A big selling point for split level homes, which were a favorite architectural style of the 1970s and '80s, was the big rumpus room on the lower level. Kids could be boisterous and loud in this space without interfering with the main living area and upstairs bedrooms. The same space, furnished with a ping pong table, TV and overstuffed couch made a perfect hangout for teens, who called it the "rec" room. But with the children grown and out on their own, there's little need for the room where rambunctious energy once ruled. Now you can transform the space into a thoroughly grown-up hideaway filled with peace and quiet.
Flooring with Casual Elegance
Rumpus room floor covering was made to withstand the rough-and-tumble wear play and roughhousing can cause. Feel free to pull out the old linoleum or wall-to-wall shag carpet that's an artifact of the past. Then re-do the room's lowest surface with a stylish, modern finish such as:
- Bamboo flooring. Environment-friendly bamboo comes in light, dark and striated shades ranging from golden brown to nearly black. Installed in end-to-end runs across the length of the room, it gives the visual impression of a much larger space.
- Wall-to-wall carpeting. Although shag carpeting has gone out of style, modern carpets bring warmth and comfort to the space. Thick padding underneath makes it cozy even in the winter.
- Stained concrete. The lower level of split level home was typically built on a concrete slab. A concrete overlay, stained and polished to look like marble or natural stone gives the room a more formal appearance. This works well when you're setting up a study, home office or sitting room in the space.
Eliminating Drafts With Replacement Windows
Split level homes were designed for economy, so they were typically fitted with low-cost double-hung windows or slider windows in aluminum frames. Over time, and with normal settling of the house, these windows became a source of drafts. In addition, condensation was a problem that sometimes led to mold growth.
Replace the old with brand new, qualified Energy Star windows suitable for your climate zone. Tilt-wash double-hung windows are a favorite for making it easy to keep the glass sparkling clean.
TIP: Have the windows installed professionally. Trained experts have the tools and experience to adjust the wall openings and window frames in older homes to ensure there's a tight fit – and no more drafts.
Modernizing the Ceiling and Walls
Popcorn ceilings: Back when split level homes were new, bumpy, textured ceilings were all the rage. Today, the style looks dated and messy, and sometimes chunks fall to the floor.
TIP: Eliminating the eyesore takes a lot of water spraying and scraping, but when the project is finished you'll be able to have a modern, smooth painted ceiling in the room.
Paneling: Another popular interior design practice of the era was paneling the walls with veneer. Manufactured to emulate solid wood paneling, the relatively inexpensive finish showed every little scratch and scrape. It was typically a dark color, which made the room look gloomy, even in the middle of the day.
TIP: Removing the paneling will expose drywall, the perfect base for a brighter, more cheery paint job. But first you'll need to fill the holes left by the paneling nails and any other surface damage.
Ready for Your Personal Touches
With the artifacts of rumpus and recreation gone from the room, you're free to put your own design signature on the space. Whether your version of a hideaway is a room for crafting, gaming or simple relaxation, the original intent of pleasant enjoyment in the home's downstairs remains intact.