Is This Beach House Porch For Real?

by hookedonhouses on September 2, 2011

When I saw this photo of a porch overlooking the beach in Traditional Home magazine, I liked some things about it but wasn’t so sure about a few others. I sat and stared and thunk on it a bit. Here’s how that went:

  1. The rug still has creases in it like it was just unfolded for the photo shoot.
  2. Bugs me when they’re at an “artistic angle.” Wish I could straighten it.
  3. Cute dogs!
  4. I’ve never seen deck flooring like that. It kinda looks fake…
  5. Are those doors navy blue like George Banks’s tux?
  6. Love the ceiling color.
  7. Wish I could be sitting there right now with those views!

Then I turned the page and forgot about it. At least until I came across the listing for this beach house on VRBO and was like, hey, I recognize that porch!

I got out the magazine photo to compare the two:

What a difference a magazine photo shoot makes! The porch in the listing isn’t nearly as colorful, with gray porch decking, solid black doors (no hint of navy), and a plain white ceiling. No rug, either, angled or otherwise.

In this listing photo you can see how different the flooring really is:

Looks like there must have been some digital tweaking involved here. Not that I think there’s anything wrong with that, since this is a magazine and not a real estate listing, like we saw here–I just found it interesting to see how they changed things up. (It’s possible they made the changes for real but the listing photos are old, I guess. But I kinda doubt it.)

Here’s another example of how a professional photographer (in this case, Colleen Duffley) and some styling changes can make a room look like a million bucks. The bathroom in the VRBO listing is nice enough:

But in the magazine, wow:

The little touches of blue and green make a big difference, don’t they? The better lighting doesn’t hurt, either!

It’s a beautiful beach house, which the homeowners dubbed “Lollygag.” You can see the rest in Traditional Home and on the rental website.

Click here to see more Beach Houses!

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Yazzle September 2, 2011 at 9:02 am


Kymberly September 2, 2011 at 9:07 am

I actually DO think the digital tweaking (without disclaimer) is unethical. It gives people this crazy illusion that they too can have that porch. So they head off to Home Depot or wherever “but I want THIS SHADE of blue flooring!” – and it doesn’t actually exist in real life? Seems wrong somehow.

I write for shelter mags (humor, always!) and once had an Editor herself explain to me the “behind the scenes” of her own home appearing in House Beautiful. The plants on the counter hid a tile switchplate yet to be installed and so on. It made me feel so much better about my own home!

hookedonhouses September 2, 2011 at 9:11 am

Good point, Kymberly! It would be hard to replicate something that isn’t real to begin with.

Mmmm? September 2, 2011 at 10:32 pm

Why would it be “hard?” As an artist, and sometimes designer, I “replicate” things that aren’t real to begin with all the time. It’s called… imagination.

hookedonhouses September 3, 2011 at 8:11 am

Well, a lot of people aren’t artists or designers. But you’re right, you could replicate the general look of something in a photo if you weren’t set on finding the exact thing, and with a little imagination.

Marcy September 2, 2011 at 9:32 am

What bugs me most about the picture is the porch swing placement – who in the world would want to sit in that swing with their BACK to the ocean view??? That is just WRONG :)

nancy September 2, 2011 at 9:44 am

i love grayton beach, which is where ‘lollygag’ is located…of course i love blue mountain beach more. both are great neighborhood places to rent a house (or own, if you are lucky).

Darlene September 2, 2011 at 9:46 am

we have been duped! :) good eye, girl!
The good news is, we can learn these tricks to improve our own homes and be inspired.
The bad news is, life looks humdrum, and we think virtual is better… or the grass is always greener at someone else’s house.
- {darlene}

Kristen @ More Than Mulberries September 2, 2011 at 9:47 am

That is really interesting – I have to agree with Kymberly, I would be the one to start the hunt looking for something like that! How frustrating to find that it only exists in a computer program.

Anita September 2, 2011 at 9:53 am

Lots of people do this with blog posts too…my respect goes to people who tell you things like – Hey, I only have one of those chairs- I moved it over there to cover a hole for the picture. Magazine editors turn your whole house upside down to get a few shots…which is interesting and we love our eye candy, but you gotta realize, it’s maybe not real.

Anita September 2, 2011 at 9:53 am

Lots of people do this with blog posts too…my respect goes to people who tell you things like – Hey, I only have one of those chairs- I moved it over there to cover a hole for the picture. Magazine editors turn your whole house upside down to get a few shots…which is interesting and we love our eye candy, but you gotta realize, it’s maybe not real.

Nicole Heath September 2, 2011 at 9:55 am

Wow! What a difference some polishing can do – both and after the photo shoot. I want that designer/photographer to capture my house when we go to sell it! That’s amazing. Nice catch!

Karena September 2, 2011 at 10:01 am

Have to be able to relax and see the million dollar view.

I for one, love to see what a difference staging makes. Of course it would be great to know the sources, I like the rug even though it is creased! ( I can picture myself trying to stomp them out!)

Come and join my new fashion Giveaway from Fresh Produce!

Art by Karena

mitchell September 2, 2011 at 10:13 am

this kind of fakery does irritate me. I understand that if your house is in a photoshoot or even if you’re posting blog photos, you want it to look as good as possible, but this, to me, is like lying on your resume…you’re not just making the most of a situation or asset, you’re actively making it seem like something it isn’t. I recently saw a blogger’s home office shown in a book, and it just seemed off, so if went back to the blog and saw the actual office0—they had removed all of the real office equipment and supplies, including the accent furniture that held the printer—in effect, the book office was just so fake…and why it bothers me is this…this fake perfection on-line and in magazines makes you feel bad—you look at this office with no cords, no debris, no visible printer (which, no matter how well-designed, etc. is possible to have in real life—a working office with no tools visible) and you start thinking…I wish my office could look like that and you start on a doomed path to recreate something which doesn’t exist. It’s like the mascara ads where the models clearly have on fake lashes.

shabbychick September 2, 2011 at 3:46 pm

I totally agree.

Lisa T. September 2, 2011 at 4:48 pm

I vote AGREE!

Kim September 2, 2011 at 9:32 pm

I totally agree!

Cheryl Stoy September 2, 2011 at 11:53 pm

A lie is a lie whether it is done for a good, bad, artistic or greedy reasons. Because you need to sell something it should not absolve you of telling (or showing) the truth.

It like being pregnant or drunk…no matter what your reasoning is for being pregnant or drunk, you are still either one in the end.

What I’m hearing from the professionals replying to this tactic is: “I’m not lying…I’m just pushing the hell out the truth”.

Well that “push” is not very ethical. Whether its airbrushing or something similar to what we have above. I have a big problem with “visual enhancement” when that enhancement doesn’t truly exists but is being showcased and touted as through it actually does exist. There’s a word for this type of “creative design”. It’s called “creative fraud”.

Elisha September 2, 2011 at 10:34 am

I don’t have a real problem with this because, as you say, it IS a photo shoot. As someone who has worked in advertising and television for a long time…this is how you make things “appetizing”. Is it real…of course not, but photos you see in magazines and things you see on TV are NEVER real. This is tatamount to airbrushing models skin, cellulite etc. It’s not real people….let’s all remember that next time we feel badly about our skin when we see a picture in a magazine where, like magic, a woman has “no pores”. I love the way my house looks when I’ve cleaned and “set” it for a party and I wish I could travel with my own personal lighting tech, but I can’t. We can get close, but maybe if we keep these facts in mind we can take it easy on ourselves more often.

Judi September 3, 2011 at 8:32 pm

If it’s “not real”, we all should just stop chasing the dream. I hardly look at home decor magazines anymore…the only thing I can usually afford to copy are the recipes and my figure can’t handle that! LOL But really, why is creating a false reality with the goal to get people to buy into it ok just because it’s advertising. If something can’t be sold without lies being told, just maybe we don’t need that product. Basically we are being sold something that does not exist. No wonder so many people are dissatisfied with themselves and the life they have.

Elisha September 4, 2011 at 11:16 pm

Judi, I do agree with your comment about people being dissatisfied with themselves, how they look, where they live and things they “don’t” possess. But it IS fun to look at pretty things isn’t it? What I enjoy is finding out about what these things sometimes cost because only then can I let go and say “well, that is WAY out of my price range” and find something else to obsess about. :-) Like a rug I LOVED from Elle Decor which I tore out and kept in my house file. Then I saw an episode of Million Dollar Decorators where one of them put the same rug into Daisy Fuentes’ house…it was a$27,000!!! OY!!! Good to know so I can stop thinking about it. I do disagree about your comment about advertising though. There is a difference between staging and lighting a house and lying in advertising. Legally you can’t lie about a product or misrepresent it. For example, I’ve worked a lot on tabletop shoots and if you’re advertising hamburgers you have to actually show the product (dolled up of course), but if you’re advertising cereal you CAN use Elmer’s Glue in place of milk to make the cereal look more appetizing. Crazy, I know.

black eyed susans kitchen September 2, 2011 at 10:40 am

What made the least amount of sense to me was the porch swing was facing away from the water. I would want to be sitting there looking at the water. Kind of the lazy (and cheaper) way out to virtually tweak the setting.

Daricia @aCLTgarden September 2, 2011 at 10:43 am

i agree with you about the “artistic” angle of the rug. do not like! i’m with the reader who said swinging with your back to the beach seems like a bad idea, too. i’m amazed that you recognized the porch to begin with. wow, good eye! i don’t mind staging, or whatever is done to make a place look great, but it’s a good idea to take magazines and such as fiction.

Molly September 2, 2011 at 10:55 am

I am gonna play devil’s advocate or odd woman out on this one. That flooring in the mag spread looks like it could be outdoor carpet laid over the wood (no splinters that way) we have the same shade on our office porch.

And the rug might have creases in it because they only pull it out when they are there. I know my parents have a ton of little decor items that stay in storage until she unpacks at the beach.

The listing images were taking at a different time of day (see the super blue sky- will totally wash out the colors of the house). It is also the difference between a point and shoot and a high end DSLR.

(and the swing doesn’t have its back to the ocean, there is a different view on the other end-as seen in the second view of the porch in this post)

Lisa T. September 2, 2011 at 4:52 pm

You are so right! See what all this fake staging is doing? It is making us so suspicious and cynical.

Juju at Tales of Whimsy... September 2, 2011 at 11:22 am

I was thinking, “It probably has creases ’cause she can’t leave it out all the time without it getting icky and moldy.”

Renato Alves September 2, 2011 at 11:34 am

Sorry to disagree. I think HGTV design to sell team went there and easily painted the ceiling, floor and the rest. They bought the rug in a beach store near and then someone kept it. But, the bad pictures look like it was took with a bad cell phone. kkkk
Good weekend everybody!

Liz@VioletPosy September 2, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Wow, the difference is amazing! Sorry I’ve not commented all summer, I’ve been offline most of it. Loving catching up with your blog now :) x

HollyM September 2, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Styling a house isn’t really any different than styling clothing on models. We may not see the clothes pins on the back of the model, pulling the fabric tighter, but they’re there. Then, of course, photoshopping will sculpt arms and legs, and airbrushing will even out skin tone. And that’s after the model gets hair extensions and false eyelashes.

If it isn’t real life, it’s an illusion. Kinda like all the nonsense you read about celebrities. None of it is real. Even the “Stars, They’re Just Like Us!” section of US Weekly magazine. Nope. They’re not.

No one lives life in a magazine. Or in a blog photo. Our houses aren’t perfect. They’re dusty, they need vacuuming, and the shower needs a good scrubbing. Laying out a pretty little tableau and uploading a photo of it to our blog is a way to inject more beauty into everday life. And there’s nothing wrong with that. As long as no one, especially not us, starts to believe the fantasy is reality.

The most interesting home I was ever in . . . was not even clean. Well, it wasn’t spotless. It was a jumble, it was artistic, it was fascinating, it was warm and inviting, and it was far from perfect. No one has ever been fascinated by perfection. It’s just pretty to look at.

J. Elizabeth September 2, 2011 at 11:03 pm

“No one has ever been fascinated by perfection”–excellent point, Holly. Makes me want to embroider it on a pillow or something. Well said!

Karen December 2, 2011 at 10:05 pm

I’d like to agree with you, but experience has demonstrated otherwise. I’ve known far too many people obsessed by the pursuit of perfection and they make everyone around them miserable and unhappy. It become the obsessional focus of their life.

I echo your sentiments that no one lives life in a magazine. I know that I certainly don’t, but I don’t bother to look at them much anymore either. What they feature is unobtainable and not my reality. I may draw an idea here or there, but not much else. The illusion offered and what people seem addicted too conflicts with what is real, warm and inviting. If people were truly grounded in reality would our economy be suffering to the extent that it is? I think far too many people forget the difference.

karen@strictlysimplestyle September 2, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Wow, what a difference some styling, good lighting (and maybe Photoshop!) make.

Dr. Gary Sweeten September 2, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Great sleuthing. I would never have thought about looking so deeply into the way they did the shoot. Did you learn this from Sherlock Holmes or one of the new Detective shows?

hookedonhouses September 2, 2011 at 2:47 pm

Veronica Mars! :)

Lisa T. September 2, 2011 at 4:54 pm

She’s awesome.

Destiny September 2, 2011 at 1:17 pm

I’m wondering if there is another swing at the other end of the porch? Maybe there are two swings and it was set up that way to be conversational? Perhaps the shoot was set up this way to include the ocean view?

Not a fan of the horizontal rug placement — I just realized that this former prim lover is now more of a clean lines girl.

I like it when bloggers are brave enough to say “My house doesn’t always look like this.” or “this is the cleanest space in the house at this moment.” We can’t actually “live” happily in homes that resemble magazine lay-outs. They aren’t usually practical or warm. With that said, they can be inspiring and inspirational — as long as we don’t allow ourselves to become discouraged with what we have. Comparison is a stealer of joy!

Brenda September 2, 2011 at 1:51 pm

No one mentioned the bathroom shoot. Doesn’t it look messy for a photo shoot, real estate listing or otherwise? Don’t people realize this? Enter the professional, who does each section on its’ own; re: just the bathtub and voila! The room looks interesting.
Have a great weekend!

Susan September 2, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Girl, you’re good! The creases in the rug bother me too. Makes it look too staged.

May Lrach September 2, 2011 at 4:06 pm

I know right!!! Photoshop did it’s magic for sure ;D When we listed our home 4 sale, I staged it myself and a professional photographer used a wide lense which made every room seem larger than what it was and the colors in the room were vibrant! Needless to say, we sold our home in 3 days! YIKES!

May Lrach September 2, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Forgot to mention that the realtor still has our home sold home listed on her site. Check it out and you’ll see what I mean.

kelly in georgia September 2, 2011 at 4:55 pm

Gosh and all this time I just thought it was the quality of the camera or photographer making the difference in the photos we see in blogs and magazines!
And “Amen!” to Holly M’s comment above. Totally agree.
I still like to look at the “illusion of reality” photos…don’t plan on trying to recreate the entire room or house, but I can always “steal” some little bit of the idea of it to add something beautiful to my own home.

Jenn September 2, 2011 at 5:36 pm

It looks “superfake”.

Ricki Jill Treleaven September 2, 2011 at 6:43 pm

I like the photoshopped ceiling best because all porch ceilings should be painted that color. Great post, Julia!

Margie September 2, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Holy schmolly, that’s crazy!

Nathan September 2, 2011 at 10:09 pm

I think lighting and a photographer make the biggest difference. That is the case when shooting people as well. The staging never hurts either but without proper lighting, even perfectly staged rooms will usually fall flat.

Kim September 2, 2011 at 10:13 pm

I don’t mind if photos are photoshopped to look nice (like what they do with weddings photos) but, I don’t like it when they add things to photos that aren’t there, or make a house look way nicer than it really is. It’s just being deceiving and I want to see the house like it really is.

Douglas Thompson September 2, 2011 at 10:27 pm

One of my friend’s mother worked for a Coastal Living magazine, so naturally when I was invited to their beach house I was ecstatic to see just how beautiful this beach house was. Sure enough this house was breathtaking, from the corral chandeliers to the wall of windows overlooking a private beach. I asked my friend if he knew how lucky he was to have such a beautiful beach house, and his reaction will stick with me forever, he told me it wasn’t that great, in fact it was kind of miserable. Although their beach house looked perfect to the eye, the people who inhabited it couldn’t really enjoy it, because things had to be just so, a pillow couldn’t be moved lest the picture perfect seaside retreat look as though someone might live there and actually live there. Earlier in this blog you mentioned the beautiful view from this porch, for me that’s what it is about, a beach house should be comfortable and livable (a place where a little sand doesn’t hurt anything).
“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach – waiting for a gift from the sea.”
Anne Morrow Lindbergh, A Gift from the Sea

erika September 3, 2011 at 12:30 am

really cool post! it is amazing what a little photoshop can do to a photo! ;-) that, and the right lighting…and yes, a wide-angle lens. sometimes people really overdo the wide-angle lens (almost fish eye)- but when it’s done right, it’s amazing how much it can open up a space! that’s what i’m seeing in that last set of photos…

Ellen September 3, 2011 at 7:32 am

Personally I like the porch floor better in its normal gray color from the bad, blurry picture… If I were going to paint the porch floor (even in photoshop) I certainly wouldn’t paint it a blue that clashed with my pretty (photoshopped) haint blue ceiling! :-)

Sally September 3, 2011 at 9:42 am

Noticed in that touched up picture of the porch, they even changed the way the beach looks! That isnt right!

Susan @ Your home, only better. September 3, 2011 at 9:58 am

Wow – gotta love the smoke and mirrors! But the view – all real! Great snooping!

Erin September 3, 2011 at 10:57 am

I just can’t get my head around the digital changes. It is not needed. I like the new shelter mags that claim they do not do that. Is that true? Thank you Ms. Detective.

LiveLikeYou September 3, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Great article!! So funny you found it on vrbo. I used to being the fashion business and on shoots every day for ten years. Every day was a fake illusion, clothes were pinned to looked like they fit, a fake background was out in place to make you believe you were in the tropics….aaah the magic and wonder of great photography and styling!!!!

Sami September 3, 2011 at 1:09 pm

I’ve been lost from this blog since I had a serious computer malfunction. I’m so glad to find you again. As for the doctored photo, I’d like to believe that the porch was transformed for the photo shoot. I agree with a previous comment – NO the the catty-cornered rug. There is no reason for that placement. Good work on the “disclosure”.
Sami – the keeper of the pig who would like to visit that deserted beach!!

Sami September 3, 2011 at 1:10 pm

I should have proofed. …”NO to the catty-cornered rug”…

karen ho fatt September 3, 2011 at 1:55 pm

It takes a great photographer and stylist to make your home look like a dream home. Awesome house! Wish I was there swinging on that porch swing!

carey September 3, 2011 at 7:13 pm

You are so funny. I was trying to figure out what you were thinking…….my first thought was, is their a weight limit on a swinging sofa? I can just picture a few people sitting and swinging and the whole porch roof comes down.
I don’t like the angled rug either and for god’s sake they could have taken out the bumps. Guess they couldn’t photoshop bumps.
Fun post.
Have a great holiday weekend.

Sandra September 3, 2011 at 8:31 pm

You’ve got a great eye! I’ve been on VRBO and other such sites looking for a rental in SC. I’d love to go to FL but it’s just so much further than SC for us.

Nancy September 3, 2011 at 10:18 pm

great post! Notice the drastic difference in the wood color of the swinging sofa!

oregano September 4, 2011 at 9:17 am

The scale of the person looks wrong to me too. She looks like she has been shrunk in order to make the porch appear larger.

I don’t think it’s just perspective distortion from a wide-angle lens. Look at the VRBO photo and imagine a person sitting on that swing. Now look at the styled photo – she takes up WAY less space than she should.

Rick S September 4, 2011 at 11:53 am

I do believe there is a line between real and fake. If you are staging a home to sell and set table and have everything just so. You are showing people how it “can” look. Not how it always looks. If You get out nice dishes and clean the house for a party you are making your home welcoming and festive. You are upping reality.
I have an empty glass on the counter and puppy nose prints on the patio door most of the time, and don’t worry if someone catches me living like that.
Like when my wife and I go to a wedding or play, we dress up. Real to a higher level.

If I have a my picture taken, I’m not suddenly 4inches taller with a thick head of hair without gray. :)


Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) September 4, 2011 at 6:17 pm

Julia, I thought the floor was painted that color, at first. You could get that color with paint. You could have a lime green floor with paint. lol…not that I would want a lime green floor. You have a good eye…not sure I would have even noticed the folds in the rug. I like rugs on an angle sometimes, but that one looks a bit contrived. I think it would look a lot better just placed straight and not on angle. I hope there are some chairs facing out on that amazing ocean view. Love the ceiling color…looks like “haint” blue.

Lisa September 6, 2011 at 10:18 am

Off topic but I thought this was funny…I checked out the link to the rental and noticed the rental fees:

Spring Break $1700/Day $71000/Week (04/16-05/28)

Is that a typo or are they really trying to discourage week long Spring Breakers?! ;-)

Kerry Rossow September 6, 2011 at 9:39 pm

Holy gravy! I saw it and thought that even the big timers forget to get out the creases! Maybe they could come “touch up” my crows feet!
Kerry at HouseTalkN

Claire September 15, 2011 at 3:01 pm

that’s beautiful! i would love to have this home for a few weeks in the summer :)

Lori H. November 10, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Am I the only one that could care less about the floor, rug or ceiling because I was too distracted by whether that was Diane Sawyer on the bench swing?

Yeah, I clicked thru to the ‘Traditional Home’ article and I realized she’s not.

NJ Cellulose Insulation Contractor January 5, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Ha what a difference. It does bother me a little seeing such a difference. However, I agree that if it were an actual listing I would be much more perturbed.

Easton January 24, 2013 at 1:41 pm

Seems kind of weird that the cushioned chair swing in the beachhouse picture is facing AWAY from the water. If I had that location, I think I would find a way to have the swinging seat look out onto the water so you could sit and have a drink and watch the ocean rather than have my back to it.

Life Gozon January 25, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Uhmmm… I think it’s odd to take a BEFORE and after and say the magazine shoot makes the AFTER look better. Uh… it DOES look better. Until you have a professional and then homemade photo of the SAME AFTER, there’s no real comparison. Smoke and mirrors? Are some of you saying the porch did not have a real-life makeover, but instead was photo-shopped completely, rug/sun/shadows and all?

I think it looks great with the makeover.

AND… if the swing were facing the water, how on earth would you get into it from the narrow left or right – and how would you see family and friends coming out of the door or sitting on the other side of the porch?

Natalie January 29, 2013 at 3:09 am

I love the George Banks tux ref. ;)

hookedonhouses January 29, 2013 at 8:05 am

I’m glad someone caught that. Ha.

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