Richard and Audrey Boys’ English-Style Cottage in Wilmington
What was once a chauffeur’s apartment has been beautifully transformed into a comfortable stone dwelling. And the garden is a sight to behold.
(page 1 of 5)
Audrey Boys is driven to garden. For more than 40 years, she has lived on a sylvan half-acre in Wilmington in an English-style stone cottage originally built in 1900 as a four-car garage and chauffeur’s apartment serving the mansion of William Coyne, a director of the DuPont Co. “When I met my husband he told me we were going to live in this house, even though it wasn’t for sale,” she recalls. By that time, most of the grounds surrounding the mansion had been sold off, including the parcel on which the garage was sited. Houses had sprung up in between.
In 1968, a few years after their marriage, Boys and her husband, Richard, bought the property, still captivated by the home’s stone walls, slate roof and divided-light windows.
And, of course, there was the land, a rare and lovely expanse in an urban setting where they could visualize their children at play.
But before they moved in the young couple devoted a year to updating the home, turning a warren of three tiny rooms into a larger living room. They tore out the turned staircase that gobbled up space in the sitting room and replaced it with a straight flight of steps that opened up the room.
The industrial steel beams that supported the former garage were sheathed in oak to create the look of hefty wood ceiling trusses in an English cottage. In the dining room, a bank of windows was replaced with a pair of French doors, the better to usher in the garden that would evolve behind the house.
Stout interior walls are constructed from red tile and stone, coated with plaster. The extraordinary thickness of the walls makes for a home that is naturally soundproof and resistant to storms and other threats.
“I am told this is the only fire-proof home in the city of Wilmington,” Boys says.
Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose
Some people hand down jewelry through the family. In the Boys household, architectural elements are passed from generation to generation.
The black marble fireplace mantel in the living room was salvaged from the ballroom at Mount Vernon Place at Cazier Farms, her husband’s family home in Bear. The pair of white marble sinks in the dressing room also came from the mansion and are mounted on a double vanity crafted from barn wood.
A fireplace built from recycled Colonial-era curbstone already was in place in the sitting room when they bought the home. The sturdy spindles on the flight of stairs leading to the second floor were repurposed from the original turned staircase.
“My father lived to be 99,” Boys says. “We tend to think long-term.”