By all accounts, Frank and Wendy Bunch's farm in Kent County would be an appropriate — and historically correct — setting for any film or documentary on America's Colonial past. One would only need to replace the couple's late-model cars with carriages along the private road that enters onto a breathtakingly long driveway lined with 134 cedar trees.
The banks of a large pond in the front yard are occupied by metal herons that appear to be alive and waddling ducks that, on closer inspection, are.
A brick Colonial, built in 1781, the home sits on 78 acres of flat and verdant pasture and is a National Trust historic property. Later additions telescope from the original three-story structure in the fashion of many homes from the period when there came a need for an indoor kitchen, bathrooms and other comforts that were once located in outbuildings.
Established by the Trew family, successive generations of gentleman farmers who tilled the land and ran a dairy farm, the property includes a small cemetery where the Trews are buried. The last member of this family lived there until mid-1980s.
The house and farm were then purchased by John Dean in 1990. He sold 160 acres, kept 78 acres for himself and restored the main house while adding yet another addition.
In 1996, Frank and Wendy Bunch purchased the whole package: the original home, two-story guest house, swimming pool, cemetery, smoke house, and several outbuildings and sheds.
"We fell in love with the peace and quiet," said Wendy Bunch, 68, and owner of a Sotheby's Real Estate franchise in Wilmington, Del. "We took a look and I thought, 'I could live in this house [with] its interior architecture.'"
Indeed, the Bunches were more than prepared to furnish the 4,500-square-foot rambling, Eastern Shore colonial.
Frank Bunch, who retired after 30 years with the DuPont Medical Products Division, came from a fine antiques background, with his grandfather being a dealer in Accomack, Va. Business travel for DuPont took him London, Taiwan and Ashville, N.C.
"Buy old, buy unique and buy one piece at a time," he said, by way of a lesson he learned early on.
"Everything has a story to it," added Wendy Bunch, who grew up in London.
These stories would fill volumes. The main house is a rectangular structure with two dormers jutting from the pitched roof. Very much like the houses children first learn to draw, the home is symmetrical, with windows neatly placed and a wooden porch at the center front door only.
Inside the front door, carved paneled walls have been painted a muted shade of gold with an accent wall in cream color. A built-in cabinet with 20 paned glass doors sits beside an ornately paneled fireplace. Chippendale and Queen Anne furnishings give way to a Moroccan shoeshine kit resting in a corner. A period grandfather clock rests by the narrow staircase peeping behind its paneled door. A Japanese screen hangs over a drop-leaf table.
Wood paneling is also a feature of the original dining room, which includes Chippendale chairs and table and a second oriental screen.
The Bunches use the original kitchen, with its brick floor, as a family room, marveling at how they were able to wedge a 63-inch flat-screen TV into the cooking hearth. Here, traditional furniture features leather chairs and an overstuffed couch upholstered in a whimsical pattern of elephants against a red background. The nearby den, which has both paneling and wallpaper, is called the "Snuggery" — think "snuggling"— with its comfortable couch upholstered in Puss in Boots fabric, and its homey fireplace mantel displaying a collection of English horse brasses.
The latest addition to the house includes a room completely paneled in walnut and furnished with a Chinese poster bed with an open carved wood canopy. A long hallway beyond the bedroom features bookshelves along one wall and glass doors and windows to the patio. The hall leads to a master suite with tray ceiling, wet bar and two complete bathrooms.
"Everything in this addition was beautifully done," Frank Bunch said of the rooms, which tastefully blend into the Colonial interior of the main house.
Two guest bedrooms are located on the original third level with one in the third-floor garret.
The Bunches retained the interior styling of the 1950 kitchen addition pretty much intact with its oak cabinetry and corner cabinet. They kept the blue-and-white medallion wallpaper against which an iron "tree" of copper pottery stands tall.
The National Trust requires the Bunches to open the original home for tours five times a year and will also take over the home if there are no heirs. (The couple has two sons and three grandchildren.)
Whatever happens, Wendy Bunch says, "We are good stewards of this home."
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Making the dream
Dream element: The Bunch Colonial farm sits on 78 acres of land along the Chester River in Kent County. In this quiet and bucolic setting, trees of many varieties bloom on the property, which originally belonged to the Trews, one of the county's early families of gentlemen farmers. The Trew family graveyard, its stone markers in relatively good condition, rests within a wrought-iron, fenced-in area a few yards from the north side of the house.
Dream design: The house was built in the fashion of the day for and by prosperous Colonial planters. Its telescoping design is aptly described, "3-2-1," as additions were added over time. Behind the house, an L-shaped addition, the latest, forms an outdoor courtyard with Indian Railway benches placed on the patio. "It took me a year to get the National Trust to give their permission to tear down the barn," says Frank Bunch. Their property is one of 60 nationwide that was inspected by the National Trust and deemed to take its place with other historic properties throughout the country.
Dream interior: The home's interior features all of the earmarks of a late 18th-century Colonial home. Just as it telescopes on the outside, it bears indoors the hallmarks of an earlier time with its worn and wide-planked flooring, two sets of steep and narrow steps to the upper levels that are hidden behind plank doors. The first addition, an indoor kitchen, has a wide hearth for cooking and a ladder beside the fireplace to a garret space, thought to be sleeping quarters for the home's servants. The ceiling here is beamed. Built-in furniture pieces include a corner cabinet in the paneled dining room. Of the interior's seven fireplaces, only two are capped.