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What is a Split-Level Home?

A split-level home is a unique architectural style that divides living spaces into staggered floors, offering distinct zones for living, sleeping, and often entertaining. This design maximizes space efficiency and provides separation without the need for full-story walls. Intrigued by how these levels can enhance your living experience? Discover the surprising benefits of split-level living in our comprehensive guide.
Sheri Cyprus
Sheri Cyprus

A split level home must have at least three levels to be considered a true split level. Typically, one half of the split level is one story, while the other half is two stories. Types of split level homes include the California-style and the Raised Ranch.

Frank Lloyd Wright made the California-style split level famous. He designed four California-style split level homes in the mid 1920s as experimental cost-cutting homes. The homes feature cement block and open floor plans. Much of the block used is beautifully patterned, however, and is called "textile block."

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

The Millard House in Pasadena was the first to display the textile block, and its living room is two stories tall. Wright's split level Freeman House in Los Angeles was also built using the textile block. The Freeman House overlooks Hollywood and features the first all-glass corner windows in the world.

A Raised Ranch split level home has a basement, often part below ground and part above ground, that can be used for living space. Larger windows are often a feature of the basement on the front of the house. The part of the basement facing the back yard usually has sliding glass doors leading to a patio. Bedrooms are located above the windowed basement section and under the raised roof. The classic Raised Ranch typically has a simple, asymmetrical styling with shutters and a gable roof.

Most split level homes built in the 1950s and 1960s are between 920 - 1,500 square feet (85 - 139 square meters) in size, with 1,200 square feet (111 square meters) being the average size of split levels constructed during these decades. Some split level homes are so large they could be considered mini-mansions. Both older and newer built split level houses usually feature a large picture window on the upper floor.

Split level homes often have the entry located between two floors, with one set of stairs leading up and another set leading down that are visible when the front door is opened. Some split levels have a lower, or garage level entry, with a small number of stairs leading to the living room and then more stairs leading to the bedrooms.

Many split level houses have a family room, kitchen, and dining room located in the one story section and bedrooms and a bathroom in the two story section. Two smaller flights of stairs connect the one story part of the split level home to the two story part. If a home does not have at least three levels, it is not considered a true split level.

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Discussion Comments


I am renovating a house that is retaining the original four front rooms. The addition will be a separate 2 story building (separate roof line) that will be connected by a small passageway to the front original building. The house is built on a sloping block which means that from the connecting hallway we will be walking down into the first level addition. Can we achieve a split level stair layout without walking down to the first floor then walking up again to the second floor?

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