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two story living room

Two-Story Living Rooms: Pros and Cons

May 12, 2020 by Maurie Backman

When my husband and I first decided to buy a new-construction home, we looked at completed models our builder had done before making our decision. One of the things we really liked was the option to have an open floor plan with rooms that flowed nicely into the next. But there was another feature in one of the finished homes we saw that really caught our eye -- a two-story living room.

We liked it so much that we decided we wanted the same thing for our home, and sure enough, we now get to enjoy a living room with 20-foot ceilings. But while I'm mostly happy we went with that decision, I've since learned that there are drawbacks to having a two-story living room in your home.

Benefits of a two-story living room

First, the positive: Two-story living rooms are extremely elegant, and they give the impression of an oversized space. When people come to my house for the first time, they tend to comment on how large it is. In reality, it's spacious, but not extraordinarily so -- but those two stories give a very roomy impression, especially when combined with an open floor plan.

Our two-story living room also allows for plenty of natural light. Not only does it have ground-level windows, but it has second-story windows as well. On a clear day, I don't even have to think about flipping a light switch.

Drawbacks of a two-story living room

On the other hand, I've learned that having a two-story living room isn't all rosy. For one thing, that space is extremely challenging for us to heat and cool. On those very cold days, no matter how high we set our thermostat, it seems like our living room is constantly chilly because all of the heat in there rises to the ceiling, away from us.

In the summer, that beautiful natural light I just talked about becomes a stifling heat source, and on very sunny days, it seems like no amount of air conditioning is enough to cool down that room. The result? Our utility bills get very expensive, and even then, that room is rarely comfortable on extreme weather days (though to be fair, on days that are just "regular cold" and "regular warm," it's not an issue).

Another downside about that room is that noise bounces all over it. A quiet conversation that takes place in our living room can be heard all over the house. And for us, that means we often can't use our living room at night when our kids are trying to fall asleep. No matter how quietly we talk when hanging out on the couch or playing a board game at our coffee table, and no matter how low we keep the volume on the TV, our kids can hear it upstairs behind closed doors because the sound just travels upward.

An aesthetic but imperfect feature

All in all, I'm happy with our decision to buy a home with a two-story living room. But I do think it's important to share the disadvantages of that setup so prospective homebuyers know what they're getting into. If you like the look and feel of a two-story room, go for it -- but understand that you may be signing up for exorbitant utility bills and noise problems in the process.

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