Cathi Hodgins delights in cooking up designs for attractive, functional kitchens for families, foodies and friends.
But she put the kitchen in her own home in North Wilmington on the back burner for almost 10 years while she focused on building her business, Kitchens by Design.
“I loved my house from the second I walked in the door, that cozy, one-story concept of the classic rancher,” Hodgins says. “But I always knew that one day I would have to make over the kitchen.”
Her first major renovation was the addition of a large, open sunroom with lofty ceilings and expanses of windows that usher natural light into the room, as well as the adjacent dining room.
It’s a setting that is in harmony with nature, with Hodgins’ collection of leafy tropical plants within and mature shade trees, flowering shrubs and herbs outside. That organic sensibility extends to the materials she chose for the room: bead board for the ceiling, linen for the draperies, and limestone for the floor and bar countertop, all in soft vanilla.
“I’ve always gravitated toward things that are natural,” she says.
Page 2: Earthly Inspiration
When she was searching for kitchen cabinets, Hodgins was attracted to a painted finish that reflected the earthy tones of the Pennsylvania bluestone on the patio, a subtle link between the kitchen and the garden.
Then she ran into a stone wall. Where to find granite that reflected both the muted hues of the cabinets and the silvery luster of her stainless steel sink and range?
Hodgins searched for the perfect slab in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., New York and Pennsylvania—and walked away without placing an order each time.
“I thought I might have to put in a laminate countertop as a place holder,” she recalls.
Then she discovered a slab of Labrador granite, a rare, multi-colored species, in a stone yard off Exit 8A of the New Jersey Turnpike. A swirl of blues, greens and grays, the granite reminded her of the shimmering scales of fish darting through water.
It was breathtakingly beautiful—and jaw-droppingly expensive. Hodgins immediately tagged the stone and had it shipped south for fabrication.
“What is very meaningful, you splurge on,” she says. “I fell in love with the sparkle, the colors and the organic feel of the stone.”
Page 3: Good Buys, Friendly Advice
The appliances were an easier choice. In anticipation of the renovation, she found a good deal on a Sub-Zero refrigerator and kept it in storage for two years.
Restaurateur Xavier Teixido, her friend and longtime client, suggested Hodgins install a six-burner Wolf range because he so enjoys the stove in the kitchen she designed for him and his family. A warming drawer is at the ready when she is cooking for a crowd.
“When I have a party, I can enjoy myself with my guests because all the food has been prepared and is in the warming drawer,” she says.
A central peninsula is sheathed in exquisitely grained mahogany. Two lighting pendants suspended above the counter have shades of opaque glass molded in multiple rectangles, a geometric pattern that is reflected in the clear glass that fronts the cabinetry. The backsplash of square glass tiles is accented with contrasting stone set in a running brick pattern.
Such precision and attention to detail suit Hodgins, who also applies her penchant for exact measurements to baking.
“I work toward perfection in everything I do,” she says. “That’s what bakers do, too.”
Page 4: Go Forth Boldly
For years, Hodgins immersed herself in a pale palette of dreamy cream and soft ivory throughout her home. These days, she is adding a strong dose of color as a backdrop. She is glad she took a chance on the spicy rouge color on the walls in the dining room—but isn’t sure she will warm up to the cool blue in the living room.
“I enjoy trying colors out on myself before I suggest them to clients,” she muses. “Why not paint the walls a bold color? It isn’t difficult at all to paint over it if you change your mind later.”
Before Hodgins trained as a designer, she traveled the globe as a flight attendant. On a trip around the world, she spied a glistening chandelier of blue-tinted Murano glass in Venice.
“I couldn’t afford it then but I swore I would get one of those chandeliers in my lifetime,” she recalls.
More than 20 years later, she spotted the chandelier at a design conference in Italy and had the piece shipped home. Today, it hangs in the dining room above an antique table passed down by Hodgins’ great grandmother.
Page 5: The Artist
Growing up in an artistic family, she has always appreciated art and antiques. She found the Belgian screen depicting a seascape, painted in the 14th century, in the basement of an antique dealer who was a family friend.
A gifted artist herself, Hodgins paints watercolors and makes pottery. She also welds whimsical sculptures from found objects. In one flight of fancy, rusted shovels are reborn as wings on a goose.
Verdant landscapes of forests in her native Canada hang in the master bedroom, along with a scene of Venice in the 1850s, positioned so that it is the first sight she sees in the morning.
“It makes me happy to wake up and look at beautiful things,” she says.
The master suite is Hodgins’ latest project. Swathed in restful tones of pale blue, the serene retreat includes a sumptuous marble bath, walk-in closet and a sitting area with a desk, an essential piece of furniture for a creative spirit.
“If I wake up in the wee hours with an idea, I start drawing immediately,” she says. “I can’t wait to get it down on paper.”
Page 6: See Hodgins’ kitchen before the renovation…
The first thing friends mention when they visit Cathi Hodgins’ new kitchen for the first time is how much larger the room is. Truth to tell, the space didn’t grow an inch. But it looks and feels more expansive, thanks to thoughtful space planning.
Originally, the kitchen’s flow—visually and functionally—was interrupted by doorways to the foyer, basement and dining room. To achieve the right balance, Hodgins closed one passage and widened another. “Closing the door to the foyer gave me the long wall I needed for cabinets and a central peninsula,” she says. “And removing part of a wall and opening the kitchen to the den makes both rooms look and feel more spacious.”
Streamlined counter-height stools are tucked in a compact dining area in the peninsula, which also accommodates a second, bar-sized sink that is ideal for prepping fruits and veggies. Appliances and workstations are strategically sited to reduce steps and increase efficiency. The cook can readily pivot from the prep sink to the range, from the wall oven or fridge to the counter, from the main sink to the dishwasher.
“One or two steps and you’re there,” Hodgins says.
Instead of traditional cabinets with doors, most of the under-counter storage is dedicated to large drawers, which make it easier to keep pots, pans and cooking utensils neatly organized. The cerebral layout includes a bank of drawers for cutlery and table linens sited only a few steps from both the eat-in area of the kitchen and the adjoining dining room.
“It’s logical that when you set the table you take your placemats, your silver and your napkins,” she says.