Cherry Is Main Ingredient in Winning Kitchen Recipe

Swanson Woodwork of Boston, MA, provided the cherry cabinetry, mantle and worktable for this project. The remodel won the Design Portfolio award for kitchen/bath cabinetry.

By Beverly Dunne

Architectural details in the kitchen correspond to the Victorian design of the house. Included are crown mouldings, fluted columns and bead board paneling, as well as the freestanding furniture look of the central worktable. Photography by Greg Premru

A cherry worktable inspired this year’s winning kitchen in the Design Portfolio awards. The piece, and the subsequent kitchen remodel, was built by Swanson Woodwork of Boston, MA.

“The design of the central table is faithful to examples found in better-appointed Victorian kitchens,� says Eric Swanson, owner. “Before the style of built-in cabinetry became popular, freestanding furniture was used for storage space and work surfaces.�

The clients, Chris and Adrienne Kimball of Cook's Illustrated Magazine, are avid cooks. They worked with Swanson to devise an arrangement of drawers, doors, tray storage space and pullout bins that hold an impressive amount of supplies and tools. “This massive unit is essentially four cabinets slung between six legs,� Swanson says.

The 8-foot by 3-1/2-foot table divides laterally into two sections, so the clients may ship it easily, if required. The finished ends hide the joint between the two halves. The worktable’s grain is completely matched all around the unit. The entire piece was hand sanded to 180 grit.

Details from the cherry worktable are echoed throughout the kitchen. Storage is cleverly maximized. The mantle on either side of the fireplace was engineered by Swanson so that each side pulls out, revealing hidden shelving for cans and spices. The turnings in the center of the pullout faces serve as handles.

Cabinet space abounds in this 25-foot by 30-foot room. The cabinets, while reminiscent of period pieces, are designed to accommodate modern conveniences, such as a microwave and wine cooler for the adjoining wet bar.

Cabinets are dadoed, tongued and grooved, and mortised and tenoned together. Grain matching on all stiles, rails and panels is continuous throughout cabinetry elevations. Machine-dovetailed drawers run on full-extension slides from Hettich and Accuride. The brass pulls for the drawers, doors and bins were supplied by Horton Brasses.

The cherry worktable is a central feature of this kitchen. The unit is essentially “four cabinets slung between six legs,� says Eric Swanson of Swanson Woodwork. Photography by Greg Premru

Architectural details in the kitchen correspond to the Victorian design of the house. Traditional turnings made to Swanson’s specifications were supplied by Peterson Furniture & Turning in Boston. Swanson’s mouldings and bead board bring an Old-World feel to a kitchen that features state-of-the-art appliances, such as a Viking refrigerator and range.

Appliance location, cabinetry elevations and the floorplan were designed by architect Paul Worthington. Swanson was responsible for the cabinetry moulding details, the work table design and final design work on the mantle. Swanson’s shop handled all machining and assembly. The work was installed by Swanson on walls built by local contractor, Sid Sibley.

The main pieces of equipment used for the project were an SCMI SI-15 panel saw, Unitronix DFFA-5 tilting spindle shaper, Paoloni TP 1300 shaper, Delta DJ 20 jointer, Makita 2040 planer, Powermatic 66 table saw and a JDS Enterprises Multi-Router.

Veneer layup was done on a vacuum press which was custom-made by a local woodworker, John Wassink. Veneers and plywood came from Atlantic Plywood. Solid cherry was supplied by Keiver Willard Lumber, Newburyport, MA, and Black Mountain Wood Co. in Maine. The grain matching and hand sanding throughout resulted in a compelling combination, Swanson says.

Finishing was subcontracted to the Johnson Co. in Newton, MA. The finisher used a coat of oil to bring out the depth of the grain, adding a slight toner to unify the color of the wood and topping the pieces with catalyzed polyurethane lacquer.


Name: Swanson Woodwork, Boston, MA
Year established: 1992
Annual sales 1999: $200,000
Shop size: 4,000 square feet
No. of Employees: 3
Specialty: Designs and produces custom furniture, cabinets, millwork. “We attract unusual projects and repeat clients with our reputation as a company of articulate, highly skilled and versatile craftspeople,� owner Eric Swanson says.

“I’d rather leave finishing to a professional in that field,� Swanson says. “My shop’s specialty lies in handling the projects no one else wants to engineer. We have a reputation for being good, solid mechanics.�

Engineering the table was the most challenging part of the job, Swanson adds. The shop took the table over from a woodworker who became overwhelmed with the technical aspects of the piece, he says. That woodworker had bought the drawer boxes and purchased the marble for the countertop. In order for the clients to recoup any of their investment, Swanson had to build the frame and the top to fit the existing pieces.

“This was much more difficult than it would have been to build the table first, then fit the other pieces to it. It was like trying to tie two pieces of spaghetti together with people pulling at both ends,� Swanson says.

Swanson also won the first-place award in the Commercial/Institutional Furniture category for its work on the Mario Russo Salon in Boston.

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