Before and After: Smart Layout Changes and Fresh Finishes Brighten up a Dark 1960s Split-Level Home
Sometimes homes look and feel dark because they lack windows, meaning there isn’t enough natural light coming in. Sometimes, homes look and feel dark because of the colors of the materials used throughout. And sometimes, it’s a little bit of both.
That’s what HTGV hosts Egypt Sherrod and Mike Jackson faced in the latest episode of “Married to Real Estate” when it came to updating a 1961 split-level house. Homeowner Cassius was drawn to the neighborhood and to the cool mid-century roots of the house, but the inside wasn’t love at first sight. There were nice features — like big windows in the bedroom and bathroom — and a pretty generously-sized floor plan, but the overall vibe was a little dark.
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The living room and kitchen area presented the biggest project for Egypt and Mike. The space before had the open floor plan that so many homeowners crave, but the kitchen was limited to basically just one wall of cabinets (plus an island). And while the fireplace was something Cassius liked having, it wasn’t ideal to have it located so close to the cook space. To solve those issues, Egypt envisioned a totally new layout that would involve a sizable addition to the house. “I have some very grand ideas of what can be done with this space,” she told Cassius when he toured the house — plans that would involve a larger kitchen with more storage and prep space and a brighter living space overall.
In the owner’s suite, Cassius was impressed by the spaciousness of the bedroom and its huge picture window — “I’ve never seen a window this big before,” he told Egypt and Mike — but the bathroom wasn’t as big a hit. The gray floors, gray walls, and dark vanity all made the room look dark, and the layout felt too narrow to Cassius. He also wasn’t a fan of some of the finishes in the room, like the dark mosaic tile in the bathroom that had a slight rainbow sheen (“Willy Wonka-ish,” he called it).
With a six-month timeline and a budget of $250,000 for the entire house, Egypt and Mike got to work on the extensive renovations that would turn this house into Cassius’s dream home. Aside from the kitchen and living area and the owner’s suite bathroom, projects included adding a garage and a patio, as well as renovating the owner’s suite bedroom, a den, and the home’s exterior.
Egypt wasn’t lying when she said she had grand plans for the kitchen and living area. To give Cassius more square footage for cooking and dining, she and Mike planned for a roughly 15-foot-long addition to the back of the house. “Demo for a project of this size is a beast,” Mike said, noting that he would need to take much of the home down to the studs. But, he adds, he wanted to keep as much of the flooring intact so it could be laced in with the new flooring — a cost- and materials-saving measure.
After the addition, Egypt was able to double the storage space in the kitchen from one wall to two. Her new corner layout still features an island; this one, though, has a white-and-black waterfall quartzite countertop that serves as a dramatic focal point. “It looks like a piece of art,” Cassius said when he chose the countertop stone; in place around the dark wood cabinets, it’s even more breathtaking.
Lighter wall colors, bigger back windows, and added skylights all help brighten up the entire kitchen and living area. Another big change: Mike moved the fireplace to a side wall so that there’s room to arrange furniture around it. And while the floors are still partly original, the new light stain helps remove some of the darker red undertones that dragged it down before.
The bathroom also included some new, lighter finishes that made a big difference in how big the space felt. Egypt took out all the dark gray tile that was in place before, and instead added white hex floor tile as well as large-format white wall tile around the tub. Moving the shower into the tub area — and enclosing it all with a clear glass door — helped free up some square footage widen the bathroom’s walkway. Egypt also swapped in new lighting, a new vanity, and faucets with a trendy brass finish. Now, instead of swallowing up the light from that giant window, the room’s finishes help bounce it around.
“All of these months what kept running in my head was Cassius said I want my house to be special, I want it to feel like a piece of art. So we tried to give you moments everywhere,” Egypt told Cassius when he first saw the renovated home. And with the lighter, brighter new look and plenty of bespoke details, Cassius’s new space is just what he was hoping for.
“Married to Real Estate” airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HGTV.