she meet his challenge to live...

Where:
Resident Ensemble Players/Thompson Theatre
110 Orchard Road
Newark, DE
View map »


Website »

More information

Make no beans about it—you won’t want to miss Jack face off against the mighty Giant. 

Where:
Delaware Children’s Theatre
1014 Delaware Ave
Wilmington, DE
View map »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Lynn discovered photography through working in wild bird rehabilitation. Her images  explore Delaware’s wonderful variety of life and landscapes. She is a regular contributor to Delaware State...

Cost: Free

Where:
Blue Ball Barn
1914 West Park Drive
Wilmington, DE  19803
View map »


Telephone: 302-577-7020
Website »

More information

Delaware native, Carson Zullinger, has been exhibiting his figural and landscape fine-art photographs for forty years. Zullinger often subordinates his dynamic and thoroughly modern compositions to...

Cost: 5.00

Where:
Biggs Museum of American Arts
406 Federal Street
Dover, DE  19901
View map »

More information

Prehistoric marine reptiles that ruled the primeval seas more than 100 million years ago are taking over Adventure Aquarium on the Camden Waterfront for a limited-time exhibit starting January 16....

Cost: $25.95 for adults; $18.95 for children ages 2-12

Where:
Adventure Aquarium
1 Riverside Drive
Camden, NJ  08103
View map »


Sponsor: Adventure Aquarium
Telephone: 856-365-3300
Website »

More information

This summer, Camden’s largest residents, Adventure Aquarium’s hippopotamuses Button and Genny, invite you to join them in their exciting new home, Hippo Haven. As the only aquarium in the...

Cost: $18.95 - 25.95

Where:
Adventure Aquarium
1 Riverside Drive
Camden, NJ  08103
View map »


Contact Name: Amanda Perez
Website »

More information

Somerville Manning Gallery presents a solo exhibition of works by Jamie Wyeth concurrent with the artist’s major retrospective on view at the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, PA.  The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Somerville Manning Gallery
101 Stone Block Row
Brecks Mill, 2nd Floor
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Somerville Manning Gallery
Telephone: (302) 652-0271
Contact Name: Marisa Nolan
Website »

More information

Visitors may take a two-hour guided tour of Hagley’s 235-acre site. Stops include Eleutherian Mills, the first du Pont family home built in America; the First Office of the DuPont Company; a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Hagley Museum and Library
Telephone: 302-658-2400
Contact Name: Meg Marcozzi
Website »

More information

Ditch the winter whites for a world of dazzling color at Longwood Gardens, where you can stroll through thousands of orchids in bloom.

Where:
Longwood Gardens
1001 Longwood Road
Kennett Square, PA  19348
View map »

More information

Delaware native, Carson Zullinger, has been exhibiting his figural and landscape fine-art photographs for forty years. Zullinger often subordinates his dynamic and thoroughly modern compositions to...

Cost: Free

Where:
406 Federal Street
Dover, DE  19901

More information

Tobacco Cessation Location: Bayhealth Kent General, Private Dining Room 1–2, 640 S. State St., Dover Time: 5 p.m.–6:30 p.m. More info: Must be at least 18 years old to register...

Where:
Bayhealth Kent General
Private Dining Room 1–2
640 S. State St.
Dover, DE
View map »

More information

The Lighthouse Church will be starting a Training Center for Deliverances beginning Friday September 12, 2014.  The school will be focused on all aspects of ministering deliverance and healing...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Lighthouse Church Inc.
6 South Railroad Avenue
Wyoming, DE  19934
View map »


Sponsor: The Lighthouse Church Inc.
Telephone: (302) 632-4679
Contact Name: Bro. Christopher Gore
Website »

More information

Chips for Charity is a Monte Carlo-style cocktail event that boasts table games and dealers, an open bar, catering, a photo booth, a silent auction, 50/50, raffle prizes, a DJ and much more! Unlike...

Cost: $75/ticket

Where:
Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts (DCCA)
200 S. Madison St.
The Riverfront
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Next Gen North
Telephone: 609-665-6001
Contact Name: Danielle Dick
Website »

More information

“Smokey Joe’s Cafe” is a high-energy song and dance celebration honoring the works of two rock 'n' roll pioneers, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The show includes 40 of their hits, including...

Cost: $12-$20

Where:
Wilmington Drama League
10 W. Lea Blvd.
Wilmington, DE  19802
View map »


Sponsor: Wilmington Drama League
Telephone: 764-1172
Website »

More information

Epifania is pretty boss when it comes to making money. Finding love, though? Not so much. But when the richest woman on earth finds a guy who holds her fancy, will she meet his challenge to live...

Where:
Resident Ensemble Players/Thompson Theatre
110 Orchard Road
Newark, DE
View map »


Website »

More information

These ain’t your granddad’s matchboxes—check out 60 rare examples of decadent 19th-century cases.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Pkwy.
Wilmington, DE
View map »


Telephone: 571-9590
Website »

More information

Make no beans about it—you won’t want to miss Jack face off against the mighty Giant. 

Where:
Delaware Children’s Theatre
1014 Delaware Ave
Wilmington, DE
View map »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Delaware native, Carson Zullinger, has been exhibiting his figural and landscape fine-art photographs for forty years. Zullinger often subordinates his dynamic and thoroughly modern compositions to...

Cost: 5.00

Where:
Biggs Museum of American Arts
406 Federal Street
Dover, DE  19901
View map »

More information

Prehistoric marine reptiles that ruled the primeval seas more than 100 million years ago are taking over Adventure Aquarium on the Camden Waterfront for a limited-time exhibit starting January 16....

Cost: $25.95 for adults; $18.95 for children ages 2-12

Where:
Adventure Aquarium
1 Riverside Drive
Camden, NJ  08103
View map »


Sponsor: Adventure Aquarium
Telephone: 856-365-3300
Website »

More information

This summer, Camden’s largest residents, Adventure Aquarium’s hippopotamuses Button and Genny, invite you to join them in their exciting new home, Hippo Haven. As the only aquarium in the...

Cost: $18.95 - 25.95

Where:
Adventure Aquarium
1 Riverside Drive
Camden, NJ  08103
View map »


Contact Name: Amanda Perez
Website »

More information

Somerville Manning Gallery presents a solo exhibition of works by Jamie Wyeth concurrent with the artist’s major retrospective on view at the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, PA.  The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Somerville Manning Gallery
101 Stone Block Row
Brecks Mill, 2nd Floor
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Somerville Manning Gallery
Telephone: (302) 652-0271
Contact Name: Marisa Nolan
Website »

More information

Visitors may take a two-hour guided tour of Hagley’s 235-acre site. Stops include Eleutherian Mills, the first du Pont family home built in America; the First Office of the DuPont Company; a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Hagley Museum and Library
Telephone: 302-658-2400
Contact Name: Meg Marcozzi
Website »

More information

The Rehoboth Beach Film Society and the Cape Henlopen Educational Foundation are proud to present The Metropolitan Opera’s live broadcast of Offenbach’s “Les Contes d’Hoffmann” on...

Cost: $15 - $25

Where:
Cape Henlopen High School Theater
1250 Kings Hwy
Lewes, DE  19958
View map »


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

More information

The Rehoboth Beach Film Society and the Cape Henlopen Educational Foundation are proud to present The Metropolitan Opera’s live broadcast of Offenbach’s “Les Contes d’Hoffmann” on...

Cost: $15 - $25

Where:
Cape Henlopen High School Theater
1250 Kings Hwy
Lewes, DE  19958
View map »


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

More information

Ditch the winter whites for a world of dazzling color at Longwood Gardens, where you can stroll through thousands of orchids in bloom.

Where:
Longwood Gardens
1001 Longwood Road
Kennett Square, PA  19348
View map »

More information

Delaware native, Carson Zullinger, has been exhibiting his figural and landscape fine-art photographs for forty years. Zullinger often subordinates his dynamic and thoroughly modern compositions to...

Cost: Free

Where:
406 Federal Street
Dover, DE  19901

More information

Tobacco Cessation Location: Bayhealth Kent General, Private Dining Room 1–2, 640 S. State St., Dover Time: 5 p.m.–6:30 p.m. More info: Must be at least 18 years old to register...

Where:
Bayhealth Kent General
Private Dining Room 1–2
640 S. State St.
Dover, DE
View map »

More information

Chips for Charity is a Monte Carlo-style cocktail event that boasts table games and dealers, an open bar, catering, a photo booth, a silent auction, 50/50, raffle prizes, a DJ and much more! Unlike...

Cost: $75/ticket

Where:
Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts (DCCA)
200 S. Madison St.
The Riverfront
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Next Gen North
Telephone: 609-665-6001
Contact Name: Danielle Dick
Website »

More information

“Smokey Joe’s Cafe” is a high-energy song and dance celebration honoring the works of two rock 'n' roll pioneers, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The show includes 40 of their hits, including...

Cost: $12-$20

Where:
Wilmington Drama League
10 W. Lea Blvd.
Wilmington, DE  19802
View map »


Sponsor: Wilmington Drama League
Telephone: 764-1172
Website »

More information

Epifania is pretty boss when it comes to making money. Finding love, though? Not so much. But when the richest woman on earth finds a guy who holds her fancy, will she meet his challenge to live...

Where:
Resident Ensemble Players/Thompson Theatre
110 Orchard Road
Newark, DE
View map »


Website »

More information

Make no beans about it—you won’t want to miss Jack face off against the mighty Giant. 

Where:
Delaware Children’s Theatre
1014 Delaware Ave
Wilmington, DE
View map »

More information

These ain’t your granddad’s matchboxes—check out 60 rare examples of decadent 19th-century cases.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Pkwy.
Wilmington, DE
View map »


Telephone: 571-9590
Website »

More information

It’s a tag team on the pipe organ for this month’s Dickson Theatre Organ Society concert.  See them put it down at John Dickinson High School

Where:
John Dickinson High School
1801 Milltown Road
Wilmington, DE
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
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