Bethesda homeowner Gwenn Hibbs did not want to expand the footprint of her kitchen, but she did want a space that was bright and open -- and felt "light and airy."

Hibbs had a pretty good idea of the overall style that would appeal to her, but she brought in a professional kitchen designer to help execute her vision. In a kitchen, layout is as important as aesthetics, and Nadia Subaran of Aidan Design was hired to deliver both.

"In the old kitchen, there was no connection to the adjacent spaces, especially to the family room where the homeowner spent time. The kitchen was locked in by a large peninsula," Subaran said.

The stovetop also was located on the peninsula. Now, there is a much smaller island to one side, with easy access. The island has ample storage and serves as a breakfast bar.

Nadia N. Subaran, Aidan Design

"Now I can walk straight in from the family room, instead of going around the peninsula, which took a lot of time and wasted effort," Hibbs said.

For continuity between the two spaces, Subaran extended wood flooring into the kitchen in place of vinyl tile. Natural light also was important, so Subaran raised the side transom, putting the new stovetop beneath it, and enlarged the main window, replacing the old sink with a new one.

"I made the old window a boxy bay window," Subaran said. "It not only brings in more light, but also creates an area for the homeowner to keep indoor plants, like herbs."

Things were getting better, but the kitchen still felt claustrophobic because of the laminated upper cabinets.

"They were all over. It felt very enclosed, like being in downtown New York. I felt trapped in my kitchen," Hibbs said.

Most of the new painted-maple kitchen cabinets are below the countertop but some extend into the family room, further tying the spaces together while relocating storage options. There also are a few floating cabinets and shelves.

"Lightness is also about pulling upper cabinetry away from windows and counters to create airy space between them," Subaran said. "Open shelves and wall sconces serve a similar purpose."

On an adjacent hallway wall, which previously held an impractical double-oven, Subaran floated glass-fronted cabinets above a lower, footed unit, creating a hutch. Hibbs uses it to display her pottery collection.

"I wanted all the finishes to have bright reflective surfaces," said Hibbs, who showed her amassed kitchen magazine clips to Subaran. "Lots of stainless steel, chrome pulls, marble counters and white cabinets."

Subaran delivered these -- and more -- with butter cream wall paint and a soft gray glass-tile backsplash. These hues combined with the wood floors and wicker bar-chairs keep things warm.

"Everybody was sure the homeowner had added square footage," said Subaran, pausing, "But just by changing these elements, we created the illusion of a much larger space."