Lessons From Listing Photos: This L.A. Bungalow Masters the Art of Using Color in a Modern Way

December 10, 2018

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. That’s why it’s so important to get your home photo-ready before showing it off. Whether it’s with simple decor changes or major renovations, we love to see how sellers changed their homes for the better. So we created “Lessons From Listing Photos,” a new series in which we dissect the smart updates sellers have made to their homes and—most importantly—why those changes highlight the home’s best assets.

Most sellers are reluctant to use color in their home before putting it on the market. They’re afraid (with reason!) that certain shades will turn off potential buyers: The rule of thumb is that neutral interiors rule when it comes to real estate.

But a colorful home shouldn’t automatically be pegged as a tough sell. Case in point: This 1912 Craftsman-style bungalow that embraces color in all the right ways. Sans color, this one-bed, one-bath West Hollywood, CA, house was still a gem, with historic architecture any buyer would notice. But the sellers took it one step further, and made careful changes that set it apart from other listings in the area. Although we can’t say so with certainty, we wouldn’t be surprised if the skillful use of color and interior renovations were the reason why the house sold in less than a month.

We asked experts to take a look at the “before” and “after” photos and comment on the design changes they thought were most effective in this charming Southern California home.

Entry (before)

Entry before
A porch that lacks personality


Entry (after)

Entry after
After, the entry is welcoming and full of color.


Punch up the porch

The entry of your house is so much more than a front door—although the homeowners did an A-plus job of choosing a cheery yellow paint for the main threshold.

Interior designer Tyler Hill of Mitchell Hill in Charleston, SC, thinks the sellers made some good choices. “I like how picture windows were added, flanking the vibrant yellow door that gives the home charm,” he says.

Another charming feature worth noting is the pendant lantern. San Francisco designer Cynthia Spence of Cynthia Spence Design believes it’s much more effective than the old flush mount light fixture.

The new concrete porch is also a positive change. “The landing is great in concrete, because it is classic and easy to maintain,” says Sandra Levy, designer and founder of House of Funk, which has offices in New York and New Jersey. “The stone walkway is maintenance-free and much more interesting with the new landscaping.”

Levy added that the new look makes the home feel “clean, modern, and open.”

Kitchen (before)

Kitchen before
The former kitchen was a blank slate, with an awkward layout.


Kitchen (after)

kitchen after
After, the kitchen flows with the rest of the home.


Go bold (but don’t forget to balance)

You might think that listing your house means you need to strip your home of color and any unique touches, but these “before” and “after” photos of the kitchen prove that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

“I like that they opened it up. You don’t see the refrigerator first,” says Spence. “I am a fan of appliances not being the first thing your eye meets.”

Property stylist Karen Gray Plaisted of Design Solutions KGP says the new layout created better flow, explaining that “buyers like easy access to adjoining rooms.”

She’s also a fan of the color choice. “Yes, the blue is bold, but balancing the bold color with the neutral backsplash and countertop draws your eye around the kitchen. It’s modern, on trend, and updated,” she says.

Some may feel that having an all-white kitchen would be more favorable, but it all depends on the market you’re in, and the tastes of the people you’re selling to. Bold color like this is definitely a go in Los Angeles.

Preserve the original elements of the house

Spence says that the wood floors make the biggest impact, and she praises the decision to preserve the original wood.

“I love the soul behind it. It doesn’t look like a spec house,” she says. “This house has been here and has lots of memories and history. Like an antique rug, these floors have been walked on and lived on. The patina is beautiful.”

Bathroom (before)

The previous bathroom design was clean, but it felt cramped.

Bathroom (after)

After, the bathroom looks more luxurious.

Open it up

The old bathroom design was functional, but it wasn’t using the space to its full potential.

“The new bathroom is fabulous,” says Plaisted. “The layout makes it feel more spacious, which is what buyers want.”

Eliminating the countertop, putting in a pedestal sink, and relocating the toilet allowed the owners to open up the shower. If your bathroom is short on space but you really want to impress buyers, Plaisted recommends eliminating the bathtub altogether and putting in a large shower, like the one above.

Let the architecture be your guide

Levy loves the new look, because it adds to the personality that suffuses the rest of the house.

“This bathroom has a ton of vintage charm. There’s personality woven throughout in the fixtures and fittings,” says Levy, who thinks the renovations help show off the house’s natural beauty.

“I have to give them kudos for the 1920s-era faucet and toilet seat; they work with the architecture of the home,” she says. “What’s trending now (thank goodness!) is design based on the architecture—and that is truly timeless.”

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