the makeover.


an awful lot of you asked to see some before and after photos from my cottage makeover. so, as much as i kinda hate to post something as unsightly as these ‘befores’ i do think there’s the possibility for some educational value here. when i first saw this place, i thought, “no freakin’ way can i live here.” but, the landlord was so nice, and he wanted someone to move in that would care for the cottage as if it were their own, and i kind of have a history of leaving a place with a lot of improvements — even on my own dime. so, i guess the lesson i learned here is that it doesn’t hurt to ask if they will make improvements. and, it’s a good idea to imagine potential in even the darkest man caves around.


so i asked him: can you remove the louvered doors from the living room to the dining room? will you paint the whole place with a fresh coat of white paint? would he rip up the carpet in the bedroom & dining room and refinish the floors? would he remove the gigantic ceiling fan and fixture, allowing me to replace it with a lovely schoolhouse electric fixture? he was unbelievable agreeable. and so i moved in. the only thing he didn’t want me to do was to paint the kitchen cabinets white, but i could live with that, even though i really wanted white. it seemed more than a reasonable compromise considering how much he was willing to improve. so, for the walls we used Sherwin Williams Emerald white, which has great coverage over dark colors. sorry in advance for the poor quality of the photos – but i took ‘befores’ with my iphone before i moved in, so to be fair i took the ‘afters’ with the iphone, too.






• all photos © victoria smith, sfgirlbybay.

96 Responses to “the makeover.”
  1. kim says:

    Unbelievable! You certainly had a vision!

  2. thank you for giving us the befores.
    you are gonna make so many happy with these.

    your landlord is a dream.

  3. Janice says:

    A coat of fresh paint, beautiful floors and your careful decor curation = WOW!

    What an improvement it is so fresh looking now. So nice that your landlord was so accomodating with your requests.

    And landlords who allow our 4 legged loves…well, there is something to be said for that as well.

  4. Ergo-Blog says:

    It’s amazing how much little changes can add up to something wonderful!! I love your remodel!!

  5. Kari says:

    What a transformation!

  6. Sara says:

    your landlord must be so grateful! Those lamps make such a huge difference, and every detailed choice you made enhances the place. congratulations!

  7. Michelle says:

    That’s a fantastic transformation! Hooray for flexible landlords!

    I just made a bad white paint choice (it looks yellow) & am looking for a replacement shade… Is your wall color just the off-the-shelf white in the Emerald line?

  8. mosey says:

    Wow. Totally inspiring. You’re a genius! Can you come over and do my place now? :)

  9. Ana says:

    It looks stunning!

  10. Sarolta says:

    I love what you did to the place! Going from boring average “design” to a Scandinavian look? Simply great! Thank you for sharing.

  11. Rachel says:

    Amazing what white paint can do. It looks so fresh and with your creative touches, wonderful.

  12. Marjory says:

    Wow. Not only did you transform the physical space, but it’s energy as well!!
    Warm, spacious, and inviting. Beautiful mirror ( the space itself) :)

  13. Jessica says:

    Thanks for the befores and afters! It’s so encouraging to see what you did with the place!

  14. ml says:

    Amazing transformation! I don’t know if I would have had the energy for all the work.

  15. susan says:

    Absolutely stunning transformation and inspirational. I’m dying to know: what does your landlord think? He must be very pleased with himself for accommodating your requests!

  16. Isabel says:

    Stunning! You have such a great eye.
    As much as I love white cabinets, I think the wood ones really work in your apartment. The honey tones of the wood have a nice warmth to them.

    Well done!

  17. CW says:

    This looks amazing! It looks like a completely different place (and so clearly your style). The white walls and wooden floors really make a difference.

  18. Cathy Jean says:

    Wowie! You did an omen job and I think it is so cool you have such a fantastic landlord. What does he say now!? He must double-realize that you are one gifted designer! Love how you opened the space by taking down horrible curtains and letting the windows and doors really show themselves.

  19. jennie marie says:

    This gives me so much hope, you have no idea! I just moved to San Francisco and am feeling totally uninspired by the apartments in our budget (so. much. carpet!). I would have never thought to ask the landlord to allow us to make major changes.

    Do you mind if I ask which neighborhood this is?

  20. Jessica says:

    You. Have. AMAZING. Style. And. Talent. Well done Victoria!! xo

  21. Cynthia Wig says:

    Fabulous, Victoria! And it looks like Rico has found a home…in the closet??? LOL.

  22. Those before images are scary. My current apartment was on the market for several weeks which is unheard of for a 1BR in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood. The location was great & the layout was pretty awesome & unique, but then I saw the anime posters all over the walls. I think this turned several people off (& rightly so), but I’m glad I saw past them. I couldn’t be happier with my new home!

  23. sue says:

    wow… confirming why i hate carpet & why i love white walls! :)

  24. Deeyn says:

    Gorgeous. What a inspirational before/after. I am blown away at the difference made by the paint. It’s like there was an energy overhaul on the space.

  25. leslie kingery says:

    Absolutely lovely transformation!

  26. Laura says:

    I so agree with Isabel about the kitchen cabinets. I thought that when you first posted photos of the afters. You lucked out with the wood tone in there. The whole place is stunning.

  27. Jodi says:

    what a transformation!! looks great, V.

  28. Anathalia says:

    Oh my God, Victoria! That’s unbelievable! Your home looks so beautiful now! I think it’s really nice of you to share pics of the before. It helps us see that there is hope for ugly places! ;)

  29. Whoa, that is some witchcraft! This is me right now:


  30. Michelle says:

    This is so inspiring. And you found a home for Rico Suave! He looks great there!

  31. wow, so pretty! Love that you ripped up those carpets. It makes such a huge difference.

  32. honeydonthink says:

    What a fabulous transformation and testament to your great flair for interior design and making a “house into a home”. I agree with Isabel that the warm woodtones of the cabinets actually works well with all the black & white, Your photos even with your phone provide a great before & after!

  33. amanda says:

    Wow, you did an AMAZING job. You killed it on whatever used to be the home office maybe? Swapping the wall to wall for hardwood – clutch.

    new follower :) follow back?


  34. How do you DO that?! My “befores” aren’t quite that bad, and I still despair when it comes to redecorating. What a gift!

  35. suemey says:

    Hello, I have just one question, how tall are your ceilings? (wall height) Thanks. Lovely lovely home.

    • victoria says:

      most of the ceilings are 10′ high. the bedroom is an A-Frame and it goes up to about 16′ i think. and in the dining room, the roof slopes so it goes from about 8′ down to just over 6′.


      • suemey says:

        Thank you! It is weird for me to calculate those measurements but I keep wondering about it so I can compare to my own walls in order to apply the ideas.

  36. Tanya says:

    I am in awe at your skills! Being able to see the befores makes all the difference, because you can see right off the bat that this place used to be very standard, what most people get in a home. You have made it amazing!

  37. Those “before” photos made me giggle out loud… Thanks, I really needed that this on what has been a rather rough Monday!

  38. You, madam, are a magician.

  39. P.S. Amazing- seriously!

  40. Stephanie says:

    Amazing Victoria! Can you come help me or better yet, can I just move in with you? :) You like babies and dogs and cats, right?!

  41. susan black says:

    the “befores” are such essential viewing here – it’s a simply amazing transformation with a great landlord to boot / hooray !

  42. Jamie says:

    These transformations are amazing and beautiful! Great job Victoria, very inspiring!

  43. meredith says:

    amazing, amazing, amazing. and so quickly! love it.

  44. deneise says:

    I love your home, all the elements, pieces of your personality show through your decor. I love it all!

  45. simply grove says:

    AMAZING Victoria!!!!!!!!!!

  46. annmarie says:

    beautiful! paint + hardwood floors + light makes SUCH a huge difference!

  47. M Lightcap says:

    Nice redo Victoria,.Good to see that your family farm table is still intact….ie not painted white!
    It looks good with the rest of your stuff. If you are tempted to get out the paint can, let us know.


  48. Rachel says:

    Oh my goodness, you are amazing! I’m glad you shared the before pictures, it really helps illustrate how much work went into the project.

  49. Tammy says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for a long time, but this is the first time I’ve been compelled to leave a comment. You’ve done a phenomenal job. Not everyone can see a shabby, dated set of rooms and see the potential to make them bright and beautiful. You must be so proud — and deservedly so!

  50. Jen says:

    wow! honestly this is the best before and after post i’ve seen to date! you did an amazing job transforming this drab space into a bright, airy and cozy home.

  51. KATE says:

    Gobsmacked! HOLY COW! Thank you so much for posting your before photos! Not only it is extremely educational, it is beyond inspiring & gives me such hope for what is possible. Your vision is extraordinary. THANK YOU!

  52. ashley g says:

    Victoria, you TRULY have my favorite sense of style of every blog I read, especially to be able to do it in your OWN home…I find that so challenging. I have read your blog through three moves of yours and each place you create is inspiring. Congratulations on your new home and for truly making it YOURS.

  53. Camille Iman says:

    Such an improvement! I hope that I can transform my living space half as good as you did :)

  54. wow. quite the transformation! and as someone said in the comments before, the energy is totally changed too! fantastic work :) long did it take?

  55. Noemie says:

    Wow it looks stunning ! Modern and cosy at the same time.
    Now I believe in miracles :)

  56. SALLY says:

    woah. i’m in awe of this transoformation! you’ve made the place look absolutely incredible, and in such a short time! your landlord must be very glad you moved in!
    oh how i wish it was easy to find such an accommodating landlord in london!

  57. Well, is that isn’t a testimony to what a good coat of white paint can do for a place, I don’t know what is! All hail the white walls! :-) Seriously… you are amazing! He is lucky to have you!

  58. nat says:

    So inspiring! thank you for sharing the before….it really helps us all learn to see how you see beauty & bones in well, not the prettiest ;), and make it happen!

  59. Gudrun says:

    Fantastac! I loved your pictures of the new flat at first sight but now in comparaison with your
    “before and after”-pics
    they’ve got a new sense…!!!!
    regards from Germany,

  60. Thanks for sharing your makeover, what a great landlord to make changes for you! I am visiting SF in a couple months and would love to know if you found some of your vintage items at a large flea market in the area? Thanks again! -Holly

  61. Lesley says:

    Wowsa! Never underestimate the power of white paint, I say. The transformation is stunning. Thanks for sharing!

  62. Hilde says:

    What an amazing transformation!

  63. ashley says:

    I love your run- West Elm right?

  64. Michelle says:

    Reason #19021829210389 why I’m going to repaint my place back to white. This is a stunning improvement!

  65. The white really opens it all up! It’s gorgeous!

  66. Adrienne says:

    WOW. What a great re-do! :) You REALLY brightened the place up! And how nice that he was so agreeable! That is so refreshing!

  67. Emily says:

    Gorgeoussss!!! OMG. Can you recommend window blinds/shades… I am allergic to vertical blinds and I need something that is affordable (like as affordable as possible/cheap), good for privacy and attractive. Please! xo

  68. Dottie says:

    Oh MAH GAD! You are a magic maker! The difference is bananas! I love it all! But your little dining room area is in particular divine!

    Well played, lady! WELL PLAYED!


  69. Kate says:

    Can you show a close up shot of your wooden candlesticks? They look lovely!

  70. Sarah says:

    Victoria, it’s just lovely. Could you help me out by saying what type of chandaleir is in the fifth b/a photo sets. It’s white and big with lots of bulbs and seems to have replaced track lighting. Also, does it look good without lights on. Much obliged.

  71. Emily says:

    That’s simply amazing. I love this, so many design blogs never deal with rented spaces and what you can/can’t do with them… totally inspired to have another look at my (meh) house and see what improvements I can make!!

  72. Marie says:

    beautiful! It’s really nice to see an example of a rental being transformed into something beautiful. We are renting until my husband is out of school, and I really don’t like the idea of sacrificing style and comfort because of it!

    Truly inspiring! Just what I needed today!


  73. Sarisa Albrecht says:

    Hi Victoria! We met at feet first / blogshop LA last year and I was too shy to tell you that I was a fan of your blog already…anyway, LOVE what you’ve done with your new space and I think it’s awesome that you did both the “before” and “after” pics with an iPhone–it really shows that what YOU did made all the difference and not a better camera. I’m in awe, really!

  74. erin says:

    This is awesome. So glad that you decided to post the unsightlies! So funny how thrilling it is to see the contrast! You’ve made such a beautiful space here, Victoria. So happy to get a look at it.

  75. Jeanella says:

    Love these spaces and love the way white opens up a space and makes it look much larger! Can’t figure out why many people paint walls/small spaces in dark colors…………seems counter-productive (to me). (JMO) Great job!!

  76. Natasha says:

    Thank you for posting before pics! My house is completely drowned in awful sand color, white will definitely bring us more light!

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