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What's Up Magazine

Contemporary Cool: Chestertown waterfront blends unique architecture, functional 
features & attractive amenities

Mar 13, 2017 12:58PM ● By Cate Reynolds
By James Houck // Photography by David Burroughs

When Dorien Smithson and her husband semi-retired from their careers several years ago—she an executive in the global risk management industry and he a physician—they sought the purchase of a weekend retreat from their slowed down-yet-still-busy lives in Philadelphia. Accessible proximity to/from this metro market was a must and after beginning their search in Annapolis, then onward to Easton, they ultimately settled on “the perfect place”…in Chestertown.

“We enjoy the Eastern shore, and we wanted to buy something on the water close to Philadelphia. [Chestertown] is an easy no bridge, no tunnel two hour commute from Philadelphia,” Smithson says.
The waterfront slice they bought featured an old cabin on the property that was simply too old to renovate. Though it had been in the previous owner’s family for more than 60 years, it was decided that building new would be best. Their creative juices started flowing.

“I found a young architect that was willing to think a bit outside the box,” Smithson explains. “We worked together to create the lines and layout of the house. It was important to have a local builder take on the project. Given the level of customization, I also needed a skilled carpenter. I engaged a young carpenter who did custom work on my apartment. I had confidence his talent and skills would execute my vision. We also hired all local trades—plumber and electrician. The local builder and trades were excellent working closely with the carpenter. The project took much longer than we hoped due to the domino effect of customizing.”

With time, their vision came to fruition and the property is a case study in contemporary cool, with many unique features and amenities, as well as energy efficiency.
“We wanted a home built around how we really live. Having a ‘green’ efficient home was a priority,” Smithson says. “This meant dedicating parts of the house to the things we enjoy. It started with a large open kitchen as the focal point of the entire home. It required high-end functional appliances and a well-stocked pantry. The cabinets have been uniquely custom-fitted to hold pots, knives, utensils, and spices. There is an area just for making coffee and tea. 

“The center of the kitchen is an area that converts from a lounge to a dining table, seating eight people. The glass NanaWall Systems doors foldaway to create a lanai feel blending the inside and outside as one.

“The bar is stocked for everything to make the vintage cocktails we love. There are built in wine coolers. Extended from the kitchen is a ‘reading bar’ area dedicated to reading, working on iPads. There is a large custom-built puzzle/game table that lifts up from the bar.
“We also wanted to use the house in the winter. We created a ‘winter room,’ a sunken area off the kitchen with a large fireplace. And in keeping with the green effort, the house is fitted throughout with LED lighting and geothermal HVAC.” 

  Altogether, the Smithsons find their new Shore property as pleasing as the French Riviera. “The view of the bay from this elevated property is spectacular. It reminded us of the Mediterranean. The sunsets are beautiful. The vision was to build a weekend retreat with customization built around easy, casual entertaining.”

Dream accomplished.