Architect Stewart Davis devised a plan to take down the wall separating the kitchen and dining room, bringing in air and light by allowing the kitchen to annex a window and expand by about 50 square feet. "Meal prep no longer feels like solitary confinement," says Aïda, pointing to a peninsula that allows her to chat with friends and family while dicing onions. That funky door disappeared, and larger replacement windows and a range hood that vents outdoors help take care of the Texas heat. Aïda and Jon, a theater technician, wanted to splurge on lighting and tilework, so they chose midpriced appliances, laminate countertops, and painted cabinets. "We couldn't be happier," says Aïda. "I'm amazed we waited so long."