It doesn’t matter how perfect your home is—if your listing photos don’t stand out, potential buyers won’t come by to take a look. In our series “Lessons From Listing Photos,” we dissect the smart updates sellers have made to their homes, and how their listing pics highlight the home’s best assets.
Before undergoing a massive renovation, a 4-bed, 4.5-bath Victorian home in San Francisco was full of that Old World charm some buyers crave—but it was also outdated and full of tiny, enclosed spaces. So when it was purchased in 2017, the new owners made logical changes to the floor plan and brought this 3,000-square-foot stunner up to date.
All that hard work paid off, because just two years later, they sold, for a $1.6 million profit. Pretty impressive, right?
So how did they pull it off—and how can you bring those same lessons to your property? We went straight to the experts to find out what they did right, and why. Here’s what they had to say.
No matter how much you love old houses, you have to admit that this kitchen needed a lot of love.
“Opening up the kitchen and installing wide plank floors immediately upgrades this space from an outdated, dysfunctional area to one where anyone would love to entertain guests,” says interior designer Lauren Visco. “Now there’s a workable kitchen triangle with all of the appliances and prep area concentrated together.” Visco was also impressed by the dual-tone cabinetry and says it subtly shows the owners’ playful side while keeping a sophisticated, neutral palette.
“The countertops have also been modernized to look more contemporary,” adds designer Kobi Karp, principal at Kobi Karp Architecture & Interior Design. “Decorative elements such as plants and vases were also added, bringing a little bit of vibrancy into the kitchen area as well.”
Designer Paul Andrés Trudel-Payne, founder and director of Casa Consult and Design, calls this kitchen “Fresh, clean, light, and bold without being abrasive. This makes cooking and eating in the space a true experience.”
Before: Living and dining rooms
After: Living and dining rooms
It’s a natural reaction to mourn the loss of the fireplace and built-in shelves, but you have to admit that the result—a seamless cohesion between the living room and dining room—was worth the loss.
“The overuse of trims and the dark wooden floor in the ‘before’ photo created a claustrophobic environment. I’m glad they got rid of that,” Karp says. “By replacing this with a lighter, softer-colored wood, and adding a decorated carpet to the living room, the area is instantly more contemporary.”
Visco says the two rooms now flow much better. “With the demolition of the white overhead beam and molding separating the two spaces, the living and dining blend together now,” she says.
“Taking out the archway really has helped the room breathe a sigh of relief,” says Trudel-Payne. “Opening it up like this provides a higher sight line, making the room look so much bigger.”
Vintage tiles may be in, but this bathroom was a fixer-upper if we’ve ever seen one.
“The bathroom was littered with out-of-date tiles, covering the bottom half of the walls,” says Karp. “The homeowners were smart to take out the tiles and add a coat of a white paint to make the bathroom appear more spacious.”
“This newly renovated bathroom is timeless and truly maximizes the space, with a built-in shower and a clean floating vanity, offering plenty of counter space and storage,” says Levi Austin, chief designer of Levi Austin Design. “The oversized mirror beautifully reflects the stone tiles and natural lighting in the space.”
As you’ll see in the “before” photo, the previous owners tried to lighten up the old staircase with a coat of white paint, but it still looks clunky and compact. Check out its amazing transformation into a modernist staircase with glass panels. “You will never go wrong updating a staircase with glass, metal, and wood plank flooring. It’s the perfect balance of rustic and modern and works great with so many different types of decor styles,” says Trudel-Payne.
And it’s not just the architectural updates that make an impression in this area. “Decorative elements, such as a vase of flowers and modern art hanging from the walls, give the space a sense of lifestyle,” explains Karp. It’s now a section of the house worth gawking at.
Lava rocks are an odd choice for ground cover in the backyard—they’re not exactly pleasant to walk on! The old yard did not immediately suggest a place where family and friends would love to gather. But the sellers fixed that problem by adding a wooden deck, an outdoor rug, and plenty of cozy furniture.
“I love the way they increased the overall living and dining space with the addition of folding glass walls,” says Visco. “This allows a free flow between the interior and exterior landscape. Smoothed, plastered walls, sleek glass railings, and inky wicker furnishings lend a cool, modern aesthetic that appears balanced against the warm wood floors and rustic siding.”
Notice the extension of the house, which added a bonus room with a wet bar and additional seating. “This expertly designed backyard was done perfectly—to every last detail,” says Austin.
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