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How to downsize delightfully

This petite North Shore home is just right for a designer and her two kids.

Karen Swanson, pictured with her kids, Charlie and Paige, knew the Kenneth James wall mural, bought at Watters & Brown in Beverly, would banish the home’s previous blandness. James R. Saloman

As a kitchen and bath designer, Karen Swanson, of New England Design Works, is used to precisely measuring and planning spaces so that everything fits. Those skills came in handy as she outfitted her own petite home. Swanson and her two kids, Paige, 13, and Charlie, 9, downsized from a 3,300-square-foot home to a trim 1,200-square-foot three bedroom in Manchester-by-the-Sea last spring. The transition has been easy — the cedar-shingled two-story is aesthetically delightful, with simple furnishings, snazzy colors, and cleverly designed storage.

Swanson likens laying out the rooms to putting together a jigsaw puzzle. For instance, if the sofa were an inch or two longer, the front door wouldn’t fully open. But the real acrobatics happened in the 75-square-foot kitchen, in which she managed to accommodate her favorite luxuries, from an induction cooktop and Wolf oven to a dishwasher and Sub-Zero fridge, along with extra-deep pot drawers and a floor-to-ceiling pantry.


In addition to the home’s simplicity — “No basement means no flooding or mice” — Swanson appreciates how less square footage has yielded more family time. “I see them a lot more now than I did before,” she says of her kids. They eat and watch TV together in the main living space but can retreat to their respective bedrooms for privacy. “There have been absolutely no compromises here,” Swanson says. “In fact, it’s better.”

Nestled between a rock ledge and the commuter rail line, the home has a tiny patio and gravel yard. Exterior trim is painted California Paints Gropius Grey. James R. Saloman
Swanson squeezed an 18-inch-wide dishwasher next to the sink. The white pendant light is from Rejuvenation and the framed cat print came from a sidewalk sale at Montserrat College of Art. James R. Saloman
A floor-to-ceiling pantry with frosted glass houses not just food but also the toaster and microwave. A full-size Wolf oven sits under a white Silestone countertop.James R. Saloman
Orla Kiely wallpaper brightens the first floor bathroom. Located off the kitchen, it serves as both master bath and powder room.James R. Saloman
A trough dropped in the countertop holds wine and olive oil while the family’s everyday dishes rest on a stainless steel shelf. The Walter Zanger glass tiles were the first decorative element Swanson chose. “You can see this wall from the living room,” she says, “so it had to be beautiful.”James R. Saloman
Playing off the citrus hue of recently reupholstered 1940s chairs from local consignment shop Stock Exchange, Swanson used inexpensive yellow polka dot fabric from Calico Corners for the draperies in her bedroom. James R. Saloman
A fiberglass shower unit was originally wedged under the sloped ceiling. Swanson swapped it for a washer and dryer, which can be concealed by sliding doors. James R. Saloman

Marni Elyse Katz blogs about design at StyleCarrot.com. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.