We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.

When interior designers in Southern California want to sell their own homes, they call Jenna Cooper. The L.A.-based real-estate agent and owner of the shop +COOP specializes in super-special properties, not necessarily super-expensive ones. She has even been known to turn down big listings because they aren’t quite the right fit. “It all comes from a design-centric place, because that affects how people feel,” shares Cooper.

Not only has she represented properties designed by Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent, Tiffany Howell, Claire Thomas, and Ruthie Sommers, but she often plays a role giving spaces serious TLC when they need it, whether that’s swathing a living room in limewash or streamlining the plants in a front yard. “Does the house need love? Does it need a different point of view that hasn’t already been presented? If the answer is yes, and it’s something I can influence, I’m happy to do the job,” she says.

Most of the time, in her first few meetings with new clients, their instincts are to offer up a blank canvas to prospective buyers. Cooper notes that isn’t always the answer. “I don’t want them to take everything out,” she says. Ahead, she shares with us the updates that are actually worth tackling before you list (and the one that isn’t). 

Do: Embrace the Green Cabinet Movement

“I can never get enough of a green cabinet,” admits Cooper. Card Room Green and Studio Green by Farrow & Ball have proved her top picks for kitchens, although she recently redid a client’s bedroom in Green Smoke. “And if you have the budget, nobody will be mad at a limewash from Portola,” she adds.

Don’t: Shove Everything in the Closet

Because Cooper sees each house as its own individual story, she doesn’t have a set list of rules when it comes to changes that’ll automatically attract buyers. But she is always sure to play up the innate feeling of a home and its surroundings, which often calls for decluttering. “The insides of closets need to have enough room to breathe. And I like bookshelves to look clean and orderly with some negative space.” 

Do: Customize Your White Paint

Much like interior designers, Cooper has a handy list of white paints to use when a home’s walls need a refresh. She likes Droplets by Dunn-Edwards, but “sometimes I mix it with Swiss Coffee if we need the room to read a bit warmer,” she says.

Don’t: Replace Appliances in an Already Dated Kitchen

Think you need to trade in your fridge for a newer model before you put your home on the market? Cooper says it’s an expense you probably won’t recoup. As long as your kitchen’s appliances are consistent with the rest of the space, she suggests leaving them as is. “If the kitchen is from the 1970s, a brand-new refrigerator isn’t going to make that much of a difference and it could actually work against you,” she says. Hey, you never know—leaning into your space’s current vibe could attract people who appreciate a little nostalgia.

Embarking on a big kitchen remodel with future resale value on your mind? Consider warm wood butcher block counters over colder-feeling stones, open shelving (Cooper says it’s a crowd-pleaser), and double islands with separate sinks. 

Do: Fill the Front Yard With Fruit

Cooper has been known to completely re-landscape projects, because it’s true, curb appeal is everything. “Nobody focuses on landscaping, but they should. It communicates care and attention from a seller, and allows buyers to imagine using the outdoor space for many different purposes,” she says. 

When she has to act fast to get an outdoor space in good shape, Cooper pulls from her giant collection of potted lemon, kumquat, and orange trees to punctuate the front entrance. A nicely clipped boxwood ball can help streamline a facade, while olives and feather grasses provide a dash of whimsy. “If I could spend my whole day doing this part of the job,” she says, “I’d probably be the happiest.”