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Working with a Split Level

More spacious than the boxy little rambler and more affordable than the stately two-story, the split-level popped up around World War II and came to symbolize suburban life — both the good and the bad. Its an interesting blue print, because split levels tend to be both open and closed. You have a sense of the whole house, but the privacy of designated rooms, so if you are on the edge of wanting an open floor plan, this is a great choice for you. They also tend to be close to transportation and in established neighborhoods with good schools. There are many in our area: two stories connected by a stairwell with a foyer smack in the middle of the two. It is a very economical use of space with the same square footage on both stories but presents some design challenges with awkward entryways, small bedrooms, and confined kitchens.

But don’t let fear of the split level keep you from buying a house in an area you love! They offer lots of light, space, privacy, flexibility, and nostalgia.It terms of design, because there is generally nothing above the top floor, you can play around with dormers, vaulted ceilings, skylights, large windows, and even open up spaces between the stories to bring a greater sense of openness.

Architectural ceiling details & massive skylights

The entry is one of the most challenging design spaces in a split level, but don’t let that hold you back!  There are some things you can to do open up the cramped doorway, but the best advice is to embrace the classic style and make it something bold and unique rather than a forgotten small space. Keeping it bright with modern touches will open up the space and give it depth and interest.

Make it a mudroom.
Brighten it up!
Open up the walls with railings.
Opening the stairs themselves makes the space seem fresh and even more open.
Add a large window.

Tips to working with a split level:

  1. Make it usable space. Converting your split level entry into a mudroom makes it a part of the house rather than an after thought.
  2. Brighten things up. Nothing makes a space looked cramped and dated more than stuffy furniture and dark colors. Adding some playful splashes and modern colors to small spaces makes them look more open and
  3. Switch out the railings. A lot of old school split levels have walls immediately when you walk in. If possibly, switching those out for airy railings goes a long way towards making the space feel less dense.
  4. Open the stairwell to give the illusion of space. I love the way to modern open stairwell looks, and it really becomes a highlighted feature in a split level because it is the first thing you see.
  5. Add a large window. To keep the entry from feeling dark, adding a large window above or beside the door lets in some light.

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Kyle Barber

Kyle is passionate writer, independant thinker, and digital savvy lady with a deep love of marketing and all the challenges it presents.

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