This Renovated Colonial Revival Home Exudes Historic Charm

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.

"More than looking good, she insists that the house must work," Ben Muldrow says of his wife Leigh's restoration mantra driving the work on their circa-1924 Colonial Revival home. "It is the foundation of every decision we make. There are aspirational things we do, for sure, but then there is reality. Even with our family of seven, we can whip things into shape in less than two hours because everything has a place."

kitchen with wood accents and antique photograph
Stacy Zarin Goldberg

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.

In their Milford, Delaware, house, the two put their talents to work, rejiggering the kitchen, mudroom, library, and back porch. But even as they buff up some areas of the house, they are happy to let others just be.

"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."

wood slab dining room table in white kitchen
Stacy Zarin Goldberg

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.

The Muldrows designed and built their kitchen table to fit a narrow 1980s addition. "We spent days taping measurements meticulously on the floor to make sure dinner plates would fit and we could still move around the table," Leigh says. The table is topped with the same marble used on the nearby island.

navy and white modern farmhouse kitchen
Stacy Zarin Goldberg

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.

exposed wood shelves in navy and white kitchen
Stacy Zarin Goldberg

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.

rounded archway into navy and white kitchen
Stacy Zarin Goldberg

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."

Updated by
Mike Grady

Mike Grady is the executive director of programming at Dotdash Meredith, and he's been producing and creating videos for brands since 1998 with a focus in lifestyle. Previously, he worked at Time Inc., where he directed 6,000 videos and produced over 12,000. Mike holds a bachelor of arts degree in radio, television, and film from Auburn University and a master's of business administration from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles