Split Level House Remodeling - Going From Ordinary To Fantastic

The Remodeling Potential of a Split Level House

Some home styles are just perfect candidates for expanding and remodeling. The “split level” style is one of them! If you're considering a new split level house, or you currently live in one and are thinking about remodeling, there are plenty of interesting renovations you can do to make take your split level from typical, to fantastic.

While remodeling can make a huge impact on every level, you might not want to change a split level house so much that it no longer resembles the original style. We don't recommend turning them into English cottages or a French chateau, but we have some great ideas on how to turn your split level house into a modern dream home!

The Split Level House: A Little History

The split level home actually has prestigious origins. The world-famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright is credited as the inventor of the design around the turn of the 20th century. The design was revolutionary at the time and Wright believed that the split-level house was an affordable option for the average American. It wasn't until the post World War II housing boom that the style became established. It can be found in every part of the country and was the mainstay design of mid-level residential homes throughout the 1950's and 60's.

Owners of split level homes often have a love/hate relationship with their house. They love the amount of living space and privacy this design provides. They also love how they get the feel of a multi-story home without having to walk up full flights of stair. On the other side, the split level layout divides the home into distinctive areas that make it hard to connect spaces together to improve flow, or create a modern “open” floor plan.

The Split Level House Defined

The split level house is basically a “non-traditional” multi-story home. They are often somewhat modest and offer a tremendously efficient use of space. There are two design types:

Classic Split Level: Generally consist of a one story side and a two story side. You enter the single story which contains the kitchen, a living and a dining area. On the two story side you'll find the bedrooms, upstairs bath and a family room with a laundry and garage in the downstairs area. Half-flights of stairs connect the levels. This is the true split-level design.

Split Entry Style: This is a two story design with the entryway located halfway between the two levels. You walk through the front door onto a landing with half-stairs going up and down to the levels.

Split levels were built as an economical alternative to pricier Cape or Colonial style homes. Many were constructed with basic interior features and little detail on the exterior. Windows were limited and the facade is usually dominated by the garage door.

Remodeling A Split Level House

When considering remodeling of a split level, there are three main areas of focus.

  • Lack of details inside and outside
  • Flow: The division of rooms and functionality
  • Entryway: insufficient area with stairs that are too close to the front door in the split entry style

Updates to these homes can be both extensive and cosmetic to improve their look, efficiency and flow.

Renovations like tearing down walls to open the living space or building new room additions can be pricey, but can transform a dated space into a modern, user friendly design. Cosmetic updates like paint and new flooring are more modest but can go a long way to modernizing the look of the space. The main factor is to determine a budget you are comfortable with, and then speaking with a professional design build firm about the possibilities.

Here are a few ideas to consider to help take your split level from typical, to fantastic:

Exterior Remodeling

  • Addressing your split levels curb appeal can increase value and give your home a unique look. Options include:
  • Building a stairway leading to a new, covered porch or portico to create a warm welcoming entryway.
  • Adding dormers to break up the roofline and create interest.
  • Replacing old siding with cedar shake, or fiber cement for a low-maintenance look that mimics natural wood, stone or brick.
  • Removing overgrown bushes and trees.
  • Using solar path lights along the walkway leading to the entrance.
  • In the back, replacing or enlarging an outdated deck or patio area.
  • Consider built in bench seats, decorative railings and potted plants to revamp a tired appearance.

Open The Floor Plan

Traditional split levels often consist of smaller boxy rooms. Create a modern floor plan by opening up walls to create one larger living space. An open concept improves natural light, offers a more spacious airy feel and provides better traffic flow. You can also add a dramatic flair by creating cathedral ceilings, complete with exposed beams. In the upper level, consider knocking down or opening up the wall between two small bedrooms to create a spacious master suite complete with a sitting area, walk-in closet and en suite. Open visual lines by exchanging railings between levels for clear glass panels.

Open Up To The Light... And More!

Natural light can transform a dark cramped interior space. Consider replacing windows with larger sized replacements. Split level homes typically do not have any windows on the ends of the house. Adding windows to the corners of a room can open the space to more natural light. Consider adding skylights or solar tubes to increase natural light as well. Repainting with warmer neutrals like soft white or light gray can give your space a more updated modern feel and the the perception of “brightness.” Lighter colors are more reflective of both natural and artificial light.

You can also readily add on to split level homes if you have the yard space. Consider building a guest room addition, or sun room. Replace carpeting with wood flooring like bamboo for a stylish more modern look. Exchanging light fixture for more modern designs, refacing dated cabinets, replacing hardware and installing a new bathroom vanity, sink, toilet or shower can help to update your home's interior and make it your own.

The split level design lends itself to creative renovations that can take this traditionally modest home and turn it into a fantastic living space.With a little creative vision, a reasonable budget, and a talented design build contractor, you can transform your older typical split level house into an aesthetically beautiful, functional, comfortable and modern home.  

Forward Design Build is a residential design-build firm in Ann Arbor, Michigan that is known for its commitment to craftsmanship and communication. We are committed to improving our neighbors quality of life with inspired design and creative remodeling. Our homes are highly functional, exquisitely beautiful, and remarkably comfortable. Contact us to speak with an expert about your new home or remodeling project.