The exterior of the 1920s Spanish bungalow that the couple named “Blanco Bungalow.”Chris Saldivar of Tea Tree Productions.
Laura Genevieve and her husband, Jonathan Strader, bought a Spanish bungalow in 2018.
They documented the four-year renovation on social media, building a lifestyle brand along the way.
They just sold their house for $1 million, less than two months after listing it on the market.
Laura Genevieve had a clear vision in mind when she started house-hunting: She wanted a Spanish bungalow, and she wanted it to be as close to the beach as possible.
The family standing on the front lawn.Chris Saldivar of Tea Tree Productions.
The jewelry designer was living in Venice Beach with her husband, Jonathan Strader, and their then-one-year-old son when they started house hunting.
“We couldn’t really afford anything in Venice Beach where we were living. And so we started searching for the closest home to the beach from LA that was also a Spanish house,” Genevieve told Insider.
“I was very specific. I wanted archways, arched windows, and all of that 1920 Spanish charm,” Genevieve said.
Their search eventually led them to Long Beach, where Genevieve found what she was looking for: A Spanish-style house 10 minutes from the coast.
The exterior of the Spanish bungalow, which Genevieve named Blanco Bungalow.Chris Saldivar of Tea Tree Productions
The South Wrigley property came with a detached two-car garage, dated 1980s interiors, and tenants.
Even so, the couple knew they had found the one, Genevieve said: “We could tell it had great bones the minute we walked in.”
The pair ended up buying the home in October 2018 for $555,000.
Genevieve and her husband moved into the bungalow the day they received the keys. As their first order of business, they started ripping out the carpets.
The living room before it was renovated.Laura Genevieve
The house had all the architectural features the couple wanted, but the interior design was a different question.
“We saw the arched windows, the arched doorways, and we were pretty sure we had salvageable wood floors,” Genevieve said. “But someone had done some upgrades that were just not our favorite.”
The home’s plumbing and the electrical systems also needed upgrades.
“The plumbing was definitely not working,” she said. “We decided to put the laundry washer and dryer in the house and every time we turned it on, it would back up and water would go everywhere.”
The state of the fixer-upper gave Genevieve an opportunity to work on interior design for the first time.
The kitchen before it was renovated.Laura Genevieve
“I’ve worked in fashion my whole career,” Genevieve said. “I always was interested in interior design, but until we owned our first home, I didn’t really feel like I had an outlet.”
Genevieve owns a brand called Turquoise and Tobacco, where she sells handmade jewelry like a sterling silver ring with a turquoise gem ($64) and a silver chain link necklace ($58). Prices for her designs can go into the thousands of dollars, with an engraved 14 Karat gold necklace listed for $1,840.
Her husband Strader co-owns a local pizza chain called Little Coyote, named after their son, Coyote.
But in true LA style, Genevieve didn’t just build a house — she built a lifestyle brand, and a 44,000-strong Instagram following along the way.
Laura Genevieve sitting on the outdoor couch.Chris Saldivar of Tea Tree Productions.
“The minute we bought our house, we didn’t really have any money left over to do any projects,” Genevieve said.
She’d already built a social-media following for her jewelry line: Turquoise and Tobacco’s Instagram page has a very curated, very California vibe, and it currently has 21,000 followers. She decided to do the same for the house.
“So then I would become the influencer and I could get companies to collaborate and I could afford to do the projects that I wanted to do in my house,” Genevieve said.
The Instagram account for the house — which they named Blanco Bungalow — is loaded full of sandy, natural colors and closely echoes the look of her jewelry brand’s account, except instead of close-up shots of rings and layered necklaces, it features renovation progress photos and shots of Genevieve lounging around her home in monochromatic outfits.
Most posts get hundreds of likes, and a few even end up in the thousands. The comment section is filled with compliments from her followers, who chime phrases like “love it!” and “beautiful!” along with heart eyes and clapping hand emojis.
As they renovated, the couple focused on brightening up the house and modernizing the look.
The living room.Chris Saldivar of Tea Tree Productions
“The minute we painted the inside of the house white, took the carpet out, and refinished the original wood floors, it was beautiful,” she said of the two-bed, one-bath house.
The windows in the living room are her favorite, she said: “During the pandemic, we finally finished landscaping in the front and along the side. So when you look out the windows, all you see are these huge, lush palms and it’s just so beautiful with the natural sunlight.”
Neither Genevieve nor her husband had experience renovating or designing homes, and they left the kitchen for last.
The kitchen.Chris Saldivar of Tea Tree Productions
“I was so intimidated,” Genevieve said of the kitchen. “That’s why we saved it for the last.”
The couple hired a builder to create the kitchen table tops and shelves from cement. He did all the work by hand.
“Every night we’re eating dinner and he’s like working with plastic put over the door. Our whole kitchen was basically in the dining room and we just felt like we were camping for three months,” she added.
The couple also hired professionals to install the bathroom and polish the garage floors.
The dining room.Chris Saldivar of Tea Tree Productions
“Everything else we’ve done ourselves, and then our neighbor built the wood gate and helped us with the fence topper too,” Genevieve said.
The couple worked intermittently on the renovation for almost four years, juggling the home updates with their day jobs and raising their son.
The master bedroom.Chris Saldivar of Tea Tree Productions
Genevieve also went back to school to learn interior design during the pandemic.
The last leg of the renovation took place from May to September, at which point the couple completed the kitchen, the outdoor pizza oven, and the yard.
When it came to furnishing the house, Genevieve put the Blanco Bungalow brand to work and partnered with lifestyle and furniture companies.
Laura Genevieve standing beside a shelf.Chris Saldivar of Tea Tree Productions.
Genevieve said the Blanco Bungalow social media account started to take off in the last year and a half.
“In the beginning, my account was too small, so brands weren’t sure about working with me, and very few did. There were a lot of nos along the way,” she said.
Her feed is now peppered with items from bigger brands, like ceramic dishes gifted from Tablewear brand Year and Day and taupe-colored silk pajamas sent from sleepwear Lunya.
Like many influencers, Genevieve has found a way to capitalize on her taste — she’s made her high-desert bohemian style easy to replicate, courtesy of affiliate links all over her website.
The garage.Chris Saldivar of Tea Tree Productions
Affiliate-marketing programs are a popular way for influencers to earn money from their content: They get a commission from any sales that are made through their links.
Genevieve’s site offers the option to “shop my bedroom,” “shop my living room,” and “shop my backyard,” each of which functions like a window display of items replete with links to furniture and decor.
A section on the Blanco Bungalow website is also dedicated to Genevieve’s blogging endeavors, where she blogs about what it’s like to go back to school at 38, gives an inside look at a downsizing project, and offers interior design tips.
Now, the couple is eyeing their next adventure: They just sold the house for $1.01 million, less than two months after listing it on the market.
The bathroom.Chris Saldivar of Tea Tree Productions
Genevieve and Strader originally listed the property in early October for $1.11 million and reduced its price two weeks later to $999,000. Houses in their neighborhood have a median listing home price of $795,000, per data from real-estate platform Realtor.com.
“A lot of people thought that we were always planning on flipping the house, but we had no intention of ever selling this house and moving,” Genevieve said. “We put down roots here, but then we went to Europe in January and we just fell in love with it.”
The couple is planning to move to Europe later this month, but Genevieve is keeping their exact destination under wraps for now.
Looking back, Genevieve said one of the biggest things she learned from her renovation journey was to take her time when making design decisions.
The outdoor sitting area.Chris Saldivar of Tea Tree Productions.
One rule she tried to stick to was to get a feel of the space before committing to any major changes, like knocking down walls, Genevieve said.
For other things like deciding on fixtures, Genevieve has also learned to always go with the highest-quality piece that she knows she’ll love forever.
“For every decision I made for this house, it was always with the sense of ‘We’re going to live here for 30 years, so I better love this,'” she added.
And while Genevieve decided she was ready to part ways with the house, she’s not letting go of the Blanco Bungalow brand.
Genevieve standing in the main doorway of her home.Chris Saldivar of Tea Tree Productions.
“I named it the house, but when we move to Europe, we’re actually going to be documenting our house-hunting over there as well, so we’ll have Blanco Bungalow 2.0 coming soon,” Genevieve said.
Read the original article on Insider