Michele and Ron Norman used to hang out a lot in the small kitchen of their Vienna home with their two young children, while the rest of the ground floor stayed pretty much empty.

"We're kitchen people, and we all used to be in one tiny corner," Michele Norman said. The kitchen was next to both the dining room and the family room, but they were three separate rooms. "We were in the kitchen, all huddled in there, with walls all around us."

Michele Norman, who runs a public relations company out of the house, knew she had to do something. But it took her two years, and interviews with about five contractors, to see what she wanted.

With a design by Vienna-based CommonWealth Home Remodelers Inc., a husband-wife contractor-architect firm, the Normans transformed the first floor of the suburban Colonial, merging the dining room, family room and kitchen into one open, common living space. They transformed the kitchen with high-quality cabinets and glowing granite and stainless-steel counter tops at the same time.

"The house was a fairly standard 30-year-old suburban house," Michele Norman said. "It was just too compartmentalized for our lifestyle. With our two small kids, we wanted to be more of a unit when we were at home."

Spending about $50,000, the Normans knocked down three walls, took out an extensive brick hearth, laid ceramic tile floor, erected a "knee" wall between the family room and dining room and tackled the kitchen.

"It's wonderful," Michele Norman said. "It's a real attention-getter."

The only problem is, one year later, they're moving back to Boston, their hometown.

"This move came completely out of the blue," she said. "But it's the chance of a lifetime. I just want to take my kitchen with me."

The Normans put their house up for sale over Labor Day weekend and will go to closing on Oct. 26.

"We got our money back on our remodel, plus some," she said. "The husband of the couple who bought it said it was the kitchen that killed him. Once his wife walked into our new kitchen, she didn't want to look anywhere else."

CAPTION: Before (This photo was not available)


PROJECT: Merging dining room, kitchen and family room into one large room. Complete kitchen re-do.

BALLPARK PRICE: $50,000 (in 1998).

REMODELER: CommonWealth Home Remodelers, Inc.

THE OWNERS SAY: "We all used to be in one tiny corner."