When the kitchen is the social hub, a confined layout definitely puts a damper on the festivities. Alfredo and Ivonne Espinel of Rutherford, New Jersey, knew when they bought their 1950s ranch house five years ago that the 12-by-16-foot kitchen, bisected by a peninsula, was less than ideal for big get-togethers. "Family is the first thing, all the time," says Alfredo. He and Ivonne, who came to the United States from their native Ecuador as children, now have two kids of their own, ages 12 and 13, and an extended family of more than 30 relatives who gather at their home every weekend. "We cook a lot, and there wasn't room for everyone to be together," Alfredo says. With dated appliances, an awkward peninsula, and no space for a large table, the kitchen couldn't handle the family gatherings that are central to the Espinels' way of life.