Split levels often get a bad rap, but these multi-level homes have plenty of practical features that make them a still-popular design. Owners appreciate how the homes are compact, yet have a spacious feel. They also like how attics and basements were used in a much more central way, first as convenient storage areas, and later as extra living space.
History of the Split Level
The first split level appeared in the Chicago area during the 1930s. In 1935, Sears & Roebuck published a plan they called the “modern home” which included all the features of a split: a half-flight of stairs from the garage to the living spaces, another half-flight up to the bedrooms built over the garage, and a half-basement level with windows that let in natural light. Other names included hillside homes, multi-level homes, and even “splanches!” By the end of WWII, the term “split level” was here to stay.
The majority of the split levels in the U.S. were built from the 1950s through the mid-1970s. Lots of baby boomers have fond memories of having grown up in a split, and many of them went on to buy split levels of their own. The homes tend to be in established, attractive neighborhoods and the open floor plans fit right in with today’s design trends.
We think creating an addition to a split level home has great potential if you’re not trying to turn it into what it’s not. If what you really have in mind is a center-hall
Colonial, no addition to a split-level will likely get you what you want!
Pros and Cons of Adding On to a Split-Level Home
A split level’s unique floor plan makes building an addition a challenge. The difficulties stem from the split itself: staircase placement, roofline issues, and floorplan limitations all pose design dilemmas. Most challenges can be overcome with careful planning, creative design, and paying attention to details that are exclusive to a split.
Going Up vs Building Out
Occasionally a client will ask if a split level can be made to look like a “normal” house on the exterior. The short answer is yes, but it isn’t easy, and we think it’s more desirable to work with the design and enhance it, highlighting the home’s architectural style.
There’s a lot to be said for going up, including the fact that it’s often less expensive than going out. When building out, you must choose the left or right side of the house and you may have a lot of limitations. No matter which direction you go, balancing the addition with the original house is key.
Popular Split-Level Additions
We’ve heard clients say they just don’t like a split, but once we talk a bit more, we discover what they’re really saying is it’s a boring façade. Adding a front portico and changing the size of the windows often is all it takes to make the exterior more appealing. Other features people would like to change about their split-level include enlarging the entry and adding storage and closet space.
The most popular addition project we do for split-level homes is the dormer addition, where we turn the upstairs kids’ bedrooms into a master suite and bath. Adding a master bedroom, bathroom, and walk-in closet can add more enjoyment to and increase the value of your split-level home.
A split-level addition can make a big impact on the appearance and functionality of your Main Line or Greater Philadelphia area home. If you’re thinking of adding on to your split level, our design-build process ensures you get the home addition you envision. Schedule a conversation with us today to learn more about planning your Main Line or Greater Philadelphia area home addition. We look forward to meeting with you!