How to Modernize a Split Level Home Exterior

How to Modernize a Split Level Home Exterior

Split level home hold a special place in many of our hearts. With their spacious interiors, unique layouts allowing separation of private and public zones, and that oh-so-iconic sunken living room, it’s no wonder over 10 million were built from the mid-1950s through the 1970s. But let’s be real – some of those exterior styles haven’t aged so gracefully. You love your split-level home’s charm and character on the inside. So why not bring its exterior up to date so the whole package sparkles?

A few smart upgrades to the exterior can transform the look without breaking your budget. This ensures you enjoy all the modern perks while retaining the nostalgic feel you adore.

Focus On The Siding First

Focus On The Siding First

When deciding how to upgrade your split level home’s exterior, the siding is a prime place to start. It occupies the most visible real estate and makes the biggest impact.

Consider New Siding Materials

What’s your current siding situation? Odds are, your beloved split level is sporting either vinyl, aluminum, wood, or a combo of those.

While those options seemed stylish back in the day, materials have come a long way since then. Now is the time to take advantage of modern technology and uplevel to a contemporary look with less maintenance.

Some siding options adding style while needing little upkeep include:

  • Fiber cement
  • Metal panels
  • Composite materials
  • Vertical wood planks

Combining siding materials can maximize visual dynamics. We’ll dig more into siding combinations soon.

How do these materials stack up?

Fiber Cement

Fiber cement offers the natural look of wood with more durability and less maintenance. Made from wood fibers mixed with cement, it holds up well to moisture, fire, impact, and more. It won’t crack, peel, or warp like other materials.


  • Long lasting
  • Low maintenance
  • Fire and impact resistant
  • Won’t crack, peel, or warp
  • Natural wood look


  • Higher upfront cost
  • Requires painting

Metal Panels

From sleek stainless steel to rustic corten steel, metal panel siding makes a seriously modern style statement. Minimal seams and clean lines result in a streamlined industrial vibe.


  • Ultra-modern aesthetic
  • Extremely durable
  • Low maintenance
  • Wide variety of colors/finishes


  • Higher upfront cost
  • Risk of dents

Composite Materials

Composite siding contains wood fibers, polymers, and other materials fused together into durable planks. It expands your siding possibilities with more textures, shapes, and colors.


  • Durable and long-lasting
  • Low maintenance
  • Customizable textures & colors
  • Won’t crack or warp


  • Potential fading over time
  • Can show nail holes

Vertical Wood Planks

Wood planks always add natural beauty. Arrange them vertically for a modern twist with shadow lines that elongate the home’s angles. Use wider planks for drama.


  • Timeless curb appeal
  • Distinctive shadow lines
  • Customizable sizes and arrangements


  • Needs regular staining/sealing
  • Potential for cracking or warping
  • Not as durable as other materials

How do these materials stack up?

Mix and Match Siding Materials

Sticking with a single siding material from top to bottom of your split level can look, well…a little flat.

Combining complementary textures and materials pumps up the visual interest exponentially.

Some slam-dunk siding combos for stunning split level exteriors include:

Stone Veneer + Fiber Cement Siding

  • Use manufactured stone or faux stone veneer on the lower sunken level
  • Extend fiber cement lap siding from top to bottom on the upper floor

This combo complements the split level layout beautifully. It grounds the home with natural stone while the lighter siding draws the eye upward.

Vertical Wood Planks + Metal Panels

  • Feature wide vertical wood planks on the lower level
  • Use sleek metal panels on the top level and accents

The rich wood planks contrast splendidly with modern metal. The combo feels both rugged yet refined.

Composite Shingles + Fiber Cement Shakes

  • Composite shingles on lower level with lighter shades on top
  • Fiber cement shake siding on upper level in darker shades

The multi-tone shingles fading up the exterior mimic the split level setback visually. Fiber cement shakes lend extra dimension in darker tones.

Strategic Siding Color Options

Along with switching siding materials and textures, don’t underestimate the power of color on your split level remodel.

Shifting to a lighter, brighter exterior color palette instantly modernizes the look. It heightens the drama of any new siding materials, too.

Some on-trend color schemes to freshen up your split level include:

Black, White, & Gray Color Palette

This trending trio works wonderfully on a split level exterior. Check out ideas like:

  • Crisp white fiber cement siding on top level
  • Charcoal black vertical planking on lower level
  • Gray stone veneer on part of sunken section

Keeping the colors clean and contrasting really lets the textures shine.

Earth Tone Palette with Pops of Color

For a warmer yet still modern vibe, use an earth tone base punctuated with eye-catching colors like:

  • Neutral beige metal panel siding
  • Rich espresso composite vertical boards
  • Terracotta red entry door
  • Sage green window trim

The neutral bones ensure the bolder colors really catch the eye.

All White Scheme

An all-white scheme may sound stark, but it can be stunning on a split level. Play with textures and dimensions, like:

  • Smooth white fiber cement siding on top level
  • Bright white wood shingle texture on lower level
  • Glossy white garage door
  • Cloud white stone veneer accents

Crisp, clean, and oh so contemporary. The light color maximizes light reflection too.

Use colors intentionally not just on siding, but also on trim details, entryways, and other exterior elements. We’ll get to even more ideas shortly.

Upgrade Eye-Catching Entryways

Your front door sets the tone for the entire exterior. For split levels, the sunken entry section presents fun opportunities to get creative.

Here are ideas to transform tired entryways into jaw-dropping statements.

Install New Doors

A modern front door makes a monumental impact. Use materials like stainless steel, glass, or fiberglass composites for on-trend style.

Beyond materials, look for elements like:

  • Striking colors or finishes
  • Unique hardware
  • Glass panels or inlays
  • Contemporary design

Updating the garage door presents major potential too. In addition to materials matching the entry door, consider adding modern elements like:

  • Window panels
  • Horizontal line patterns
  • Custom laser cut designs

Fresh doors signal visitors that sleek new style awaits inside. Bonus Points for cuing them to expect your re-imagined interiors too!

Build Out Entry Overhangs

Does your split level entryway leave you out in the elements? Extend the roofline to create an overhang.

Add supportive columns or posts to construct a covered front porch. It defines the entryway while protecting against sun and rain.

Choosing materials that integrate with the rest of the exterior pulls together an ultra-polished look.

Landscape for Curb Appeal

Planting colorful, lowered maintenance greenery around the entry elevates aesthetics exponentially.

See possibilities like:

  • Bright blooming bushes flanking the front door
  • Vibrant flowers lining the walkway
  • Contoured hedges guiding visitors

This hints at the updated interiors awaiting guests upon entry.

Pro Tip: Extend landscaping across the entire exterior for maximum eye candy. We’ll hit more landscaping possibilities in a bit.

But first, let’s ascend from the entry up to those exterior centerpieces – the windows.

Window Upgrades for Modern Style

Windows naturally draw the eye, capturing attention through shape, material, and styling.

Take these opportunities to upgrade split level windows for clearer views along with contemporary flair.

Insert New Energy Efficient Replacement Windows

Assuming you still have those old dated windows from your split level’s early days, it’s probably time for an energy efficient upgrade.

New windows prevent costly heating and cooling loss far better than even twenty years ago. Start reaping savings on your energy bills each month.

While boosting efficiency, replacement windows add beauty through:

  • Sleek frames
  • Greater transparency
  • Larger glass space
  • Seamless sightlines

Consider enlarging window sizes in general for a lighter, airier feel. Take advantage of modern window technology improvements.

Add Window Shutters or Trim

Few exterior accents spruce up windows as effectively as shutters and trim.

Lean into contemporary styles by choosing colors and proportions amplifying your home’s current vibe.

For a smashingly modern look, opt for choices like:

  • Slimline metal shutters
  • Bright white trim
  • Black window frames
  • Matching sill covers

Frame views while unifying the aesthetic across the exterior’s split levels.

Other Key Elements for a Modern Split Level Exterior

Other Key Elements for a Modern Split Level Exterior

Beyond the heavy hitters discussed above, upgrading a few additional elements completes your modern split level transformation:

Modernize the Roofline

A roof refresher makes a monumental difference for home exterior remodels.

For split levels, eye-catching options include:

Standing Seam Metal Roof

Sleek metal roofing in silver, gray, black, or terracotta red emits contemporary industrial charm. Beautiful rain sounds as an added bonus!

Composite Shingles

Lighter hues laid in graduated layers draw the eye skyward. Curb appeal and protection blended beautifully.

Install Outdoor Lighting

Outdoor lighting illuminates exteriors for beauty, safety and security.

Emphasize split level dimensions through effects like:

  • Downlighting illuminating varying roof heights
  • Upward spotlights on towering tree canopies
  • Entry and walkway path lighting

Set the stage for a stunning nighttime dimension.

Freshen Up the Garage Door

We can dream all day about ultra-modern materials for that garage door.

But even a simple refresh adds modern flair through:

  • Sleek modern hardware
  • Coordinated color matching the exterior
  • Window cutouts

Bonus motivation to keep things tidy inside!

Add Modern Touches

Final touches put the polish on your updated exterior:

Modern House Numbers & Mailboxes: Slimline numbers and sleek mailbox design signal contemporary style.

Address Plaques: Spotlight your street number on a brightly colored plaque blending modern and artistic vibes.

Landscaping Elements: Sculptural features like textured pots, glass sculpture gardens, and contoured hedges say modern more stylishly than any gnomes ever could.


Just how expensive are these upgrades? 

The good news? You can modernize your exterior both beautifully and cost effectively. More affordable options like new siding materials, strategic repainting, landscaping, and targeted accents make a big splash without draining your accounts. 

How complicated is installing new siding and roofing?

While significant projects, installing new siding and roofing mainly requires precision and time for proper installation rather than intense complexity. 

Help! I’m worried modern style might eliminate my split level’s cherished character.

Great news – you truly can have the best of both worlds blending modern style with cherished character! Think beyond boring beige boxes when envisioning modern design. 

How much disruption comes with these exterior updates? Will we need to move out during renovations?

Another win – exterior renovation allows you to maintain residence in your home throughout the process! While some construction dust and debris enters inevitably, exterior projects won’t impact living conditions too severely in most cases. Just secure interior belongings in sealed storage to prevent dust accumulation during siding replacement or roofing projects. 

In Closing

Our cherished split levels hold so much potential beyond their mid-century origins. With a little TLC and contemporary styling, their fabulous qualities shine brighter than ever.

Follow the guidance above for freshening your split level home’s exterior beautifully without compromising architectural integrity or breaking your budget.

Transform your outdoor space into a festive haven with outdoor Thanksgiving decorations, elevating your home’s curb appeal to new heights. Get ready to fall in love all over again with maximized curb appeal, modernized finishes, and amplified visual dimension, ensuring compliments from neighbors, visitors, and potential home buyers alike.

Most importantly, realize the pride, comfort, and enjoyment you’ll feel each day coming home to your re-imagined split level showpiece both inside and out.

Here’s to unleash your beloved home’s full potential just as it unleashes the happiest version of you. The possibilities sparkle endlessly.

Author: Niru Taylor

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