Friday, May 14, 2010


I'm really excited about a current project of mine...but you might think I'm joking, 'cause it's a split-level!  Yes, that ubiquitous housing type that was created during the suburban sprawl boom of the 50's and 60's.   Here's one we all know and love...

Brady Bunch house as of 1995        Photo: Flickr

Actually this house is much more interesting than the split-levels we have back here on the east coast; most of our look more like this...

 Photo © Kenneth Sponsler /

I found this picture on where they catalog images of a different styles of residential architecture. You might want to check it out if you ever wondered what's a 'raised ranch' or a 'shotgun house'? 

Well, now all the split-level housing stock is coming of age and is ripe for renovation with lots of young families trying to make them their own. So yeah, I'm excited... and intrigued by the thought of reinventing something that is everywhere and needs reinventing!

I decided to see if anyone else had taken on the challenge and I found a nice example from a back issue of Dwell. Their approach is similar to one that I want to take... open up the interior and introduce big windows.  Sounds simple but I think it could make a huge difference.  Also in the article they talk about trying not to disguise or alter the configuration of the split level... make it something it's not.  I like the idea of preserving its form and just rethinking how it might feel and work for a modern family.

All these images and more can be found on the Dwell website article, 'On the Level'.

Photos by: João Canziani

These giant sliders really open up the space and because the rooms are open to one another you get light from all sides making it feel even bigger.  Lesson don't need more square footages just larger windows!

The minimal detailing also makes the space feel light...not weighed down with trim.  I particularly appreciate how the sheetrock meets the concrete stair.

I found the following image from another Dwell article, Bellemo & Cat's Cradle.  I thought this illustrated how opening up the wall between the levels will create a more expansive space... and a fun place to hang out too!

Photo by: Prue Ruscoe

Here's another split level that has been given a new life; and lots of light too...

Can you believe this brilliantly bright space can be found in Oregon?  A feature on this home can be found on Portland Monthly.  The kitchen feels great too.  I think it's because there are no upper cabinets so the kitchen feels like part of the living space.  All you need is a wall of cabinets to the side and you've got plenty of storage.  (hint, hint to my clients... ditch the upper cabinets!)

All these bright airy images make me want to move to the burbs and buy a split-level. Well, almost... maybe for a weekend home?!  

A good childhood friend of mine grew up in a split-level... I spent many hours playing games on that shag rug in the lower level!  I won't go into the scary adolescent details, but... maybe you have some fond split-level experiences you'd like to share?

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