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Dark, Dated Kitchen Gets a Bright Makeover from a Stager - Before After

On a recent project, Ashley Tapley encountered what she calls the dreaded “triple D” — and she doesn’t mean “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” The professional home stager and owner of House Candy Home, serving Santa Cruz County, California, and beyond, was tasked with transforming a home that was dated, dark, and in disrepair.

The Spanish Revival-style beach house, built in 1926 and located in Santa Cruz, had undergone decades of bad remodeling, she said, and its darkness was a “price killer.” She adds: “Light and bright sells houses.”

Tasked with designing and staging the 1,100-square-foot home, featuring two bedrooms and one bath, Tapley knew she had a challenge on her hands since it was on a busy, less desirable street. “My goals were to update the home thoughtfully on a budget, to make people fall in love with it and to get them to pay top dollar,” she notes.

Tapley wanted to add modern amenities while preserving original details that were nearly a century old, including arches, ceiling medallions, moldings, and the solid wood doors.

In terms of staging, she aimed to show the home’s functionality and comfort while appealing to buyers’ aspirations. “As stagers, we also help to create ‘living your best life’ lifestyle stories for buyers by adding items like luxury soaps, games, a cocktail bar, exterior party lights, and, for this property, a planted vegetable garden box full of ripe tomatoes,” she says. “Great design and staging cast a magic spell on all who enter.”

This approach is apparent in the kitchen, which was cramped, had outdated appliances, and featured unappealing finishes like rust-colored tile flooring, dark granite counters, a hodgepodge of lighting, and yellow walls, “which is not a crowd favorite for buyers,” she notes. “We wanted to make the kitchen feel as big as we could without changing the footprint, and we wanted it to feel vintage-y and state-of-the-art,” Tapley says.

To make the space feel larger, she chose a limited color palette of light linen and creamy whites to instantly brighten the room, and used the same paint color and wide-plank vinyl flooring throughout the home for a sense of flow and cohesion. The cabinets were painted a creamy white to make the room feel more spacious, and new solid-colored cream quartz counters with long lines prevent the counter area from feeling choppy and small. To let in additional light, the side door with a half-panel window was replaced with a full-panel door. 

In order to modernize the space, Tapley additionally installed a farmhouse sink (which also adds vintage style) with a tall-neck faucet as well as a new stainless-steel refrigerator and range.

Balancing the modern features are charming vintage touches like the statement-making Spanish-inspired tile backsplash in black and white, black vintage-inspired cabinet hardware, a bottle opener mounted on the side of a cabinet, and a schoolhouse-style light over the sink. 

Next to a large window, Tapley created a breakfast nook with a wood table and modern white chairs with coordinating wood legs. Above, a schoolhouse-style light fixture was repainted to match the one over the sink. Accessories like colorful towels, gourmet olive oil, wood cutting boards, and lots of greenery finish off the look.

After 11 days on the market, the home sold for more than $225,000 over asking, and Tapley couldn’t be happier. “The feedback on this project was incredible,” she says. “I’m so honored that I got to be the one to help this home along.”

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