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Our Tri-Level Split - The Property & Exterior

Dear Renovation Diary,

We purchased our Tri-Level Split in April 2012.

(Since we all love a good before/after comparison, this is from the original listing.)
(Debating on an accent color ...)

(The final result - the snow from a recent accumulation has melted.)

Unfortunately, there were no historical mysteries to uncover about our home. There were no fun, aged photographs found behind walls and no microfilm to pour over at the library. We didn’t have to conduct research on what architectural style the home’s construction followed either.  

One look and you know – Split Level. Obviously.

Our Tri-Level Split was built in 1992, and they seem to come a dime-a-dozen in the Twin Cities suburbs. They are e-very-where

Having emerged onto America’s suburban landscape in the 50s and 60s, the style was immensely popular because it was considered “fresh design.” It was thought to be more grand than the bungalow-style homes, yet very appealing because it could be built on a smaller lot. With plans derived from Ranch-style homes, which were inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s infamous designs, Split Levels had the appeal of dividing public and private spaces with a strategic half-staircase.

Plus, Split Levels were affordable. And they still are, considering half a century after their boom in popularity we purchased ours for a fraction of its worth.

Though the design is no longer considered modern, and it is still considered practical.

The Perks of Owning a Split as a First-Timer

In our home, the great room does feel more spacious than it truly is, thanks in part to the cathedral ceiling. The layout has a casual feel as well, which is a draw for young families. And I would certainly consider our staircase to be the home’s focal point, as it is the first feature to greet you as you enter the home. 

The main living space is open concept, so it’s ideal for entertaining. If I’m in the kitchen, I still feel like I’m a part of the celebration because it’s all contained within the same space. If I'm preparing dinner, I can still keep an eye on my kids when they're playing.

The Drawbacks of Tri-Level Ownership

It’s rarely a home style requested by home buyers.

That’s due to the Split Level’s drawbacks – small closets and small bedrooms. Plus, most Split Levels showcase hardly any architectural details. It’s very basic, with the purpose solely to provide shelter.

Plus, I’ll admit it – I don’t like going up and down the stairs. Despite the drawbacks, at the end of the day, Split Levels remain an option of consideration due to attractive pricing.

The Next Chapter

While we put a lot of work into the house, we did nothing to overhaul the home’s existing footprint. Fresh and updated paint made the largest impact on the home, and we had a new roof and new windows installed. It is difficult to add curb appeal to the exterior of Split Levels, simply due to its haphazard layout, but we made it work with the canvas we had.

We'd definitely market this as a family home – the cluster of bedrooms on the top level is ideal for young children, and I appreciate the privacy of the lowest. The open concept great room is ideal for entertaining and family time as I mentioned above, and our property has the added benefit of a large yard. 

(Another photo from the original listing - everything the light touches is our kingdom ...)
(The backyard shed as it looked the day we moved in ...)

(A fun in-progress picture of the shed upgrade ...)

(The new shed basking in the glory of fall colors.)

While home designs today have increased in square footage and grandeur, I do think Split Levels are generally underrated. It is one of the best ways to start the journey of homeownership, especially if you’re on a budget in a high-priced neighborhood. Utility costs are also low as is our homeowners insurance, and we are in a good school district.

Most importantly, our Tri-Level has taught me invaluable lessons while serving as our home base.

So Why Do We Intend To Sell?

This house met all of our criteria - we wanted an attached garage, at least 3 bedrooms, open concept and a large yard. I have absolutely no complaints about it.

Unfortunately, we live 6 hours from our closest relative and average an overnight guest a month. We do not have a dedicated space for people to come stay with us. Over time, we've also realized we need a separate office, with doors. And I miss having a full basement. Our Tri-Level has a crawl space, however I've kapowed my forehead into the low ceiling so many times that I'm over it. Okay, maybe that last sentence was a bit of a complaint but you get the idea.

What do you think of Split Levels? Would you turn away from their possibility?

I intend to post room tours with details of each of the 3 levels of the home. Stay tuned!

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