Lessons From Listing Photos: A Once-Stale Tudor Is Now the Portrait of California Charm

November 6, 2019


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.

Built in 1926, this Tudor-style home in San Diego is packed with all the original charm of homes built in that era. The main living room is centered around the fireplace, the front door is arched, and there are tall, narrow windows throughout the house.

But before the sellers got their hands on the property, the interior design was heavy and stale, and pulled the focus away from the home’s best assets. They purchased the home in April and quickly brought the interiors up to date, and then put the refreshed home back on the market in July.

As you’ll see in the photos below, their hard work paid off. The home sold in a quick 49 days for $300,000-plus more than their original purchase price. So how did they pull off this success story? We asked our design experts to point out all the right moves they made so you can bring these ideas to your next renovation project.

Before: Living room

living room before
Even with white walls, this room felt dark and closed-in.


After: Living room

living room after
After the renovation, it’s light and bright.


In true Tudor fashion, the hearth is still the star of this room, but our design experts called out the design changes that made this room feel more comfortable, modern, and stylish.

“It’s great that they squared off the drywall opening leading to the dining room,” says Katie Stix, partner and design director at Anderson Design Studio. That change, while a small one, updates the room and allows your eyes to land on more interesting features of the room—and there are lots of those.

Nisha MacNeil, design manager at Kerr Construction & Design, points out the white color palette and the decor choices that complement it.

“The key to making this all-white palette pop is bringing in some color through nature like the fig tree as well as the beautiful art over the fireplace and pillows,” she says.

Before: Kitchen

kitchen before
The old kitchen was classic in all the wrong ways.


After: Kitchen

kitchen after
Now the kitchen is a home chef’s dream.


The original kitchen was quaint, but honestly, it’s not a place where anyone would like to spend a few hours cooking for a crowd. The new kitchen is now a home chef’s dream—and a nice place to hang out.

“Homeowners want bigger kitchens than in the past, and almost all of the clients I’ve had want an island,” says MacNeil. “By reconfiguring the layout and incorporating the dining area into the kitchen, this space is open and allows for a more functional kitchen. This space now becomes the hub.”

Stix agrees that this is a better use of the kitchen space.

“Combining the two rooms to create a larger kitchen with an island is way more practical,” she says.

Changes like installing hardwood flooring, removing the cased opening, and adding can lights help to modernize the kitchen, but Stix says a splash of color could have given the kitchen a bit more originality.

“I wish they incorporated some color—however, this kitchen is a nice neutral base for a potential homeowner to expand upon and make it their own,” she says.

Before: Dining room

dining before
The dining room was practically begging to be brought into the current decade.


After: Dining room

dining after
A fresh coat of paint and clean lines completely transformed the dining room.


The updates in this room took it from grandma’s dining room to a place you’d be proud to entertain guests.

“This shows you how small changes can have such big impact,” says MacNeil. “By painting out the trim to all white and updating the furniture and lighting, this space feels totally different. It’s now clean and modern, light and bright.”

Tiffany Fasone, owner and CEO of Voila Design Home, notes how the removal of the window treatments brightens up the room. After overhauling the room behind the windows into an office, there’s no reason to cover up a beautiful space like that up.

Before: Bathroom

bathroom before
The old bathroom was drowning in outdated tile.


After: Bathroom

bathroom after
Now, it’s modern and bright, but still retains classic features.


Our experts agree that this is by far one of the best room transformations we’ve seen in a while. Now, the bathroom looks clean, elegant, and more spacious.

“The space literally doubled in size by removing the enclosed shower and making it glass,” says Stix. “It’s much nicer to shower in natural light versus a deep, dark hole.”

She also endorses moving the toilet to the other side of the vanity. “It blocks the view of the toilet, so it’s not the first thing you see when you walk in,” says Stix.

“I absolutely love the serene palette of all white with a dove gray vanity and brass hardware,” says MacNeil. “The mix of the soft gray with the warm metals keeps the room feeling warm and not clinical.”

Before: Backyard

backyard before
Too much furniture clutters this small backyard space.


After: Backyard

backyard after
Decluttering does wonders for this outdoor space.


In a sunny place like San Diego, the backyard is basically an extension of the living space—which means it has to be just as great as what you see indoors. But a plethora of outdoor furniture—including chaise lounges and a fire pit—and a cumbersome pop-up tent made the backyard look crowded.

Part of the backyard transformation included packing the heavy furniture up and leaving a clutter-free, wide-open space for the new owners to enjoy the Southern California sunshine. Lesson learned? Less is more when staging a house to sell.

“This is a testament to what just a little cleanup can do for your space,” says MacNeil. “Decluttering this backyard has really brought it to life!”

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