Before and After: This Small 720-Square-Foot House Was Once a Total Wreck

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Stephanie Perry)

As if a plywood stairway weren’t enough, this San Francisco house boasted plywood ceilings, peeling floors, and plastic bathroom walls—all in all, a “really terrible looking” 720 square feet. After a major renovation, the home now looks bright and modern, no plywood required.

Reader Stephanie Perry—@stoop_sf on Instagram—shares the love story behind this house—as well the challenges it posed:

It was SO SMALL. When I first saw this place and had my heart set on buying it, everyone thought I had lost my mind. It was REALLY terrible looking. The floors throughout the entire house were crack and peel tile. The ceilings didn’t have drywall, they were made of plywood. The bathroom had industrial vinyl walls. The staircase up to the loft area would wobble the moment you stepped foot on it.

With San Francisco real estate being what it is, scoring and affording a tiny, terrible house is still a major coup.

(Image credit: Stephanie Perry)

This space is so lovely now—open, clean, fresh, and full of San Francisco’s beautiful light, thanks to the new skylights and the large, well-placed mirror. The rickety plywood stairs have been replaced with a graceful, unobtrusive ladder with a very small footprint. It leads to guest quarters/Stephanie’s home office. An eating nook is now tucked into the spot where the staircase once was—it provides the perfect seating for two but can accommodate four. The mini breakfast bar is a nice addition; the perfect spot for a solitary cup of coffee or additional seating for hosting a brunch.

Overall the home has clean lines and simple, high-quality materials that suit the small space wonderfully. Stephanie has managed to fit a lot into this house, without a single spot feeling crowded or cluttered.

I love all the light. The place is really tiny yet incredibly bright and airy because of the skylights I put in. I didn’t realize quite how dramatic the ceiling angles would feel in such a small space but they add a lot of visual interest. When I finished the kitchen my boyfriend (now husband) sent me a beautiful set of copper pots which are a centerpiece of the kitchen. I get tons of compliments on them.

The gorgeous pots, along with the ladder and the brass details on the pendants, bring warmth to the predominantly white decor.

(Image credit: Stephanie Perry)

The addition of green, in the form of plants and upholstery, is just the thing to bring an elegant vibrancy to the largely monochromatic space. The gray, white, and black furniture is simple, and streamlined, and the muted greens and multiple textures add a sophisticated luxury.

(Image credit: Stephanie Perry)

This poor little house had a lot of issues, but an in-home washer and dryer is always a wonderful thing to have! While friends saw only the cons, Stephanie was focused on the pros:

I had been looking for a little place to buy for a very long time. It was one of the only places I found that was in a neighborhood I liked and was even somewhat in my price range. The place was small enough that I knew I could manage the construction process and I saw the potential in the space. I felt confident I could make the place look amazing with some simple changes.

(Image credit: Stephanie Perry)

Stephanie managed to squeeze laundry equipment into the kitchen, and since it’s conveniently located right next to the bathroom, it’s handy for hanging items to air dry. (That’s the bedroom through the door on the right.)

The gray glass and metals throughout the kitchen unify the long space and provide the perfect counterpoint to the warmly hued wooden floor and copper pans. The smoked-glass pendant lights are from Restoration Hardware, and the cabinetry is IKEA.

(Image credit: Stephanie Perry)

This is the aforementioned RV-like bathroom, next to a paneled bedroom; both have lots of nice natural light. As in the case of many of these renovations, the key in going from before to after was a skilled, reliable contractor:

Thankfully, I had a contractor that I trusted. He was nice enough to give me a quote on the project before I made an offer on the house! The day after I closed we started demo, and my contractor managed to rewire the house, redo the flooring, and walls before I moved in just 30 days later. I redid the kitchen and backyard once I had moved in. In total, the remodel ended up taking about three months.

Stephanie kindly shares that the project cost approximately $45,000, including a new roof. While that is a major chunk of change, it seems more than reasonable for a full gut job and new roof, especially at high Bay Area prices.

(Image credit: Stephanie Perry)

The bathroom continues the theme of white with metallic accents and adds the fascination of a tiny sink.

(Image credit: Stephanie Perry)

A full-size bedroom with an attached patio, in the city? This is absolutely dreamy. Like the rest of the home, the bedroom is sleek and somewhat minimalist, yet inviting and full of intriguing textures. But while the furniture and accessories are great, the enviable outdoor space steals all focus, as it should. This bedroom is basically a vacation all on its own.

If you happen upon a home that all your friends scoff at, remember Stephanie’s wise words:

Take a chance. If you have a vision and you see the potential just go for it. When you look back it will be worth the sacrifice of eating ramen!

Thank you, Stephanie Perry!