Around the Northwest, just about everyone has either lived in a split-level style home at one time, or has visited someone who lives in one. Made popular by builders looking to pack more houses onto smaller lots, and TV families like The Brady Bunch (who were so comfortable with all those kids and a maid), split-level-style homes reigned supreme for several decades.
On Mercer Island, there’s a 1962 split-level that got a modern facelift thanks to the owners who renovated it to fit modern living standards and style. Jamie and Bill Hsu and their two young sons love the space.
“The existing home was substantial and had good bones. Although the work we did was extensive, I felt we could achieve what we wanted within the existing framework,” said Jamie Hsu, president of Lakeville Homes in Bellevue, a small company her mother founded in 1985. Hsu is a licensed architect and joined the family business in 2006, and took over as president in 2009 in a business development role.
The footprint stayed the same, but the project was a complete renovation that included knocking down walls to open up the formerly closed-off kitchen. The house was rewired and has all the latest technology now — from steam ovens to outlets with built-in charging capabilities, and a sleek touch faucet. “I love the kitchen,” Hsu said.
Other super cool features include a secret passageway between their sons’ bedrooms, a master bathroom with a makeup desk (who knew sitting down to apply makeup could feel so fancy?), and newsprint tile and “indestructible” rubber flooring in the boys’ bathroom.
“But my genius move in this whole house is the playroom off the great room. My young children want to be where I am, but I don’t want to see their stuff all over the house,” Hsu said. “The playroom allows us to both see and hear each other, but also allows me to close the door and hide their toys when guests come over.”
“I’m always thinking about the world we’ll leave behind for our children. Renovating creates less waste than a rebuild.” — Jamie Hsu
Not every split-level makes sense to renovate — some are just too limited by site topography and other constraints. However, this home was moldable, and Hsu and her team feel good about it.
“As a parent, I’m always thinking about green aspects and the world we’ll leave behind for our children. Renovating creates less waste than a rebuild would have,” she said. “We gave an older home new life.”
Before and After
The homeowners took the drab split-level to fab by bumping the front up and out to create a true greeting area when guests arrive. Much more inviting than when entering the original floor plan, where you have to choose a stairway.
Calm and Cool
Shades of gray create a luxurious master bedroom suite and the different textures of tile around the fireplace, on the floor, and on the wall create interest. We love the sparkly sconces flanking the oversized and dramatic headboard.
The Water stays Warm
“The master tub is really cool. It has a heating element in it that helps to keep the water warm longer. It’s the opposite of those old cast iron tubs that cooled the water way down,” Hsu said.
Dinner is Served
The beautiful table from Jamieson Furniture Gallery in Old Bellevue seats 10. “I felt so lucky to find exactly what I was looking for fairly affordable,” Hsu said.
Sparkle and Shine
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to make a big impact in a room. And lighting is one of the best ways to take a space from ordinary to extraordinary. This chandelier is from Seattle Lighting — and looks like a million bucks (but affordable!).
“When we designed this home, everything was trending gray. And with the gray Seattle weather, it was just too much,” Hsu said. This home is full of lights — lots of lights. “Artificial light was critical to making the gray home feel bright when desired. Most of the lights in the house are also on dimmers. Maybe I’m a control freak, but the ability to dial lighting up or down is the ability to set the scene you want.”