the makeover.
by victoria comment



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. 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.

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

  3. 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?

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

  5. 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!

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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?

  10. 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!

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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! ;)

  14. 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!

    • 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′.


      • 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.

  15. 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!

  16. 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?!

  17. 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.


  18. 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!

  19. 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.

  20. 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!

  21. 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.

  22. 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!

  23. 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!

  24. 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!

  25. 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,

  26. 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

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

  28. 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

  29. 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!


  30. 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.

  31. 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!!

  32. 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!


  33. 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!

  34. 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.

  35. 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!!

  36. 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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