Friday, May 12, 2006
Split Level. Embrace your split-level's personality
By Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon
You'll also find split-levels in many older, established neighborhoods. They first appeared in the 1930s but really came into their own during the building boom after World War II. Today these older split-level homes find themselves in need of updating. Your best bet when working with a split is to embrace all that is classic about its style.
A split-level home is essentially a non-traditional multistory. These homes are often modest and always efficient in their use of space. The classic split-level home generally includes a one-story side and a two-story side. In the single story you may have the entry, living room, kitchen, and dining room. On the two-story side you usually have bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs and a family room, laundry room, and garage downstairs. As a result, you have three (sometimes more) levels in the home. Half-flights of stairs connect each level.
Another split-level design is the split-entry. This is basically a two-story house with an entry in between. When you enter a split-entry house, you walk onto a landing between two half-flights of stairs. You have to go up or down to get to any part of the house.
Split-level homes offer several advantages. They are a sensible way to accommodate a sloped lot without a great deal of excavation. Moving through the house can be easier than a traditional two-story house since there is only a half-flight of stairs between any given level. Plus, the lower level is built partially above ground which allows much more light than a traditional basement.
But there are also challenges. The exterior can be plain with an understated entry. The main level is usually half a story above the back yard, which impacts indoor/outdoor connections. Front entries are often small and cramped—particular in a split-entry home.
Common requests when remodeling split-levels include opening up the rooms on the main floor to emulate a great room, constructing a more spacious master suite, revising the entry to provide a more gracious space, and enhancing the home's curb appeal.
All of these goals are attainable, but as with any home, you will often get better results if you work with the home's original style rather than fight it. In the case of split-level homes, they intrinsically have a more contemporary feel due to their flatter roof pitch. Capitalize on that contemporary feel. Also be aware that changes you make on the inside may impact the outside, so it is important to consider what the new exterior elevations may look like.
Obviously, we recommend the assistance of an architect to help you see where you are going and assure you will be satisfied with the end result. In any case, by embracing all that is good about your split-level homes while updating it to fit your current lifestyle you will make the most of this distinctive home type. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.