The first time they saw it, Dayna Baird and her fiancé, Tommy Payne, rejected the red brick home outright. It was much too traditional, they agreed. But six months later, still house-hunting, they revisited, took note of the space-5,000 square feet-and the great bones the Upper Arlington home suggested. They bought it.

First on their priority list for work: the kitchen. Armed with tear sheets and downloads from favorite online sites, Baird's wish list was set. She pulled together a team of professionals: Dave Norton of Ellis Kitchen & Bath, remodelers Kevin Nimon and Dave Collier of Nimon Collier, and for the window treatment, interior designer Colleen Lora. Jan Cahill of Classico Tile & Marble was selected to work on the finishing touches.

"Because they hadn't lived there yet, it was a bit of a rolling target," says Nimon. "But everyone adapted. It was a nice collaboration." In three months, the kitchen was utterly transformed-from dark to light, cramped to spacious, traditional to contemporary.

A deadline helped. "We really wanted to hold my aunt's 90th birthday party here," says Baird. "And we did. The moving trucks arrived just 10 days before the party."

Baird, president of the lobbying firm Government Edge, and Payne, president of the Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Niconovum, had a couple of construction requests. Higher countertops, since they're both tall. And an angled prep sink. "I want to see what's going on in the great room," says Baird, the mother of an 8-year-old daughter.

Two structural changes created a much-desired openness: widening the door frame that leads to the foyer and subtracting cabinets. "The space around the pantry was tight with cabinets on both sides. We got rid of them," Norton explains. Translucent corduroy glass contemporizes the pantry doors but keeps pantry contents-an ice maker, a 15-bottle wine cooler, small appliances and cookbooks-hidden.

Pale hues proliferate, from the champagne-color finish of the horizontal wood-grained cabinets to the creams and browns of the granite countertops. Echoing the great room's taupes and grays, the original white oak flooring is stained in a color called "driftwood." Baird notes, "It was the toughest thing to get right-we didn't want yellow undertones."

Playing on shape and texture, Cahill selected a slender rectangular tile for the backsplash. "It was the first thing he showed me," Baird remembers, "and it was perfect." He installed it vertically. "But their texture," Cahill adds, "runs horizontal, like the cabinets."

For the many dinner parties they host, the large Miele refrigerator and the DCS Fisher & Paykel six-burner stove, oven and warming drawer swing into action. Mocha-colored granite composite sinks match the island's walnut cabinetry.

Two pendant lights, with shades that mimic wood grain, illuminate the island. A larger version hangs over the eating area, where the countertop, a hefty slab of deep brown granite with rust-colored striations, looks remarkably like wood. Perched on a stool there, Payne remarks, "It's a very lovable kitchen. I like to sit right here so I'm not in the way."

Rhonda Koulermos is a freelance writer.