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This kitchen is designed with an eye toward the environment

In Cambridge, an interior architect who focuses on adaptive reuse renovates on a budget.

Danielle robertson

Raquel Swartz, interior architect and founder of Seviva Design, recently applied her design philosophy to her own Cambridge kitchen. “ Seviva means environment in Hebrew,” she says. “I design with the environment in mind, whether that means reusing materials or sourcing ones that are local or have the least impact on the environment.” Her taste is minimalist, but the pre-renovation kitchen, with its red wood and wine-colored granite, was anything but. By swapping out the countertops, replacing one of the upper cabinets with open shelving, and refacing the rest, Swartz was able to create a kitchen that channels the Japanese-inspired aesthetic she loves. “I tried to be as resourceful as possible with materials to create a sustainable, contemporary space with an emphasis on natural elements,” she says.

1 The countertops, ledge, and backsplash are gray Caesarstone with a pebble-honed finish that resembles concrete. “It has a wabi-sabi look,” the designer says, referencing the Japanese philosophy that beauty is imperfect. The material is also very durable. “Part of the idea of sustainability is to consider the longevity of a space,” Swartz says.

2 Winthrop-based contracting firm Shepherd PMC made a trio of custom-stained wood shelves to replace the upper cabinet that Swartz relocated to her laundry room. The top shelf maintains the strict linearity of the arrangement and minimizes the gathering of dust.

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3 The cabinet faces, also made by Shepherd PMC, are stained with Rubio Monocoat, a zero percent VOC hard-wax oil finish. Swartz chose a mix of black with a silver topcoat for the uppers and two shades of white for the base cabinets.

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4 Swartz installed a backsplash on both sides of the range, but not above it. This lowered her cost, and helps avoid potential hassles if the range is replaced. “The new one would likely be a different height, which could require demolition,” she says.

5 Skipping hardware on the upper cabinets, and choosing simple metal tabs for the lower ones, enhance Swartz’s minimalist design. “The face [of each upper cabinet] extends below the bottom of the cabinet [frame] so you can open them from behind.”

6 Swartz mitigated the red undertones of the floorboards by using pale base cabinets around the perimeter. “Once I saw the white finish against the red,” she says, “I decided the cost of refinishing the floors wasn’t necessary.”

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