Take a three-bedroom, three-bath house set in beautiful woodland, overlooking Jockey Creek in Southold. You might think there would be no problem in finding a buyer. Maybe so, but to get top dollar in what is being referred to as a “challenging” market, a little bit of preparation will really pay off, says Corcoran realtor Sheri Winter Clarry.
And this house did look a little dismal and neglected after some long-term tenants were finally persuaded to go. To add to the mix, the house had some very prominent 1970s features that really wouldn’t show too well, together with dreary dark wood walls, and a very overgrown yard.
Enter Bob Tapp. This Cutchogue-based landscaper and interior designer has answered the house’s plaintive cry for help in a truly spectacular way.
Asked about his vision for the property, Mr. Tapp says he wanted to give the house personality, something admittedly lacking on both the inside and outside. That meant cleaning and brightening with the aim of appealing to a mass audience but at the same time retaining the intrinsic American craftsman charm of the house.
Curb appeal is of paramount importance to all potential buyers and this house frankly had none. But once the front yard was cleared of some very tired-looking plantings, a gorgeous Japanese maple revealed itself and provided the inspiration for what Ms. Clarry calls a Zen-like serene and minimalist approach to the house.
An understated oriental-style waterfall now flanks the approach to the front door, consisting of a wooden walkway that spans the front yard like a Japanese bridge. Small Alberta spruces that separate the yard from the driveway are virtually the only plantings in a yard whose interest derives instead from the contrasting textures and colors of gentle swirls of pale river rocks and brown mulch.
The house’s dark wooden exterior is now enlivened by fresh paint on the window frames together with custom-made shutters that soften its previously boxy look. Logs cleared from the property now comprise a quirky fence that screens the house from its neighbors.
Inside the transformation is even more extraordinary. The dark plank walls that had absorbed all the light managing to filter through the overgrown foliage are now a luscious butter cream with white trim. Mr. Tapp says that both he and the owner wanted to inject some color into the house so the butter cream was a compromise with Ms. Clarry, who believes neutral appeals more to buyers’ imaginations. “It’s rare to have a lot of buyers with good vision and so it was important to take a middle course with the color scheme. The aim is to get buyers to be able to picture living in the space with their own things around them.”
Lightening the room has made the big brick fireplace with the cast iron stove really pop and become a feature of the living area and so do the Adirondack-style ceiling beams which were deliberately left dark to contrast with the light walls. The kitchen, too, benefits from the creamy color which subdues the terracotta-colored Brady Bunch-era countertops.
Clever use of fabric is another trick in Mr. Tapp’s repertoire. By hanging cloth pattered with brown, terracotta and cream next to the windows, he has pulled together the prevailing colors in the room and has drawn the viewer’s eye to the windows that overlook the back deck and provide light and airy views of the creek itself.
Upstairs, the cold and dark master bedroom is transformed into a luxurious and dreamy boudoir with a sleigh bed covered in leopard-skin-patterned silk and rich wall hangings. In this room it is cleverly placed mirrors that maximize the light.
The master bath also suffered from the curse of the terracotta-colored countertop, this time in the form of a vanity. A simple pedestal sink now brings the bathroom into the 21st century.
The pi‚ce de resistance, as far as Mr. Tapp is concerned, though, may be the boathouse where he has indulged his love of color and created a fanciful Arabian tent with jewel-colored hangings. “This is just for fun,” he says. “And it shows the buyer that the structure could have many different uses.”
And what does the seller think of it all? Lisa Bunker is quite simply thrilled by the transformation, so much so that she almost changed her mind about selling the house. “I was resistant to painting the wood paneling at first but it works. And the best part is. we reused most of what we already had. We bought paint, topsoil, mulch and a few plants — and that was about it.”
Ms. Clarry and Mr. Tapp agree that the makeover was achieved with a lot of imagination and very little money. Says Mr. Tapp, “I like to say that we used a lot of Botox but we didn’t go under the knife.”