A South End condo’s windows and crumbling brick walls pose a dilemma in this kitchen renovation
The original brick was too far gone to save, but then they uncovered a lucky discovery that made all the difference.
Marcelo Vedovatto had his heart set on retaining the exposed-brick wall in the kitchen of his newly purchased South End condo, and he wanted to swap the locations of the kitchen and the dining area. Designer Karen Swanson and builder Nick Portnoy had other ideas.
The wall was in disrepair, Portnoy recalls. “We considered replacing the damaged bricks, but it would have resulted in a patchwork effect.” Adds Swanson, owner of New England Design Works in Manchester-by-the-Sea, “Since we weren’t using upper cabinets, the bricks would have been on full display.”
Ultimately, all three got their wishes. During demolition, Portnoy discovered a brick wall covered with drywall. He repointed and sealed it, and voila — the new dining alcove boasts a beautiful exposed-brick wall. “The brick makes the alcove feel really special,” Swanson says.
Relocating the dining area allowed for the larger, open kitchen Vedovatto envisioned. “We did a few different floor plans, including one with the sink in the same place to save on cost, but he really liked this one,” says Swanson. The starting point was determining how to work around the two windows, which extend below counter height. After much discussion, the counters simply went across the windows without blocking them, creating a small well around each deep windowsill.
For the cabinets, Vedovatto and Swanson debated traditional versus contemporary and white versus gray. They settled on Shaker-style pieces from Crown Point Cabinetry in New Hampshire, painted Sherwin-Williams Silver Strand. “It’s a pale bluish gray that looks gorgeous with the aged brass, which makes everything look fresh,” Swanson says. “It’s light enough for Marcelo’s taste, and appealing for resale when the time comes.”
Configuring the long (formerly exposed-brick) wall also took finesse. To keep the cooktop and hood from feeling crowded at the end of the counter, Swanson specified open walnut shelves on the adjacent wall instead of upper cabinets. The effect is charming and airy. “Placing the cooktop at the end was crucial, because the bump-out in the middle of the wall eats up half the counter depth,” Swanson says. “Centering it wasn’t an option.”
On the other end, the team borrowed 2 feet from the utility closet and relocated its door to create enough room for the refrigerator. The arrangement also facilitates circulation around the new quartzite-topped island. Next to the fridge, a tall cabinet with a frosted-glass front adds interest and masks the other side of the bump-out. Swanson chose 4-by-12-inch white subway tile rather than the ubiquitous 3-by-6-inch style and used gray grout for subtle contrast.
“When you walk up the stairs — boom — the kitchen is on display,” Swanson says. “Now it’s a showpiece.”
■ Interior Design: Karen Swanson, New England Design Works, ne-dw.com
■ Contractor: Nick Portnoy, Nick Portnoy Builders, nickportnoybuilders.com