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South End update blends contemporary, comfort

The living room (pictured) carries the palette of neutral colors with a splash of red that echoes the redesigned kitchen . Michael J Lee

It was immediately apparent to interior designer Leslie Fine that this South End abode was in need of a contemporary update. To merge a contemporary aesthetic with a soft, informal appeal, the Boston designer opted to use earthy materials and comfortable furniture with sleek pieces and industrial accents.

While Fine made mostly cosmetic updates throughout the home, the kitchen received a complete overhaul. “The kitchen originally encompassed three spaces,” says Fine. “A pantry area was separate from the kitchen, and there was also a poorly set up laundry in the area.” All the walls were removed to create an open, more functional space. The pantry was incorporated into the new kitchen and the laundry room was moved to another part of the condo.


Working closely with kitchen designer Rosemary Porto of Poggenpohl Boston, Fine selected sleek white pine laminate cabinetry with stainless steel hardware. A backsplash made of river stone Anne Sacks tile echoes the natural appeal; counters are Caesarstone.

The kitchen’s ductwork was located in awkward places. To keep it concealed, Fine designed millwork made of rift oak which has a very tight grain, stained dark espresso. “It gives a furniture quality to the space,” says Fine. The millwork is functional in some spots including by the breakfast bar, where Fine had a niche carved out into a cabinet storing glassware. Stainless steel reveals accent the millwork. “The oak and stainless steel has a nice juxtaposition,” Fine said.

The breakfast bar was fabricated out of stainless steel and fitted with a red top made out of a back painted resin and acrylic material. “Acrylic is used in commercial spaces,” says Fine. “It’s a very durable material that is great to use in a home.”

The redesigned kitchen. Michael J Lee

The breakfast bar’s red top was inspired by the homeowner’s affinity for the bold hue. While Fine didn’t want to overpower the home with red, she incorporated it in small ways in the adjacent living room. To avoid competing with the striking wall of windows overlooking the neighborhood, a mainly neutral palette was selected. Walls are a creamy taupe, sofas are off-white and accented with pillows fashioned with a contemporary red damask pattern. “The pillows are statement pieces, very detailed, almost like a piece of art,” says Fine.


Two lounge chairs are upholstered in a red and cream patterned fabric in front of the windows. The chairs swivel so it’s easy to spin around to take in the view. Atop the new dark-stained oak floor, Fine designed a cream-colored wool rug bordered with red, fabricated by Tai Ping.

With 12-foot ceilings, properly lighting the room was a challenge. Fine had a monorail system installed. “It really added to the contemporary aesthetic,” she says. The individual lighting heads can be moved around to illuminate different elements of the room.

Different materials were chosen to keep the room from feeling “too matchy-matchy” says Fine. Cocktail tables are lighter oak with stainless steel rails, the console and end tables by the sofa and are dark wood, and an acrylic table is nestled between the swivel chairs.

“It’s an approachable space, very fresh and comfortable,” says Fine. “It comes alive with the punches of red.”

Jaci Conry can be reached at