For many who buy a run-of-the-mill split level home, making changes means opening up a few walls and redoing the floors. But for this journalist and lawyer and their three children, small changes just wouldn’t cut it. They got in touch with architect MJ Sagan, who along with a structural engineer and contractor were able to make drastic changes and take the homeowners’ list of requirements way beyond what they could even imagine.

On that list of grievances were a double sloped bedroom, old dusty carpet, low ceilings in the living room and a multiple layered deck area. These were typical features to be found in this style of home, but the space had to be redesigned to fit their needs. The first was an open living room dining room area. The couple were big entertainers and were completely against having a separate, enclosed dining room. The next was to somehow join the outdoor area with the kitchen and indoor living spaces. Overall they wanted the home to have a nice flow.

This is where MJ got creative: “the main level took the most time to design,” she explained, “we wanted to have high volume ceilings without losing an upper-level spacious room within the original roof massing, which made it the most complex puzzle to solve.” To achieve those high ceilings and airiness that the clients wanted, MJ took out part of the second floor to create one bigger living space. Similarly, she connected the original dormer from the top floor all the way to the ground floor, giving the space an extra large window. “The structural engineer and contractor were key collaborators to make it all work,” she said, “we had many study models and drawings to help convey the design intention to the clients and to the project team.”

A second key element to connect the spaces was to widen and enlarge the stairs to make the homr feel more open. She chose riser stairs that allow you to see through them to another level giving each level greater integration with one another. “We were amazed,” the homeowners shared. “MJ had explained to us over and over what the newly connected dormer was going to look like and how the changes to the staircases were going to completely change the flow of the house but we had no real understanding of how completely our house was going to be transformed.”