Open kitchen with island and wooden stools, gold light fixtures and wallpaper

A Modern Victorian Kitchen

Interior photography by Michael J. Lee



Located on a beautiful piece of property just outside of Boston, the Victorian home had already undergone extensive renovations. Saving the kitchen for last, they turned to designer Karen Swanson to completely renovate and modernize the 19th-century space. Karen and the homeowners wanted a design that was mindful of the home’s origins but felt fresh, modern, and functional for this busy family.

Owner of New England Design Works, Karen, has a knack for creating visually pleasing and functional spaces that feel harmonious with the rest of the house and reflects her client’s style. Awarded “Best of Boston,” her principal goal is to act as a dedicated and experienced guide for every step of the renovation, from the first meeting until after the dust settles.


New England Design Works Kitchen

Tell us a little bit about your design


Much of the decor within the home is historically appropriate, including period lighting, William Morris papers, and other authentically accurate materials. I wanted to be sensitive to the other renovations they had done throughout the house. When we began designing the kitchen, there were a few must-have elements we needed to incorporate. A few of those elements included ample seating at the island for a family constantly on the go and a separate pantry for storage. The space had very little natural light, so we added light colors and metallic accents to make it feel fresh and bright— not a museum, but blended in tasteful nods to the home’s historic nature.

NE Design Kitchen 5

How did the eastward Stools fit into the design?


The owners preferred to purchase beautifully designed and built furnishings for each room in their home. They wanted to invest in high-quality items that would last, and the Eastward Stools fit the bill. From a personal design perspective, I love wood sashes on windows and incorporating wood details into a space, and the cherry stools match the window trim wonderfully. The airiness of the spindles allows for an interplay of positive and negative space, keeping the room feeling light and balanced. Purchased before the renovation, the stools enhance the period elements found throughout the home, the House of Hackney wallpaper in the adjoining room, and their design will keep the kitchen feeling timeless for years to come. 


Details of renovated kitchen

If someone is considering a kitchen remodel, what advice would you give them? 


Don’t rush the design phase. Hire a designer with specific kitchen experience and find the best builder you can afford. When looking for a builder, try and find one with excellent finish carpentry skills and a resourceful problem-solving mentality.

Designers work in many ways, and there is no right way, just what is best for that particular client or project. I generally layer the decisions as we go. I don’t have every color or material picked at the beginning of the project, but I like to work through the most challenging parts first and layer in the other choices as the project progresses. I think this kitchen feels curated to the clients and the house because we worked through the design decisions in an unhurried and highly considered manner. It all came together in the end.


Kitchen island with cherry Eastward Stools and walnut Eastward Stool in studio

Karen understands that it can be an overwhelming and expensive process to recreate a space and works with her clients to meet their timelines and goals. At the same time, she works to make the process fun; her love and mastery of design are contagious and many of her clients are anxiously awaiting their next project with one of Boston’s Best.


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