As a Realtor, I've enjoyed witnessing the modernization of the split-level home. Once known as "Cadillac splits," this home design lost popularity in the 80's & 90's, as buyer trends moved toward a separation of family activities and the McMansion was born. After the Millennium, "open concept" became the style du jour. One draw-back to that style was lack of separation and sound levels in homes rose in these areas as well. Teens retreated to their bedrooms (which had also grown in size) and the "man-cave" was prevalent. As family values and needs have changed, the split-level home is getting it's second chance at being the darling of the American family. Homeowners, today's Millennial and Sandwich Generation buyers, and designers with vision are learning how limitless this floor plan is in providing comfort, convenience AND style to today's family home.
Growing up in a split-level home in Virginia Beach, I enjoyed the many benefits of this unique home design. Originally designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, they gained popularity in the 60's. As Carol and Mike Brady moved their 6 children into a split-level in 1969, the style became known for it's family-centric virtues. The principle design features staggered floor levels, with the main living space (kitchen, living, and dining area) between the upper bedroom floor and a lower/garage level. The lower level usually contains the laundry room and access to a crawl or basement area. In our home, that basement area attached to the inside of our house made for our "safe room" during major storm events. Many of the homes enjoy the utility of a proper foyer. Cathedral ceilings on the main living floor provide a more spacious feeling while still maintaining a relatively compact area. For some this translates to more economic benefits in purchase price, for others it means less space to clean! The configuration of the living room, dining room, and kitchen allows for the popular open concept of modern homes and exceptional flow. Most of these homes enjoy natural light from the many large windows. The short flights of stairs provide a separation of activities while not requiring a trudge up a full flight of stairs and being separated by a full-level. In my opinion, the split-level offers today's growing family with the most versatility in all the changes that take place through raising a family. The den (or lower floor) can easily be used as a playroom, teen space or media room, and an in-law suite. For those homeowners who have adult children who move back, it also provides privacy and independence mostly unattainable in a standard ranch or colonial-style home.
The diversity of the split-level floor plan makes it a great candidate for creating one's own individual style and achieving change throughout several generations. This design allows a family to have privacy, while not being too separated, which is garnering popularity again in the 21st century. As a Realtor, I look forward to watching the split-level mature from the Brady Bunch era and express the unique style and modernization of today's homeowners.