Split Level Living Room Refresh

I’ve lived in my house for more than six years, and I’ve been stumped by my split level living room the entire time. I’ve had nothing but time lately to sit and stare at my living room, plotting how to fix it, and I think I’ve finally done it.

Split level living rooms usually share with the dining room one long wall that’s the entire length of the house. It makes creating a division of space so difficult, and you’re often left with clunky groupings of furniture. 

That’s what I had going on for the longest time. Here’s the dining room, clunk. Here’s the living room, clunk. And any attempts to create a separation using furniture left both spaces feeling too small. 

I tried to use my sectional sofa to be a natural break in the spaces. It did wonders for the dining room — A cute buffet table snuggled against the back of the couch gave the dining area lots of dimension. But the living area was squished into a 7×7 foot space and had only one access point.

I thought about flipping the orientation, putting the dining room where the living room was and vice versa, but my husband quickly talked me out of that one. It wasn’t until I came across some inspiration picture on Pinterest that I finally figured out how to fix my split level living room. 

Fixing My Split Level Living Room

I had a green chest that I loved using as my TV stand. I’m a sucker for antiques, and couldn’t bear to replace it with something from a big box store. I don’t know why it had never occurred to me, but suddenly it hit me to refinish the piece. OBVIOUSLY!

I stripped the green paint and refinished it with Jacobean stain. I had these two porcelain knobs that I bought from Target years ago and paired them with simple black knobs that I hoped would fade into the wood. 

To make the living area feel larger, I mounted the TV. The chest that had felt dinky before suddenly felt appropriate for the space and became a statement piece itself.

I still needed to find a way to create division between the living and dining areas. I liked the idea of flanking the TV with bookcases, but even that posed a dilemma. Because I already had a fairly tall china cabinet in the dining room, I didn’t want to put in bookcases that were the same height. It would make the ceiling feel much lower than it actually is. And I didn’t want them to be shorter because they’d lose much of their functionality.

I ended up buying the 15x11x93 Billy bookcases from Ikea. The extra shelf extender brought the total height up from the standard 79 inches, just barely touching my ceiling. They did wonders for making the living space feel taller, more open, and more substantial. 

I knew I wanted to use these bookcases to hide our electronics. We have a Google Home, the router, and a few other techy bits all wired to the corner of our split level’s living room. I made sure to drill holes in the back of the bookcases to feed the wires through. For most of the electronics, I fed them through a well-ventilated basket. The Google Home is sitting out for easy access. 

I did a lot of measuring and fiddling to get the placement of the shelves right. I wanted to maximize the floor space, but I prefer to keep the sofa pulled away from the windows to keep them accessible. If I modeled the shelf placement after where the couch sits, I’d lose almost three feet! 

I settled on the shelves being about 12 inches from the wall, about 18 inches from the chest. To add visual interest to the TV, I hung two bronze sconces on either side of the TV. I didn’t wire them — instead, I did the magic puck light trick that’s going around social media. I specifically referenced Ashley from My Ugly Split Level to do these. 

All that was left was some styling! I pulled the side table out from my bedroom. I liked the sleek profile and matching wood tones. I repainted the small coffee table we were using in the basement den. I needed a smaller table that could move easily to accommodate our bouncy Samoyeds. All the items I propped on the shelves had been somewhere around my house at one time or another. 

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