A decade after the soldiers returned home from war, the split-level Midcentury Modern house made its debut in suburban neighborhoods from coast to coast. The design style was both innovative and practical, dividing public and private living quarters through a short half-level. In architecture as in aged tequila, however, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing.
The Split-Level Midcentury Modern House
“There are four livable floors,” says Beth Williamson of the 3600-square-foot midcentury home where she and husband Seth Berman live in northeast Portland, Oregon. Oddly, original architect L.E. Leitritz divided the house lengthwise, creating four long, narrow spaces. The concept worked fine for the master bedroom upstairs, but it became difficult to create an open floorplan on the main level that would be conducive to the couple’s modern lifestyle.
After living in the home for three years, they brought in architect Risa Boyer to collaborate on a major renovation of their split-level Midcentury Modern house. “The hallway felt like a railroad apartment or a shotgun down in New Orleans,” says Beth. The original floor plan had the kitchen and dining room at one end of the home and the living room at the other. The large bedroom that separated both spaces blocked light from coming in and made entertaining nearly impossible.
The Fix? Creating Flow
The six-month makeover involved building a new kitchen and dining area next to the living room and converting the original rooms at the north end of the house into a nursery and den. White oak floors, walnut cabinetry, and vintage furnishings throughout the main level hearken back to the home’s midcentury roots while creating a clean and bright living space.
“From a flow perspective, it’s still a very strange house,” says Beth with a laugh. Even so, she is pleased with the end result, and looks forward to raising a family in the newly renovated split-level Midcentury Modern house. “It’s a project of love and for sure dedication,” she says, adding, “We’re pretty proud of what we did.”