Designer Karen Swanson Revamps a Cramped South End Kitchen

The New England Design Works pro dreams up an airy space with plenty of storage—and style.

Photo by Jared Kuzia

When Lindsey and Brian Swett came to Karen Swanson of New England Design Works, they were fed up with the cramped kitchen and the largely unused dining room in their South End rowhouse. Their lives had changed significantly in the years since they first purchased the home: Lindsey expanded her business, Niche Urban Garden Supply, to include a second location, and she and Brian welcomed their first child. They craved a home that would reflect their new lifestyle, envisioning a bright and airy space they could relax in, with ample seating, storage, and a dining area they would actually want to use for family dinners—not baby-stroller parking.

So Swanson got to work, teaming up with Nick Portnoy Builders on a plan that would increase functionality and livability while also appealing to the couple’s contemporary aesthetic. By removing the wall between the kitchen and the dining room, the team opened up the space to accommodate an oak-paneled waterfall island and a dining area anchored by a plush banquette. Barstools at the island—which is topped with the same Neolith surface that covers the counter and the backsplash—provide additional seating.

Photo by Jared Kuzia


Photo by Jared Kuzia

Across from the island, column refrigeration flanks an induction cooktop, blending in with new custom cabinetry by Bespoke of Winchester. Designing the cabinetry was a collaborative process: The Swetts selected the deep charcoal color and proposed incorporating the oak accents, which match the flooring in their basement and create a sense of cohesion throughout the house. Using the same wood, Swanson designed an inset shelf to fit across a stubborn chaseway, cleverly turning what could have been a design impediment into a stunning visual element. “I love solving problems for people and seeing them get excited about their space,” Swanson says. “It came out so well.”

Bespoke of Winchester

Nick Portnoy Builders

Interior Designer
New England Design Works