As it turned out, she and George shared many of the same interests – most significantly art, which they both studied in college. George even attended the university in Sewanee, Tennessee – the same town where Leslie grew up and where her parents just happened to be professors. “It was a four-hour canoe trip, but it felt like 45 minutes,” George says.
After 14 months of dating, George and Leslie were married on September 25, 2010 and spent their honeymoon in Sicily. When they returned, they set to work making the first improvements to their new home in Lancaster.
Well, “new” is a relative term. To Leslie, who arrived in Lancaster from New York City, the circa 1769 farmhouse certainly was new. To George, however, it was a longstanding part of his family’s heritage – not to mention his own home since 1995.
“I thought it was just beautiful the first time I saw it,” Leslie says of the house. “I thought it was very cool the connection he had to the place.”
That connection dates back to the 18th century, when the house and surrounding farmlands were owned by the Hostetter family. George’s great-great grandfather, Abraham Kauffman Mann, purchased the estate in 1905 – but never lived in the house. Neither did George’s great-grandfather or great-uncle, both of whom tilled the land. Instead, the house became residence to their tenant farmers. “I think at one time, half the neighborhood lived here,” George remarks.
When George returned to Lancaster after attending graduate school, he became the first Mann to live in his family’s house. He spent the years fixing up the exterior – painting, roofing, spouting, plus continuing to farm – but it wasn’t until he met Leslie that he considered the interior.
George and Leslie share a mutual love for simple, classic styles – for her, it’s English and French Country, while he favors Williamsburg colors. The result of their collaboration is evident in their renovated kitchen: a clean eggshell sheen covers the entirety of the Shaker-style cabinetry, bead board and molding – all of which was thanks to Wynwood Kitchens. George had worked with Wynwood Kitchens Owner Wesley Funk on a previous renovation for the home of one of his farm employees, plus George liked the work Wynwood did in friends’ homes.
Wes and his trusted staff, Nate Brubaker (who was involved in all aspects of the project, from design and layout to shop management) and Carl Ranck (who headed up construction and installation), carefully custom-crafted all the work to blend with the original features. A perfect example is the kitchen’s dumbwaiter – the interior of which had been retrofitted for storage use, but with the exterior still sporting woodwork dating to the kitchen’s installation in the mid-19th century. “Wes was able to incorporate it with the new cabinetry and make it feel seamless,” Leslie says.
The Manns also were delighted by the unfussy-yet-thoughtful touches Wynwood added. George points to the decorative detail on the edges of the cabinets, noting that it mimics the detail on the dumbwaiter and the porch columns. Plus, Wynwood was able to accommodate other original details of the house – several of which were rather unusual, such as thick-silled windows for which Wes, Nate and Carl fabricated and installed custom-depth jambs and casings. The elevation of the windows was another challenge, as their low height would have conflicted with standard base cabinets. To that end, Wynwood crafted custom-height base cabinets that blended fluidly with existing design lines, while also offering practicality in the form of a lower-height work area. It’s the perfect place for the Manns’ one-year-old son, Isaac, to learn how to cook!
Wynwood’s style of business also matched George and Leslie’s sensibilities. “I liked Wes’ approach because he wasn’t trying to sell us on, ‘You need this addition and that addition,'” Leslie states. “He was very straightforward and simplified the process for us.”
Thanks to that efficient approach and off-site workshop, Wes, Nate and Carl were able to complete the installation of cabinetry, molding and trim – plus soapstone countertops and a matching backsplash – on a tight timeline. “It was the fastest, easiest part of the whole process,” Leslie says of the kitchen project, which also included electrical rewiring, laying a floor comprised of recovered barn wood, finding period-appropriate accents like latches and hinges, and applying paint and wallpaper.
Now, what the Manns call “the most important room in the house” also is the most used. “We spend about 90% of our time in the kitchen,” Leslie attests. “It’s sparked my interest in cooking because I have so much space now. It’s really the focal point of the house.”
She and George agree that there’s nothing they would change. “We had one chance to do it right,” he says. “This would be the kitchen we’d have for the rest of our lives.”