New Home Tips, Trends, and Ideas - Raleigh Custom Home Builders

5 Important Questions about Two Story Overlooks

Posted by Penny Hull on Tue, Apr 19, 2016 @ 10:04 AM

Indoor Balcony and Overlook Ideas:

Should the overlook be single or two-sided? What type of railing is best for an overlook? What should I overlook - the living room, dining room, or kitchen? How long should the second story overlook be? What type of lighting is best for an overlook? 

Get answers to all your indoor balcony, or upstairs overlook, design questions - with photo examples - from a Raleigh custom home builder.

Floor Plans with an Indoor Balcony or Upstairs Overlook:

From traditional home design to contemporary layouts, these overlooks will give you a good sense of the range of possibilities when building in some open concept space that connects the upper and lower floors. 

1. Should my overlook be one or two-sided?

A single-sided overlook requires less two story space - with more sq ft of living space upstairs. One sided overlooks are more common when facing the foyer, where there are easy start and end points for the railing. 

Two staircases lead into a single-sided overlook hallway in this version of the Serengeti

Overlook Ideas | two story Raleigh new homes

A two-sided overlook often extends across the foyer and living room:

Here, the foyer overlook is about half the length of the living room side, leaving space for an upstairs loft above the guest bedroom.  This type of overlook can also be referred to as a catwalk, especially if the double exposure is long.
Overlook Ideas | two story Raleigh new homes

In another example, the two-sided overlook runs across the foyer and living room. Two separate staircases lead to this overlook, one in the foyer and one in the kitchen.

Overlook Ideas | two story Raleigh new homes

2. What type of railing is best for an overlook? 

Painted wood, wrought iron balusters, cable railing, and drywall half-walls with trim are all popular styles for an overlook.

Here is an example of an overlook with white painted wood balusters: 

Overlook Ideas | two story Raleigh new homes

And another with black painted wood railing: 

Overlook Ideas | two story Raleigh new homes


Cable railing is a great choice for a mountain or contemporary home style: 

Cable Railing Overlook | Raleigh new homes


3. What room(s) should the overlook extend to?

While traditional overlooks often span the living room from above, a more unique approach in custom design can integrate an overlook above the dining area and/or kitchen. 

Overlook Ideas | two story Raleigh new homes

This overlook uses a drywall extension, rather than railing, for a more contemporary feel downstairs. The "front side" of this two-sided overlook faces the foyer.  The open urban contemporary loft feel is further accentuated by the use of metal sconce fixtures on the side of the overlook half wall.

4. How long should the overlook be?

A small overlook can extend a short distance, to give a quick two-story feel to the foyer. A long overlook can span the entire first floor living space.

The distance of an overlook will depend on the overall structure of your floor plan, including the amount of open space you want to dedicate on the second floor (the more overlook, the more of the upstairs is needed to be dedicated to open, unused air space instead of living space). 

Here is an example of a hallway-length overlook, with a large impact on the openness of the home:

Overlook Ideas | two story Raleigh new homes

5. What type of lighting is best for an overlook? 

You'll want to include a mixture of lighting types, sizes, and locations. Wall sconces, recessed can lights, hanging chandelier lights, fan lights, and windows are all used to light overlook spaces. 

Overlook Ideas | two story Raleigh new homes


Floor Plans with an Overlook:

One of the best things about designing and building a totally custom home is the ability to include the features that matter most, including the upstairs overlook.  

What Raleigh new home design elements are most important to you? Tell us what you're looking for, and we'll show you how to build it - with recommendations for floor plan features and selections that fit your budget.


Tags: indoor balcony, raleigh new homes, overlook to living room, staircase overlooks