Split Level Entryway Transformation

Our 1962 home is a “four story split level”, meaning there are 3 sets of stairs. When you walk into the ground floor, you’ll find stairs leading to our basement, another set leading to our “main floor” (kitchen/living/dining), and a bathroom and spare bedroom (now home gym) on the ground level. We only have one “entryway” to this home- the garage door, front door, and back door all enter to this space. Because of this, we needed this entryway to serve as a foyer and a mudroom.

When we bought our home, I knew this entryway was going to be a complete gut renovation. The stairs throughout the house were initially too narrow for our feet at only 9″ deep, so as part of our main floor renovation, our contractors removed and replaced the stairs. I wanted the stairs to be opened up as much as possible so the home would feel less “split level.” They removed as many walls around the stairs as possible, including the door leading to the basement. I designed a modern-traditional railing that is an instant upgrade to the staircase.

The entryway initially had 12×12 white tile, two closets, and felt very dark and dated. I wanted to open it up and make it feel bright and welcoming, while adding function.


These photos were all taken on the day of our showing for the house when it was staged.┬áNotice the little white signs around… the listing agent had created little “imagine this!” tips for what the house could be if it were renovated. Ha!

View of the main entryway. Our builtin unit is right where the closet used to be.


To add more light, we replaced the exterior doors. The back door is now full pane with grids to match the rest of our windows. We painted it Peppercorn by Sherwin Williams. The front door is a 3/4 lite door. I had wanted to add grids but skipped this to save some money. The color is similar to Peppercorn, but is a custom color from the manufacturer (153 Medium Bronze).

Painting our doors using our Graco TrueCoat 360 Paint Sprayer
Priming the doors: we painted the porch exterior door, entry level back exterior door, and porch french doors the same color so we painted them at the same time.

We moved the hall closet door to face the front door rather than open into the hallway. This makes it more accessible and it now acts as a coat closet & storage for cleaning items. We also raised the ceiling in the hallway and entryway. It had been framed about 3-6″ lower than it needed to be, so we added quite a bit of height by reframing the ceiling. There is some ductwork above the front door that would have costed many thousands of dollars to move, so we opted to work around it.

I dreamed of slate tile floors, and we ripped up the 12×12 tile (only to find more tile!) and replaced it with a 4×12 slate tile in a herringbone pattern. It ties into the large scale herringbone in the porch, and I love using natural materials! A word of warning: this project took a very long time and was extremely tedious, and I would not recommend it as a DIY to an inexperienced tiler. The natural slate is cut at ever-so-slightly different thicknesses and widths, which made installation very complicated to maintain the herringbone pattern. We carried the herringbone throughout the entire entryway, hallway, and bathroom.

We added more artificial lighting in the entryway with two ceiling fixtures, plus a wall sconce (discontinued, but here is a similar one).

I painted everything White Snow by Sherwin Williams to match the rest of the house. To elevate the hallway & entryway, we added picture frame moulding and a chair rail, which completely changed the feel!

Last but not least, we added builtins where the closet used to be. Removing that closet helped to open up the entryway and makes it feel so much brighter. You can now see up into our kitchen area, while before, it felt much more closed off. Living in Minnesota, you can never have too much storage for coats, boots, and other seasonal gear, so I designed a “mudroom” builtin that had plenty of hidden and open storage.

Split level entryway transformation: Sima Spaces
Mid-gut: closet removed and ready to replace the staircase
Split Level Entryway transformation with builtins and open staircase: Sima Spaces

The closet has hooks for bags and 3 shelves, and cabinets above the bench can hold plenty of other bags and supplies. We have 6 coat hooks here, and three cubbies for shoes. I put two baskets in the cubbies for our sandals. We have plenty of shoe storage in the larger coat closet as well.

green entryway builtins with storage


Split Level Entryway transformation with builtins and open staircase :Sima Spaces


Our front door is by Bayer Built, and was purchased through our contractor, but you might be able to source via your local building supply company (not a big box store). Our gorgeous antique brass handleset is from Signature Hardware. The rug is vintage and was sourced on Etsy.

The builtins were designed by me, Josh built them using birch plywood, and I painted them with our Graco Paint Sprayer. I used two coats of INSL-X Cabinet Coat primer in a deep tone, then did two coats of INSL-X Cabinet Coat Paint in Forest Floor by Benjamin Moore (the same color as our bathroom ceiling). They are outfitted with unlacquered brass knobs & a handle. The coat hooks are also unlacquered brass and are handmade, sourced via Etsy. The custom bench cushion breaks up the green a bit and adds a comfortable & warm touch.

Split Level Entryway transformation with builtins and open staircase :Sima Spaces

I found a gorgeous antique dresser on Facebook Marketplace that just happened to already be the exact color I wanted. We store our winter hats/mittens/scarves in the drawers. A brass arched mirror (similar) hangs above and helps add more natural light.

Our garage door was also sourced through Bayer Built and is fireproof steel. It is actually not painted, but the color just happens to match our wall color! The doors are all solid oak, and I stained them Minwax Black with a matte polyurethane coat. The knobs are from Schlage.

The stair railings were sourced through our contractor. The spindles are from Lowe’s (linked below). I stained the treads & handrail English Chestnut by Minwax, the same color as our kitchen island. The risers are Pure White by Sherwin Williams, the same color as the rest of our trim.

The hallway leads to our back patio, gym, and bathroom. The rug is from the Amber Interiors x Loloi collection. The wall sconce is unfortunately no longer available, but here’s a similar option.

Split Level Entryway transformation with builtins and open staircase :Sima Spaces

Overall, we are so happy with how this space has come together. It’s a far cry from where we started on move-in day, and no longer feels so much like a dated split level entryway. In total, this space has taken almost two years to complete- demo started in spring 2021, and we finally finished the builtins in January 2023. I’m so glad to not be walking into a construction zone anymore!

Split Level Entryway transformation with builtins and open staircase :Sima Spaces


Author: Laura Sima

Hey there, I'm Laura- creator of Sima Spaces. I'm a home renovator, designer, and blogger based in the Twin Cities in Minnesota. When I'm not designing or renovating homes, you can find me working as a pediatric ICU RN, snuggling my dog or cat, skiing in CO, soaking up the sun on our boat, or enjoying a glass of wine on our patio!

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