It's the most exciting–and rewarding–room in your home to renovate, but also the most expensive. With a little savvy strategizing and purposeful planning, however, you can create a customized space that suits the way you cook and live. Here, two couples took decidedly different approaches: One hired and architect for a dramatic remodel; the other headed to a big-box store for major design help. Both got the kitchen they always wanted.

When Cristin Frodella and Conor Sheridan bought their Park Slope, Brooklyn, brownstone three years ago, their first order of business was knocking out the walls on the parlor floor to create an open cooking and living space. “We wanted it to be joyful, not stuffy,” says Frodella, the global head of education marketing at Google, who envisioned her stepkids (Sheridan’s daughter, Clancy, 11; and son, Finnegan, 9) running around, as well as lots of casual parties. The couple had three criteria for their kitchen: It should be the heart of the home, open onto
the backyard, and—for Sheridan, who loves cooking over a fire—feature a wood-burning grill. Working with New York City architect Elizabeth Roberts, the couple oriented the kitchen horizontally across the back of the house and centered the range on the island, then replaced
the back wall with steel-casement windows and doors. For storage, they chose a mix of open shelves and deep cabinets. Their biggest splurge was framing the counter-height grill with a wall of midnight-blue glazed tiles from Heath Ceramics. “That is the big moment: Once you’ve
made a design decision like that, the other details can be less expensive and more subdued,” says Roberts, who often advises clients to save on hardware and prepainted cabinets. For the couple, the grill is a stunning centerpiece. “Conor makes duck, steaks, and vegetables on it—even fruit for dessert,” Frodella says. “If we have people over, it’s a Brazilian meat-fest.”

photographs by kate sears
text by jennifer tung