I regularly drive past a 1950s split-level rancher that is being renovated near my home. At this point, I can see that the addition being built is closed in with plywood and the roof is on. But I cringe every time I see this home. It’s not that it’s structurally or technically unsound. It’s just bad overall design.
As you may already know, split-level homes have characteristic low roof lines, a big garage feature, and wide windows that refer back to the low, wide stance of the home. Typically, the private areas of the house are upstairs, and the public family room areas are downstairs. They were invented when people began buying cars and moving from the cities where they worked to the ‘burbs. That’s the culture they refer to, and it’s why they look the way they do.
The remodelers who are putting the addition on the house up the street are doing something “production builders” do. It’s a kind of home design based on Hollywood set designs, where only the part of the house facing the street gets the Palladian windows and lots of dormers, to signify “money spent” or “wealth,” if you will. It doesn’t matter what kind of house they are building; each one gets dormers and Palladian windows — even a 1950s rancher!
Of course, if you know anything about design, you know that multiple dormers on a split-level rancher are silly. The house is developing an identity crisis as the renovations progress because the two very different roof line styles now compete with one another. They also create a hinky roofing detail that is bound to leak in the future … but that’s another story.
When renovating a home, unless you are doing extensive tear down and rebuilding, you need to refer back to the original house with the new additions being built. If you don’t, the two design styles will end up “arguing” and creating confusion. And, at a minimum of $250 per square foot for a new 900-square-foot addition (this price is from the remodeler’s own website), these homeowners are going to end up with a $250,000 carbuncle on their hands.
Here’s one that’s done right! split level rancher