Whole House: Working With a Split-Level Ranch

Sited far from the road on a large lot in the hills of Connecticut, this 1960s ranch house had everything going for it locationwise but left much to be desired in aesthetics and space.

September 30, 2003

Lavatory and toilet: Kohler

Lavatory fixtures: Dornbracht

Mirror and medicine cabinet: Robern

Shower fixtures: Waterworks

Countertop: granite

Sink: Elkay    Fixtures: Kohler

Oven and cooktop: Thermador

Refrigerator and microwave: General Electric    Dishwasher: Gaggenau    Countertop: granite

Floors: strip oak
Siding: cedar

Windows: Hurd

Skylights: Velux

Roofing: GAF
A stone wall arcing around the hot tub (lower right in photo) offers privacy, even though the nearest neighbor is 200 yards away. "Hardscape is getting to be more of an important element," architect Sheldon Crosby says. In this case, with a sloping lot, it also helps ease the visual transition from two stories to one. Adding a second-story master suite on the bottom half of the split-level required KDH Builders to build a connecting staircase to it from the upper half, which rested on top of the garage and basement. Crosby designed a switchback staircase that built on the existing staircase and then led to a short walkway lined with three windows.


Whole house: Working with a split-level ranch Sited far from the road on a large lot in the hills of Connecticut, this 1960s ranch house had everything going for it locationwise but left much to be desired in aesthetics and space. In fact, the homeowners originally approached Sheldon Crosby, a partner with L'Arc Architects, for advice on building new versus remodeling because they weren't sure it was possible to remodel a split-level to fulfill their needs.

In addition to wanting a true master suite with a sitting area, two walk-in closets and a master bath, the women wanted "a nice living room, a killer kitchen, a beautiful dining room and an interesting outdoor space," Crosby says. They also wanted to open the house to take better advantage of all the sunlight available to them on the west side of the ridge.

Crosby and his partners came up with a plan that called for building a second-story addition for the master suite, remodeling and enlarging the existing kitchen, turning one of the existing bedrooms into an office, and extensive hardscaping and landscaping.

"Our goal was to try to give them as normal a house as possible, perhaps even traditional, without completely rebuilding," says Crosby. "We were able to preserve the footprint, and we were able to preserve and enhance the split-level circulation system."

After the clients agreed to the plan, L'Arc recommended three local remodelers, providing background information and explaining the strengths and weaknesses of each. The clients chose KDH Builders Inc. but elected to pull the custom cabinetry and flooring from the contract and run those jobs themselves.

The new kitchen is twice the size of the old and now has room for two eating areas and a built-in desk. It also offers a nearly 360-degree view of the property. Taking down part of the existing wall dividing the dining room and kitchen allowed the living room, dining room and kitchen to flow together for better entertaining.

The new roof line, which introduced steep pitches and gables, allowed for nearly 14-foot-high ceilings in the master bedroom and bath.

"On the exterior, because of the put-together aspect of a split-level, we tried to assemble a somewhat colonial village of different parts," Crosby explains. "We had a steep pitch, a shallower pitch, some shallow overhangs and some bigger overhangs. When we went to the inside, we wanted to open it up and have light starting to bounce around and come from different places."

The 1,100-square-foot addition enlarged the home to 4,000 square feet, excluding the basement and garage.

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