When Stephan and Melissa Baroni bought their condo on Manhattan's Upper West Side, they weren't fazed by the dark, L-shaped kitchen, which had hardly been renovated since 1920. As a managing partner of Tentation, the American arm of a large international catering company, Stephan had worked in many clients' kitchens and knew what he wanted for himself: a miniature version of a catering space. Tentation follows the French catering principle marche en avant (move forward), which is a way of saying, in part, Be efficient and waste no motion; in accordance with that precept, the Baronis made sure that a cook at the stove would be within five feet of everything he or she needed. "I played out the steps required to make a meal efficiently," Stephan says. "I asked myself, is it more comfortable to load the dishwasher from the right or the left?" He knew he wanted a prep sink and a counter next to the cooktop, so he could wash and chop vegetables, then easily transfer them to a pan. To help him clean as he goes, he wanted the main sink and dishwasher opposite the cooktop.
"With four children, making the kitchen safe and child-friendly was important to us," Stephan says. "Beyond that, we also wanted a kitchen where friends could hang out." To create an open space that would fit an extra-large island and a dining table, the Baronis combined the kitchen with an adjoining room to make an 18-by-20-foot space. It proved impossible to remove the wall completely, since it was full of pipes and electrical wiring. But collaborating closely with architect Robert Pierpont of Clodagh Design in Manhattan, they chopped it down into an intentional-looking divider. After a year and a half of renovations, the whole family can move forward--and not look back.
The Baronis found few stoves with built-in grills, a feature they were eager to have, so they chose a Thermador cooktop with a grill. The commercial-quality range also has Star gas burners, which heat pans more evenly than the usual circular burners ($3,050; 800-656-9226). The drawer below has stepped shelves: The top shelf, for small pieces of cookware, extends out only halfway, so large stockpots on the bottom are easy to lift out. Melissa had taken a bad fall on a wet terra-cotta kitchen floor, so for their new kitchen they chose Manoir Brun porcelain tiles with a less slippery surface that resembles rough stone ($3.50 a square foot; Ann Sacks, 800-278-8453).