Lessons From Listing Photos: From Outdated Surf Shack to Modern Beach Bungalow

September 19, 2019

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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.

Surfers and beachgoers would immediately recognize this cozy beach house’s prime location—just minutes from some of Santa Cruz County’s premier surf spots, like Pleasure Point and Steamer Lane. However, when the Capitola, CA, home was purchased in 2018, the home’s location was about all it had going for it. But through the dark wall colors and 1990s-era decor, the owners saw the house’s potential, and a quick renovation turned this cramped 800-square-foot space into an open and airy beach bungalow.

Their changes probably helped them to find a buyer for the home in 2019: Who wouldn’t want to own a revamped coastal getaway like this one? Now, it functions as a quaint home for one or two, or the perfect place to spend a lazy weekend by the beach.

So how did they pull off these miraculous changes, and how can you do it in your own space? Our experts shed light on the design choices they made, and how you can pull them off in your home, too.

Living room (before)

living room_before
The old living room was dark and cramped.

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Living room (after)

living room_after
Now, it’s open and airy.

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The original living room was dark, cramped, and was suffering from some seriously lame ’90s vibes. But after renovations, it’s an open and airy space where it’s easy to get comfortable.

Designer Nisha MacNeil at Kerr Construction and Design was floored by the change.

“Wow! What a huge impact the vaulted ceiling brings to this space,” she says. “Before, the space felt so closed in. If you ever have the opportunity to vault a space like this, do it!”

Aside from the gorgeous vaulted ceiling, other big-impact changes include new wide-plank flooring in a gray wash and crisp white paint on the walls.

“The room is much more inviting, and the eye is drawn to the pops of color, like the red door,” says interior designer David Charette, principal of Britto Charette. “Removing the outdated ceiling fan and adding the chandelier was also a great design choice.”

Sliding door (before)

sliding door_before
The far wall was missing something before.

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Sliding door (after)

sliding door_after
The new door adds a focal point to the wall.

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One of the biggest changes to the living room space is the addition of a sliding door. Don’t believe a door can amplify a space? This before-and-after transformation stands as proof.

“This is by far my favorite room transformation in the home, and that gorgeous vintage door, painted black, can take most of the credit, says designer Paul Trudel-Payne, founder and creative director at Casa Consult+Design. “It’s modern yet rustic, and plays beautifully with the architecture in the space and the patterned flooring in the laundry room.”

Sliding doors are quite trendy, but this one feels appropriately bohemian in this beach bungalow.

“Sliding doors and barn doors are very popular,” says designer Jay Britto, principal of Britto Charette. “What we like about this one are the carved panels—they add visual interest and texture.”

Fireplace (before)

fireplace_before
The old mantel made the room feel cluttered.

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Fireplace (after)

fireplace_after
The clean lines of the new fireplace bring the space up to date.

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Not only did the old fireplace date the room, the visible smoke damage made the whole space feel old and dirty. Thankfully, the fireplace got a major makeover, and our designers unanimously approve. Now, the black tile fireplace is one of the focal points of the room.

“Going dark with a fireplace is one of my favorite things to do when refreshing an older space,” says Trudel-Payne. “It instantly brings in a modern vibe.”

“By removing the wall-to-wall shelf above the mantel, the homeowners have also eliminated clutter and cleaned up the space.” says Britto.

Not only does the new fireplace contribute to the minimalist look of the room, it also completely centers the space—probably in ways you hadn’t even considered.

“The beam in the ceiling and the flooring planks point to the fireplace wall, and the clock over the mantel draws your eye,” says MacNeil.

Kitchen (before)

kitchen_before
Everything about this old kitchen was dated.

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Kitchen (after)

kitchen_after
The new kitchen feels clean and spacious.

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This bright, white kitchen looks like something out of a magazine—and it hardly even resembles the humdrum kitchen that once occupied this same space.

“The white cabinetry, gray tile backsplash, and island are all contemporary updates that make this kitchen much more appealing,” says Charette. “By removing the paneled back door and replacing it with the glass door, the room is suffused with more natural light.”

Other noteworthy—and worthwhile—modifications include replacing the microwave over the range with a hood.

“It’s such a modern update that we use in our own designs,” Charette says.

And installing clean flooring creates a seamless transition between the kitchen and the rest of the house. “‘Clean’ is definitely something you want prospective buyers to think of when they see your kitchen,” he says.

Bedroom (before)

bedroom_before
The bedroom felt like it was closing in.

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Bedroom (after)

bedroom_after
Now it’s a comfortable place to relax.

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From dorm room to dream room, right?

“Previously, this bedroom was doing everything wrong,” says Trudel-Payne. “Maroon walls, white trim, and a dark ceiling only emphasized how narrow and small the space was. Using a bright, neutral tone gives the effect of a larger space with more room to breathe. Exactly what every small room needs.”

MacNeil notes how doing something as simple as turning the bed to face the other wall enlarged the space.

“By removing the clutter and furnishing the room with only the essential pieces, the bedroom has become a serene space,” says Charette. “The upholstered headboard, soft throw blanket on the chair, and the twinkling chandelier work together in this room to provide an inviting and soothing vibe—exactly what you want in a bedroom.”

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