Style Watch

Charming and practical

A Swampscott spec home’s casual dining area gets a family-friendly makeover.

“The space is now peaceful and beautiful, a comfortable place to eat, cook, and relax,” says Clark. “It’s perfectly suited to the way the family lives.”

Michael J. Lee

“The space is now peaceful and beautiful, a comfortable place to eat, cook, and relax,” says Clark. “It’s perfectly suited to the way the family lives.”

Michael J. Lee

When the owners of this Cape Cod-style house in Swampscott moved in, they left their old mismatched furniture behind. Salem-based interior designer Anita Clark started from scratch, transforming the spec house (meaning it was built by a developer without a buyer) from what Clark describes as “very vanilla” into a light, airy atmosphere with an informal vibe that suited the couple and their two young children. The heart of the home is an open area encompassing the kitchen, casual dining area, and family room. The design centers on a pale blue, gray, and cream color palette, and each section is painted a slightly different hue to create distinction between spaces. Many pieces were custom-made, but practicality was a priority: Furniture is flexible and fabrics are stain-resistant. The result is a space that feels both refined and relaxed.

1 | When company comes, the self-storing leaves of this custom alder table can be extended to seat up to 10 people. “On a daily basis, it’s small and cozy enough for the family,” says Clark.


2 | The room is narrow, so Clark put a bench on one side of the table. “Chairs on both sides would have pushed the table too far into the room,” she says. “This way, there is enough circulation.”

3 | The bench has a slipcover made of a solution-dyed acrylic DeLany & Long fabric. “It repels liquids, and the owners say all stains come out in the wash — even ketchup,” says Clark.

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4 | A custom silver-leaf finish adds a subtle splash of elegance to the traditionally styled wrought-iron Bella Figura chandelier.

5 | Unable to find a fixture that worked in the space, Clark designed the pendant lights above the island to complement the chandelier. “Everything available seemed too industrial,” she says. “These are very soft.”

6 | For contrast, the kitchen bar stools are painted a soft gray. “Their original wood stain would have blended in with the island’s wood base,” says Clark.


7 | Windows in the open dining and family space have simple valances in a blue-and-cream linen fabric by Quadrille. “There are a lot of long windows close together, so draperies would be too bulky,” says Clark.

8 | A small-scale armchair and ottoman nestle between windows without obscuring the view. They are upholstered in a checked Classic Cloth fabric in gray and cream.

9 | A round end table has gray painted legs and a dark wood top. Pairing natural wood with painted finishes adds warmth and dimension to a room, Clark says.

10 | The shades of brown in the Oushak rug pull in the tones of the wood furniture.

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