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 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 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 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 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.
“I’ve worked in fashion my whole career,” Genevieve said. “I was always 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 Tobaccowhere 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 by her 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 Coyotenamed 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.
“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 of her, 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 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.
“I was so intimidated,” Genevieve said from 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.
“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.
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.
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 us along the way,” she said.
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.
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 38gives an inside look at a downsizing projectand 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.
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.
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.
“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.
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