Local cottage gains English pedigree

DREAM HOME

Anglophile: Andy Binkley has the antiques that go with her long British pedigree and her American cottage.

April 11, 1999|By Joni Guhne | Joni Guhne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

At the end of a winding lane in Millersville sits Ayr Hill, a turn-of-the century American summer cottage that has acquired an English pedigree.

Owned by Howard and Andrea "Andy" Binkley, the house will be open to the public Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. as part of the 62nd annual Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage.

The cottage was built by Morgan and Olive Baldwin, members of the Baldwin family whose name graces scores of historic buildings in the Millersville area of Anne Arundel County. The cottage reflects the Arts and Crafts style of architecture, which emphasized simple lines and handcrafted materials.

"Ayr Hill was in such good condition when we purchased it 10 years ago," says Mr. Binkley, "we've made only minor structural changes."

The Binkleys concentrated on cosmetic improvements to the two-story, frame cottage, filling it with enough authentic English furnishings to fool all but the most observant Anglophile.

Through the lace-trimmed windows, one expects to get a glimpse of English countryside.

But no. What you see is two acres of Maryland woods filled with holly, oak and linden, dogwood and maple. Spring flowers, azaleas and rhododendrons vie for space around the sturdy little house with a broad, front porch.

"The minute we walked into this house," said Janice Binkley-Cole, the younger of the couple's two daughters, "it seemed we had lived here a long time."

That's exactly the feeling the couple was looking for after years of living on U.S. military bases.

Mrs. Binkley, a native of Great Britain, longed to re-create her dream house -- a historic cottage from the Cotswolds region of southwest England. Ayr Hill was the perfect place to begin.

Howard Binkley, a retired Army major, met his future bride while he was on duty in Germany and she was visiting relatives in Munich.

"We were married at the Bavarian Embassy chapel, just off Piccadilly Circus in London," she said. After his tour of duty in Germany, he spent several years at military posts in the United States.

Andy Binkley, who traces her family to early 18th-century England, was raised with mementos from her grandparents and even from several great, great, great-grandparents who served in the English military or colonial government in India. Now these keepsakes furnish Ayr Hill.

The transformation of Ayr Hill began in the foyer, where its original pine floors and stairway were cleaned and newly lighted by a leaded glass window by Annapolis artisan Jody Matenon.

Taking her color scheme from an English countryside in the spring, Mrs. Binkley painted the rooms pink and putty, yellow and taupe, with woodwork and cabinetry in glossy white.

The colors are repeated in a collection of oriental rugs. Two of the largest rugs were bought by the Binkleys in Bahrain.

Ten-foot ceilings and light from oversized windows easily accommodate wall patterns of English roses and trellised ivy. Windows are hung with lace curtains topped with swags. Nooks and crannies are stacked with volumes of literature and artwork.

Furnishings are a mix of American, English and Indian antiques. No table top escapes the controlled clutter of an English household. The effect is casual elegance.

The kitchen is an example of the "more is better" school of decorating. Here a 1930s Chambers porcelain topped stove, with its back splash of English tile, sets the standard.

Shelves, tables and counters groan under a free-for-all collection of cookbooks, plus decorative and functional pieces. The result is as engaging as a trip to a British antique row. The Binkleys installed a tintype ceiling and a pickled oak floor.

In the conch-shell pink parlor, the fireplace surround is one-of-a-kind.

"It is made of English tiles that depict the travelers from `The Canterbury Tales,' " said Mrs. Binkley, "and they actually came from the town of Canterbury." The top of a grand piano displays a collection of family photos.

Hanging on the buttercup yellow walls of the dining room is a painting of Andy Binkley at age 11. "This picture hung in the Royal Academy in London," she says.

The painting now hangs above a delicate antique inlaid cabinet that was shown at the Crystal Palace Exhibition in 1851 and which once belonged to her mother. Across the room, her great, great, great-grandmother's bracket clock, circa 1700, still announces teatime.

A two-story addition by the previous owners in 1978 added a family room and master bedroom suite, both lined with tall windows.

Mr. Binkley, a furniture refinisher, built a garden shed and a large, separate garage, once used by his wife as an antique shop.

"We paid $165,000 for the house, and we've invested approximately $45,000 in improvements," he said. "In today's market, the house is worth between $250,000 and $275,000."

Pub Date: 4/11/99

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