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.
From Eichler to Eames, California is blessed with a wealth of homes designed by renowned architects and builders. One less recognizable—but equally influential—builder is William Mellenthin, whose popular “birdhouse ranch” designs started popping up all around Southern California’s San Fernando Valley from the 1940s to 1960s. His homes—like this birdhouse ranch built in 1954—are still highly sought after. But even homes built by famous designers need a refresh, especially if they look like they’ve sat untouched for decades.
After purchasing this Sherman Oaks, CA, home in 2018 for $920,000, the new owners knew exactly which interior and exterior updates would make it shine—without taking away from the character that made it a diamond in the rough. After less than a year (and a lot of hard work), they put it back on the market and sold it for nearly $400,000 over their purchase price.
So how did they make it happen, and more important, what can you learn from their efforts to modernize their property? We asked our design experts to take a look at the most dramatic before and after shots and drop their knowledge on the changes they saw.
The original entry had a classic beauty that gave the impression the rest of the home might have that same old-timey aesthetic—and that’s not something buyers are always attracted to.
So how do our experts feel about the changes?
“Removing the stone and adding the wood panel siding completely changed the vibe of the home,” says designer Sara Simon of Handsome Salt. “It made the home look not so dated.”
Other trendy touches that helped bring the home’s façade into this decade are the brand-new front door and graphic tile work.
“Removing the screen door also updates the look a lot,” says Holly Waterfield, lead interior designer at the Brooklyn Home Co. “The Moroccan tile adds visual interest, and the black trim on the window helps the large window pop.”
A vintage vibe can be a lot of fun, especially in a bathroom—but this one was overkill. And all that blue and black tile wasn’t even the biggest problem. Our experts say the real issue was the lack of space.
“Changing the layout of this bathroom turned it from a one-person bathroom to a bathroom two people can now utilize at the same time,” says Simon. “Removing the shower wall and replacing it with glass gives the appearance that the room is much larger.”
Paula Rodriguez, interior designer and founder of Paula Interiors, says the new double vanity and larger walk-in shower increase the functionality of the bathroom, and the all-white walls make the room seem bigger.
Before: Kitchen and dining room
After: Kitchen and dining room
Talk about an awkward layout! Although this is technically an open concept, with the kitchen and dining area next to each other, the long wall of windows and tight galley kitchen needed a revamp to make it a truly functional space.
“The new kitchen layout takes advantage of unused areas and adds much-needed counter space, storage, and additional seating,” says designer Karen Korn of Karen Korn Interiors.
Anthony Michael of Anthony Michael Interior Design agrees. “The awkwardness of the space now has purpose. There’s a defined seating and breakfast bar area, which continues the idea of openness.”
And there are other architectural tweaks that made this room sing.
“By Sheetrocking the ceiling, they allowed for more updated recessed lighting, which gives a more modern and clean look,” says Waterfield. “Also, adding enclosed storage to the closet area makes the kitchen more functional. Removing the shutters makes the windows appear larger and updates the look.”
Before: Living room
After: Living room
With such a huge transformation in this room, it’s hard to pick one change that made the biggest difference. However, our experts agree that a fresh coat of paint did a world of good.
“Dark colors can make a room feel small,” says Simon. “Painting the walls and ceiling white and installing lighter floors completely opened up the space. The ceilings immediately feel higher, and the natural light radiates throughout the room.”
“I like the way the remodeler kept the beams and shiplap on the ceiling, but painted the ceiling white,” says Korn. “I tend to like using the same wall and ceiling color because it makes a room seem more spacious—the eye doesn’t have start and stopping points.”
Waterfield also appreciates the renovations made to the fireplace area. “This modernized the feel of the room and elevated the space from feeling a bit cabiny,” she says.
Incorporating the same tile from the front porch makes the entire property feel cohesive. Plus, creating a designated area for entertaining in the backyard (especially in sunny Los Angeles) is always a plus for buyers.
“Moroccan tiles update the area in a trendy way and will appeal to a lot of people,” says Waterfield. “It feels fresh.”
“What I like the most about this design is the combination of a conversational area and a distinct alfresco dining space that keep nature as the center element,” says Rodriguez.
So, as a rule of thumb, does dedicating a portion of your renovation budget to the backyard make sense? Our experts say it does.
“Having a beautiful outdoor space to entertain is a huge bonus that most people are looking for when purchasing a home,” says Simon.