BISHOPVILLE, MD. — When Mario and Katerina Todorov are making their kids Belgian waffles with fresh berries, they can look out any window in their kitchen and see water rippling by.
“Whether I’m washing dishes, cooking or just sitting, it’s an easygoing feeling in this space. It’s relaxing,” Katerina says of her spacious all-white kitchen and adjoining blue and white family room. This kitchen is the heart of her family’s dramatic, custom-built home, which sits on a skinny peninsula in the St. Martin River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The 13-foot coffered ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows offer a changing vista. “It’s all different from the sunrise to the sunset,” Katerina says.
It was a dark and dated kitchen in their old house in Salisbury that spurred the Todorovs to move a half-hour east. In 2012, the Todorovs, both doctors, hired designer Erin Paige Pitts to renovate the Salisbury house’s builder-grade kitchen and first floor. Pitts spent five months coming up with a plan to open up the rooms and create a better flow with more light. But in the process, the Todorovs realized the logistics of such a large-scale renovation were messier than they were willing to bear. Says Mario, 51, “I dreaded the whole renovation process of people coming in and out of our home for months.”
Considering they were not that in love with their house or its location, they thought about building a place near the water that would accommodate their family and friends with a large kitchen/family room as its hub. They stumbled onto a listing for a narrow piece of land with a road down one side and water all around.
Telling her about their change of heart, the Todorovs asked Pitts, known for her designs for coastal homes, to incorporate the work she had already done into the design for an entire house. Pitts collaborated with Salisbury architect Christopher Pattey of Becker Morgan Group on the new house, providing input on architectural detailing, finishes, millwork, and all the furnishings and lighting.
The hub of the new five-bedroom, 5,400-square-foot house would be the kitchen — in a very big way. Says Katerina, 46, “I wanted it to be light and spacious. I like to be near the kids while I’m cooking.”
The 25-by-12-foot kitchen was designed to open into an airy family room. “It would be a bright, cheerful place with crisp white millwork and light, soft blue tones throughout,” Pitts says. “They both like a clean aesthetic, but he is more modern and she is a little less so. But I tried to please them both.”
The result is a space that leaves lots of room for several people to cook at once and entertain their family at traditional European-style meals. Mario and Katerina, both originally from Bulgaria, enjoy having family gatherings. Mario does a lot of the cooking, sometimes Bulgarian specialties such as stuffed grape leaves, moussaka or banitsa: eggs and cheese baked in phyllo pastry.
They can relax in the adjoining family room and hang out with their kids, Ellie, 14, and Christopher, 11, while food is being prepared. And an all-glass breakfast room allows the family to dine more formally than at the counter, while enjoying the water view. The house also has a separate dining room.
The focal point is the Calacatta gold marble island (a massive 134 inches by 64 inches), which took a crane and 10 installers to move into place. Pitts designed deep drawers on the island so that the kids could get their own bowls and plates. Because the island is so deep, she also had room for cabinets under the bar stools to hold bulky equipment such as a blender and rice cooker.
Pitts, who has offices on Gibson Island, Md., and in Delray Beach, Fla., filled the kitchen with details to make it both stylish and convenient. She put in a number of outlet strips (Plugmold multi-outlet systems) on the underside of upper cabinets and ends of the island to accommodate small appliances and phone and laptop chargers.
The butler’s pantry was designed as an elegant little room. “Pantries don’t have to look utilitarian to be functional,” Pitts says. Blue cabinet doors (Indigo Batik by Sherwin-Williams) are embellished with polished-nickel hardware. Because of all the kitchen’s windows, there aren’t a lot of upper cabinets, making the organization of the butler’s pantry crucial. Pitts used Rev-A-Shelf inserts to help organize drinks, foods and supplies. A small refrigerator holds beverages at easy reach. “I wanted the look to be like a Manhattan kitchen, small but all dressed up,” Pitts said.
Pitts was careful not to make the kitchen seem cavernous. “It’s large, but you still want it to feel intimate,” she says. “The cabinets purposely don’t go all the way to the ceiling. If they did, the room would become very grand and would lose proportion to the human scale.”
The Todorovs are drawn to the kitchen at all times of the day. “We wanted the space to be calming, and it is,” Katerina says. “When we come home and come in here, it feels like we are away from everything. But because of all the nature around, we don’t feel isolated.”
On weekends especially, the family likes to hang out in the morning and make crepes with Nutella or oatmeal with honey. “We can all be together while we are cooking,” Mario says. “It’s great. We can see all the eagles and herons and lots of boat traffic around us. Sometimes, it feels like we are living on a cruise ship.”
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