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 pictures highlight the home’s best assets.
In Northern California’s East Bay area, Craftsman bungalows are a dime a dozen. Their Frank Lloyd Wright–influenced aesthetic was popular from 1905 to 1929, and over time they have attracted even more fans.
This home, built in 1922, showed all of its age in the form of outdated—sometimes deteriorating—original features. But the seller, who bought the house in April 2019 for $833,000, saw it for what it was: a diamond in the rough.
The 1,266-square-foot home in the desirable city of Berkeley had a backyard begging to be built out for entertaining, so the new owners knew that a remodel could make it something special without taking away any of its original charm. And apparently, their efforts impressed buyers—they sold the home just five months later for nearly $1.35 million. Now that’s what we call a sweet profit!
So why was this renovation so successful, and how can you re-create this success in the parts of your home that are in need of a refresh? Read on.
Before: Front exterior
After: Front exterior
Before the renovations, most buyers wouldn’t have given the front of this home a second glance. Fortunately, the sellers knew they had to make the exterior stand out.
“The updated color scheme and patterned tile on the steps bring a young and trendy vibe to this Craftsman bungalow,” says designer Laura Davis of hpd architecture + design.
Tiffany Fasone, owner and CEO of Voila Design Home, agrees.
“Updating the color scheme of the home and removing damaged railings and the bars from the window immediately make the home seem more modern and welcoming,” she says.
It’s not just the paint and windows that have changed, though. This flip makes a real case for the power of landscaping.
“Trimming the trees on either side of the house makes it seem bigger, and adding the plants makes the home feel more well-kept,” says Fasone.
Paul Trudel-Payne, founder and creative director of Casa Consult+Design, says the landscaping and color scheme are the perfect pairing.
“A low-maintenance yard and a black and white color palette is the perfect backdrop to create amazing curb appeal,” he says. “I love the details of the patterned tiles in the stairs and the pops of color in the greenery.”
Before: Living room
After: Living room
There are a lot of changes to digest in the living room, so let’s start at the bottom and work our way up.
“The carpet. Who knows what lived in that mauve nightmare,” says designer Katie Stix, partner and design director at Anderson Design Studio. “Getting rid of that and replacing with wood is the most essential part of this before-and-after.”
The sellers also made the brilliant decision to knock down the wall between the living room and the kitchen and to put in a breakfast bar.
“The addition of the breakfast bar is a nice way to add functionality to a space that may otherwise feel small,” says Fasone.
According to Davis, the painted fireplace was the key to this room’s success—and it saved the sellers from possible disaster.
“One mistake homeowners can make when they remove walls is to not keep a strong focal point to anchor the room,” she explains. “The new charcoal paint turns the original fireplace into an interesting, textural piece that catches your eye as you walk in the front door.”
It’s hard to imagine that these two kitchens are in the same home—or that the pictures were taken just months apart. To accomplish this look, the sellers took down multiple walls, and swapped the kitchen and eating areas.
“The original floor plan was divided up into separate rooms, with the kitchen pushed to the back of the house,” says Davis. “By taking down walls and moving the kitchen forward, it becomes a natural extension of the living room.”
“Continuing the wood flooring throughout the space makes it feel larger and more open,” says Fasone.
Stix is impressed by the new cabinetry.
“Taking the cabinets to the ceiling is way more aesthetically pleasing,” she says. “The white cabinets with open wood shelving are extremely trendy yet classic. It sets a neutral palette for potential homeowners, and is a feature that everyone can get behind.”
Stix also couldn’t get enough of the new lighting in the kitchen.
“Adding can lighting in place of flush mounts is another major way of making the home feel more upgraded and modern. It is a cleaner look and gives off more even light—and we all know a well-lit home is a happy home,” she says. “Which brings me to the skylight—it is something unexpected and not always considered, but the addition of natural light is major.”
Before: Master bedroom
After: Master bedroom
Let’s just address the elephant in the room. That wood paneling was a lot to handle, especially in a bedroom. Clearly, it had to go. The renovated master bedroom, however, is a perfectly put-together, calming oasis.
According to Fasone, the sellers made all the right choices in this space.
“The paneling really closed in the space. Removing it, painting the walls, and replacing the carpet with hardwood make the space feel more updated and modern,” she says. “Mirrors often read as windows to the eye, so adding one above the bed is a good way to open up the space and make it feel bigger.”
Trudel-Payne says it’s furniture that makes this master bedroom really shine.
“I love what they did with the bedroom, particularly the furniture choices,” he explains. “Using this modern box-framed bed brings so much height to the room, and choosing a dresser and nightstands with white frames and wood fronts help those pieces blend in more than stand out—the perfect combo for making a room read much larger.”
Before: Outdoor kitchen
After: Outdoor kitchen
The original backyard looks like an ideal spot for entertaining, but it just needed a face-lift and some new landscaping. With a brand-new cabana and kitchen, it has a second chance at helping the homeowners be hosts with the most.
“This space has the most impact,” says Fasone. “Finishing the interior walls and ceiling makes the space feel cleaner, like a cohesive extension of the house. The path of pavers, the curtains, and the mulch make everything feel clean and new.”
Stix agrees that the mulch looks great and is an attractive feature for homeowners who don’t want to mow the lawn (or live in a drought-prone part of the country like California).
And while Stix doesn’t necessarily think an outdoor kitchen is a make-or-break feature (it is a nice bonus, though), Trudel-Payne thinks it’s an essential feature when you’re talking about high-end properties.
Buyers in expensive markets like the San Francisco Bay Area like to see special elements like an outdoor kitchen that make the property stand out, says Trudel-Payne. These sellers went about it the right way and, in turn, stand to make a lot more for their efforts.
“This transformation is a good example of how making smart, affordable updates that focus more on visual styling can still impact your photos in a great way,” he explains. “Going with a white and black color palette helped this outdoor kitchen read more modern. The finishing detail of the curtains around the sitting area also help the space read higher-end.”