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Lessons From Listings Photos: This Bold Boston Townhouse Proves That Color Can Sell a Home

October 1, 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 over 150 years ago, this Boston townhouse is filled with classical features that would make any lover of traditional architecture swoon. But before its transformation, the interiors appeared a bit stuffy. Plus, townhouses like this are quite common in Beantown, so it needed something to help it stand out from similar properties on the market. That meant doing away with the bland interiors that might be found in any home.

When the sellers purchased this 3,000-square-foot home in 2016, they embraced all the character it retained from 1853—they just reimagined the decor in a more eclectic way. As you can see from the after photos, they leaned into interiors that are a mix of 1960s mod and Hollywood Regency. After spending three years injecting the home with personality and fun, they sold it for $2 million—nearly $400,000 more than they bought it for.

The unapologetic use of color and glamorous furnishings made us interested to dive deeper into this home’s transformation. What did the sellers do right during this vibrant transformation, and how you can make it happen in a space you have that needs a little life? Here’s what our experts had to say.

Entryway (before)

The original entryway was traditional.

Entryway (after)

The new entryway makes a big first impression.

The first thing you notice when you look at the before and after pictures of this home is the addition of lots of bright colors. Our experts were quick to show their enthusiasm.

“I am so excited to see a design that has so much punch and color. How refreshing!” says designer Nisha MacNeil at Kerr Construction and Design. “I think all designers dream to have a client that allows them to do something so fun!”

Going bold the right way means you have to balance the colors and prints out, or else risk having space that’s just too much. Thankfully, it seems the sellers knew this trick.

Designer Katie Stix, partner and design director at Anderson Design Studio, zeroed in on the changes in the woodwork.

“I love that they painted the handrail black and the stairs all white. That, with the addition of the applied molding, adds a very cool and subtly dramatic backdrop for the bright bench and gold mirror,” she says. “A mirror in the entry is always important to help the space feel more open.”

MacNeil points out how the gold fixtures, like the mirror and sputnik light fixture, pair well with the bright color palette.

Living room (before)

living room_before
These neutral colors were just too safe.

Living room (after)

living room_after
living room_after

Anyone who’s afraid of color should take a page from this room—neutral is not always better!

“Even though the color is super bright and fun, the space feels warm, homey, and classy,” says Stix. “And I love that they painted the ceiling a lighter shade of teal. Much better than a typically white ceiling.” According to her, adding lots of color to the walls is the easiest way to make a big impact without taking a major hit on the budget.

Tiffany Fasone, owner and CEO of Voila Design Home, called the wall colors a “brave statement,” but she was more focused on the furniture.

“Adding the bar makes the space feel like more of an entertaining area,” she says. “The bright furniture attracts the eye and is fun and interesting.”

MacNeil did note one classic addition to the room, and she approves. “I absolutely love the designer’s nod to the traditional architecture of the home in the chandelier,” she says. “That really grounds the room.”

Kitchen (before)

The original kitchen was functional but boring.

Kitchen (after)

The new kitchen is exactly where you want to get cooking.

This ain’t grandma’s kitchen anymore!

“This doesn’t even seem like the same space,” says Stix. “It has a completely different vibe with the relocation of the island. Making the island the same height as the countertops is much more functional and modern.”

MacNeil says the kitchen is still classic, with white cabinets and marble countertops. It’s the extras that really count in this space.

“What really takes it over the top are the two over-size black metal pendant lights and bronze stools,” she explains. “I love how the fridge is hidden and built- in. There are no upper cabinets, which leaves the kitchen feeling light and bright.

A black-and-white kitchen is always classic, but pops of color bring it to life.

“I absolutely love the bold green interior doors,” Stix says. “They’re unexpected but full of personality.”

Bathroom (before)

powder room_before
The original bathroom was just too basic.

Bathroom (after)

powder room_after
powder room_after

Welcome to the jungle—we’re pretty sure you’ll love it here. Our designers do!

“Before, the bathroom was outdated,” says Fasone. “Adding the statement wallpaper over the black painted clawfoot tub gives the powder room a hip New York hotel feel.” That’s exactly the type of luxury you want potential buyers to experience when they tour your house.

While many designers advise sellers to depersonalize their home when photographing and showing it, this is a good example of how you can get away with experimenting with prints. The powder room is a great place to be a little more eccentric with your design.

“Bold, quirky, and fun, this bathroom feels like an exciting escape from reality,” says Stix. “I probably would have done a different shower curtain to get a little relief from the palm-leaf pattern, but it would be very easy for the new homeowner to change it out.”

Remember what we said about the importance of balancing out the bold details? Stix notes that the black window trim and black-and-white floor tie the room together.

“Again, the designer selected very traditional lighting, which feels so fresh against the fun palette of the room,” says MacNeil.

According to Stix, this finished home is perfect for a certain type of buyer. “Overall, this home would be perfect for a bright, happy, bold homeowner that wants a reaction from guests,” she says.

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