Delaware Home and Garden: Ellen Passman of Washington, D.C., renovates a Victorian house in Milton, Sussex County
A D.C. transplant rescues a Victorian in Milton.
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Their Cup of Tea
Both women are the keepers of extensive collections of family china. A large cupboard in the dining room holds plates, platters, crystal, salt cellars and a tureen handed down by Passman’s grandmother.
“Our tastes are remarkably similar and usually the only dilemma we have is where to put the second piece because we have two of something,” Lilien says. “That’s Ellen’s sideboard in the dining room—and mine in the foyer.”
The couple hosts frequent dinner parties and the lighting is as well thought out as the menu. Gilded torchieres are heirlooms from Lilien’s family. The back-lit stained-glass inset in the wall was once a fireplace screen. Rope lighting tucked inside crown molding provides uplighting.
In the library, a sofa upholstered in a cheerful floral print is tucked into a large niche surrounded by windows on three sides.
“This is where the bodies were laid out when the house was a funeral home,” Passman says. “You get the best naps on that couch.”
A French clock on the mantel is literally frozen in time. It stopped working years ago and is permanently set to 8:25, an opportune setting in both the morning and evening.
“A great time to wake up—and a great time to have dinner after a nice cocktail,” Passman notes.
Upstairs, both the ceiling and the walls were taken down to make way for the master suite, providing a lofty sense of space and drama. The attic stairs were left in place, even though the floor was removed.
“We call it the stairway to nowhere,” Lilien says.
Across the hall, she incorporated the French provincial living room furniture from her previous home in a light and feminine bedroom. An Art Nouveau crystal lamp and sconces are cherished family pieces.
The couple’s most recent project was updating and expanding the kitchen, reclaiming space from a defunct chimney. The existing maple cabinets were repurposed in the laundry room.
Outdoors, a barren plot has been transformed into a lush open-air sanctuary, blooming with old-fashioned favorites, including azalea, iris, hydrangea and roses. Chives, oregano and other herbs grow in a fragrant kitchen garden.
Passman has blossomed, too. After years of city life, her roots are firmly in Milton.
“I’m just the current caretaker of this house,” she says. “I’m happy to say she is solid now, good for another 100 years.”
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