Updating a split level

"I wanted an island because I needed extra counter space," she recalls, "and two dishwashers because I enjoy entertaining but don't like cleanup, and a professional gas range for flexibility." Brenneman's task was threefold: to expand the footprint as much as possible, to improve the traffic and work flow, and to update the kitchen while honoring its mid-century style.

To create enough space for a separate breakfast area, he pushed the rear wall back 81/2 feet — the maximum allowed by zoning.

Simplicity and sustainability are ideas we like a lot. It’s just a different kind of old-school cool (now that the ’70s were 40 years ago).

Buying a house we can afford that works for the life we really live (as opposed to one we might dream about) seems like a different kind of cool. Maybe our community isn’t full of great stuff and interesting people. We’ve got sidewalks and streetlights and just as many big trees as any established city neighborhood. While corner lots always tend to have more space, those aren’t the only ones with some breathing room.

Dickson made a point to retain the character, charm and efficiency of a split-level floor plan.

“The original kitchen didn’t feel very usable to us. In addition to opening up the entire first floor, Richard suggested adding recessed lighting and a neutral gray color palette.

The morning Lauren Liess moved into her Herndon home, she took a sledgehammer to the basement to demolish the drop ceiling.

Later that day, she and her husband ripped apart the kitchen.

Plastic laminate made to resemble Delft tile had been grafted onto the cabinetry in a misguided attempt to bring color and pattern into the room.“It was the most hideous house in the neighborhood,” Liess says.But with Dave’s DIY assistance, and ,000 from savings and no-interest credit cards, Liess took a house that had been for sale for four years and, in six months, turned it into a jewel. “But it worked.” Two months later, in December 2009, a Better Homes and Garden editor saw the house’s transformation on Liess’s blog, purestylehome.We’re a financially-stretched, stirred family with members who need both proximity and space.So, yeah: We bought a big, boxy split-entry house in the suburbs.