A Must-See Tri-Level Remodel


I’m not sure what housing looks like in other parts of the country, but here in the midwest (well, in Ohio), the tri-level home was very popular in the 70’s and 80’s.  In fact, I grew up in a tri-level, as did many of my closest friends, now that I stop and think about it.  Tri-levels are great in that you get a good amount of square footage, and they’re great family homes.  There are a lot of them on the market around here nowadays, and it’s always interesting to see if they’ve been updated, and if so, how.  Yesterday I stumbled upon a home that is very similar to my childhood home, but it’s been updated like none I’ve ever seen, and I love how it is designed to accommodate how families live today (and in ways that I had never considered!).

I’m pulling some photos from different real estate listings to give you an idea of what these tri-levels look like, so that you can compare the before to the after.  Just bear in mind that the updated one I’m showing you is not the same home as the “befores” I’m showing you.  I’m just trying to give you a frame of reference, so that you can full appreciate the changes.

Let’s get started – it’s a little crazy how excited I am about this remodel, so I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

First, just a peek at the exterior, so you can get a feeling for what a tri-level looks like, in case you’re not familiar with the style.  On the right (upstairs) are the bedrooms along with two bathrooms (master and a shared bathroom).  Then, there is a basement below the bedrooms.  The center area traditionally includes a formal living/dining room, family room, kitchen and a breakfast nook, along with a powder room and a laundry room.  This is the remodeled tri-level, FYI.




Here is another version – but you get the idea.


Or a Spanish-style tri-level:


Now let’s take a look at the inside.

At the time these homes were built, formal living and dining rooms were still the trend.  As we all know, many people have no use and no desire for these spaces.  I personally don’t want spaces in my home that go unused, and right now the only one that sort of falls into that category is my formal dining room.  If I had my way, I would transplant that space to my kitchen/breakfast nook and have it all one big space.  But, I digress.

In a the non-renovated tri-level, you walk in to something like this – sunken living room to the left (which I thought was SO cool when we first moved into our tri-level as a kid), family room straight ahead, stairs leading up/down to the right.


Now let’s look at the remodeled version.  Everything has been updated – flooring, molding, doors, light fixtures, you name it.  And if you look to the left, you’ll see a peek at the wall that was partially knocked out.  More on that later.



Back to the “original” tri-level – if you turn to the left, you’ll see the formal living room and dining room areas.  Lots of space, but admittedly, it goes pretty much unused for most people, right?


In the remodeled tri-level, they closed off the formal dining room and added built-ins to make it into a cozy family room, which also opens up into the kitchen on the right.  Growing up in a home that has a similar floor plan, can I just tell you how much I love this?  You’re asking, “What did they do with the dining room?”  Oh, just wait…


I mean, just look at these built-ins.


If we go back to the entry area and continue to walk straight back, you’ll find a family room that looks something like this.  Sometimes the ceilings are vaulted, sometimes not.tri-level-family-room3

Or your family room could look like this:


In the remodeled tri-level, when you walk straight after coming through the front door, you’ll walk into this space.  Say what?  That’s right people, the family room is now a roomy and inviting dining room (where you can still host Thanksgiving) that is connected to a gorgeous open kitchen.


That is also open and connected to the family room that used to be a formal living room.



If you’re wondering what the old kitchens looked like in these tri-levels, they were small, and in many cases, closed off from the rest of the house.  Like this – complete with drop ceilings and fluorescent lighting.


And then you had a breakfast nook that was connected to it.


Or it might look something like this – a bit more updated, but still not open to the family room, like so many of us want in our homes today.

tri-level-kitchen2 tri-level-kitchen-breakfast-nook tri-level-kitchen-nook-family-room

So what does the remodeled tri-level look like?  You won’t believe it.  Well, I couldn’t believe it.



Is this a functional family home, or what?



What was the breakfast nook in the original tri-level homes, has been turned into a much-needed mudroom.  So smart.


And the dining room that went missing?  Where is it?  They closed off the wall (where the built-ins were added), and turned it into a perfectly placed little office.


The laundry rooms in these tri-level homes were tucked into the back corner of the house.  The original one looks something like this:


And in the updated tri-level, they maximized their space with a stackable washer and dryer and a stylish sink.


The other big change in the updated tri-level is upstairs, in the master bedroom and bathroom.  To be fair, they did take the upstairs from four bedrooms to three, but I think the payoff made it worth it.

But first, a peek at what an “original” tri-level might look like:


Or perhaps this:tri-level-master-bedroom2

And here is an updated tri-level (with added closet space).


The master bathrooms can vary, and while I would imagine this updated tri-level probably resembled my parents’ old master bathroom, which looked like this before they remodeled:


But here are some other possibilities:

tri-level-master-bathroom2 tri-level-master-bathroom

Here is the updated master bathroom in the remodeled tri-level:




I’m blown away at how they made this tri-level current and updated for the way people live today.  I have contemplated ways that my childhood home could be updated to make use of the formal living areas, but this exceeded anything that I had ever come up with over the years.  Now I want to buy a tri-level and remodel it to sell.  It’s no surprise that this updated tri-level is already “sale pending” and it just came on the market.

If you’d like to look at the full listings for these three homes featured in this post, here are the links:

Updated Tri-Level

Tri-Level Number Two

Tri-Level Number Three

Did you grow up in a tri-level?  Has your childhood home changed over the course of the years?



  • Reply
    September 22, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    Cannot believe how they re-imagined those spaces. And better, yet, pulled it off so well! Our first house (which cost less than our last car) was a quad level. Loved that house but so happy to not have all those steps now.

  • Reply
    September 23, 2016 at 6:23 am

    Sarah’s house was an amazing remodel and it’s no wonder that it was snatched up in only a few days! Before moving to Ohio from the southwest, I had never heard of a tri-level.

  • Reply
    September 23, 2016 at 1:59 pm

    There were many of a similar type split level in my neighborhood growing up, though not quite the same layout here. When one very close to my parents house stayed on the market for a while, I wished i had the cash to purchase and remodel it. The kitchen was central to the house, but almost completely closed off. I knew if you could knock down the walls, it would be a wonderful family home. In my obsessive real estate browsing, I have since seen it done once, so I know it can be done! Love that your examples show what can be done if people have the vision. And $$ 🙂

  • Reply
    October 15, 2016 at 5:00 pm

    I’m interested in when you are in Ohio. If close to me, I would love to get in touch to have a kitchen cabinet paint redo. Thanks,

    • Reply
      October 15, 2016 at 5:02 pm

      I’m south of Dayton, north of Cincinnati. Where are you?

      • Reply
        October 16, 2016 at 10:28 pm

        We are in Delaware, OH
        Bummer I love your work and want a cabinet redo in our kitchen

        • Reply
          October 16, 2016 at 10:46 pm

          I’m starting to think that I need to have a traveling workshop. 🙂

          • Ashley
            October 17, 2016 at 7:05 pm

            Yes, please.

  • Reply
    February 23, 2017 at 9:11 pm

    We currently live in a 3 bedroom tri level(actually quad level), but we have a completely different layout. We opened up the K/LR/DR up into a great room and we love it. Thanks for sharing this, the house is gorgeous.

  • Reply
    January 5, 2018 at 6:15 am

    Just bought a tri level last November. Lots of space and trying to update with new windows now. House in older neighborhoods (1968). Master bath update in 1990s. So still old. 2 car garage. Kitchen redo done in 1997. Too nice to redo right now. No open concept. Would like to figure out easier way to drop off shoes. Garage? Too cold . Have u seen ways where garage closed off?

    • Reply
      January 5, 2018 at 8:38 am

      I haven’t seen tri-levels with the garage closed (although I have seen that in smaller ranch-style homes).

    • Reply
      September 25, 2019 at 12:05 pm

      I know this has been a while ago, but wanted to respond. We have lived in our tri level home since 1996…it was built in 1971. We added a garage door to our 2 car garage about 15 years ago. It was one of the best investments we’ve made into improving our home. Our house is all brick, so we were really taking a chance on how it would turn out. We found some brick that was relatively close in color and found a place in our state that stains bricks. They sent someone out to look at the brick we had purchased to see if they felt they could match it. They said they could get it close. It turned out great! It makes the house have a more finished look to it. Definitely worth the investment if you can get the details figured out.

  • Reply
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  • Reply
    Jane Witzell
    March 24, 2019 at 11:22 am

    We live in a tri-level home in Massachusetts. There are 3 in our development. We have the “show house”. There were 4 different styles to chose from, back in the early 60’s. We bought it 20 years ago. I have yet to find in any of these posts our exact layout. Our living/dining room and Kitchen are on one level. 1/2 bath, family room with fireplace, laundry room on lower level. 3 bedrooms, 1 full bath, master bathroom with shower stall on the upper level. 1 car garage. We are hoping to put an addition on, adding a 2nd car garage, a craft room behind it, and a sunroom behind that. I teach rubber stamping, and could use the sunroom for class space. The one thing that I don’t like about this house, is that there is only a 1/2 basement, and virtually no attic… I wish our layout was like the ones you have shown in this post. It would be nice to have a breakfast nook…

    Keep posting!! Maybe you will find a house like mine!

  • Reply
    November 6, 2019 at 9:26 pm

    Are there blue prints for sale for this model?

    • Reply
      November 9, 2019 at 6:38 pm

      Sorry – I don’t have the blueprints.

  • Reply
    Barbara Ridley
    March 5, 2021 at 6:51 pm

    Hi Jenny, I have owned a tri-level home for over 40 years. I am always searching to find ways to update. I just happened to be searching split levels, and to my surprise, the remodeled tri-level floor plan appeared in my search, it is identical to our plan which that we had built. We’ve made several changes and updates. I would love to share some of our own designs and updates for our tri-level. Please let me know if you would be interested in seeing our updates.

  • Reply
    Tom Thorpe
    May 22, 2022 at 10:52 pm

    We have been in our tri-level for 30 years. Four bedroom, 2.5 baths. We bought the biggest model in the plan, with the biggest yard. We raised 4 great kids.
    Now that we are downsizing and looking to move, I cannot find any home that satisfies me. I was spoiled by such a great home plan. We hosted decades of family holiday parties of up to 40+.
    I am resigned to building my own home if I can find some plans for another tri-level.

  • Reply
    Larea Gibbs
    June 23, 2022 at 6:20 pm

    I absolutely love this remodel. I live in Cincinnati and I need some designing update help on my tril level home. Will you be willing to assist me on doing this? My email address is [email protected]. please help me

    • Reply
      July 10, 2022 at 8:52 pm

      I can help with cabinet painting, but am not taking on remodeling jobs at the moment.

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