A level above the rest: Northern New Jersey mid-century revival

Most contractors would have torn down the early 1960’s home on the spot. However, with our help, a Northern New Jersey couple was drawn to the potential and possibilities this mid-century split-level had to offer. They wanted to stay local in Scotch Plains and incorporate their native Vastu design elements (the traditional Hindu approach to harmony in home and architecture) into a customized, unique home.

Existing Exterior Photo
Existing Exterior Photo
Existing Exterior Photo
Vastu principles of design were important in determining locations and layouts of the house; owners and architect collaborated at every stage. The house was a typical split-level that had never been renovated before. As with most split-levels, it was built economically and appeared similar to those around it. Half stairs separated the levels, yet seemed to interrupt the flow of the layout, although it was convenient to go up only a short flight to the bedrooms.

The original design here was unoriginal, with a living room and dining room on the main level alongside a separate area for the kitchen. Going down a few stairs led to the laundry room and then a garage, making the house feel more like a maze for the new owners than a place to call home. It needed a transformation from mid-century to modern.

Keeping in mind the Vastu design principles, we wanted to give the couple a home that felt uniquely theirs while still maintaining the positive aspects a split-level home offers. Working with the inherent structure gave us the ideas for distinctive designs we wouldn’t have come up with if we were starting a new house instead of renovating.

While we were able to maintain the foundation, some of the walls and roof, the rest had to be gutted. However, the remaining essential elements made it possible for us to open up the main level into a lofty space. We moved the garage to construct a much more usable space for the lower level and opened up the staircase in a dramatic way to create a profound new sense of connection throughout the home. Stepping down to the lower level no longer felt like entering a basement (with another basement below that); instead, we created meaningful spatial relationships.It was in many ways better than building something new.

In less than a year and a half from design phase to move-in, this mid-century modern house provided another and better level of living, honoring the character of the home, yet unique to the owners. The couple now loves entertaining long-term visitors from India and have put the lower level guest room to good use during these visits. They are delighted with the custom design and the comfort and harmony they can now offer to family and friends.

Renovating this house that lacked a distinctive look and purpose gave it a sense of connectedness and peace that truly made the house into a home.

Ground Level Existing Plan
The entry was originally on the lower, garage level, so that you had to go up a half flight to get into the living area.
Proposed Ground Level Plan
The garage was relocated in order to place the property entry in the most auspicious location based on the Vaastu principles.
This opened up the lower level to create a guest suite as well as the formal living area with wide stairs connecting to the kitchen level.
The entry was raised from the original lower level to the main level, and the space above was opened up to reveal the interconnected levels.
Upper level existing plan
Proposed Upper Level Plan
A second level was added above the main living area, with the new master suite occupying the original bedroom level.


Proposed Exterior Front
Proposed Exterior Back
Preliminary Interior Rendering
Preliminary Interior Rendering
Preliminary Interior Rendering
Preliminary Interior Rendering
Preliminary Interior Rendering
Preliminary Interior Rendering


Entry foyer view shows the opening up of the circulation between levels. The ceiling was raised in this circulation zone allowing for a more open feel between levels. A cantilevered stair provides access to the bedrooms and a mezzanine located toward the back of the house. The mezzanine overlooks the kitchen/breakfast nook.
Looking towards the entry and stair from the kitchen.
Opened up kitchen includes a breakfast area banquette.
From the kitchen looking down to the dining area and up to mezzanine level. The new wide stairs create an easy flow between levels.
A balcony is suspended off the master suite. The patio mimics the levels of the interior, with the wide stair aligned with the one inside.


We are in the finishing stages of the design. April 2015.
Waiting on landscaping, planters, and pavers. April 2015