Tuesday, April 29, 2008

New Features Added to Jewel Box ™ Home Website!

Never be afraid to try something new. Remember that a lone amateur built the Ark and a large group of professionals built the Titanic. - Author unknown

The new features which I promised were coming to the Jewel Box™ Home website have at last gone live! The highlights are:

  • Jewel Box™ Living – A quarterly newsletter with the first issue, Spring 2008, now up on the website.
  • Into the Homes of Readers – A forum where readers can share stories of their small homes.
  • The Gallery – Three photo galleries, the first featuring more photos of my home, the second gallery showing party photos and the third with photos of readers homes.
  • Design Consults – A tab that lets readers contact me for design consults in the Chicago land area.

You can visit all the new features at http://www.thejewelboxhome.com/. In the meantime, here is an excerpt from my Letter to Readers in the Spring 2008 issue of Jewel Box Living.

The other day, my 14-year-old son informed me that because of the Jewel Box ™ website, I will never be able to live in a big house. To quote his exact words, “Even if you become rich and famous, you can never have a mansion.”

A short three years ago, the thought that I would never live in a house larger than 2000 square feet, would have left me in a depressed state for weeks. I subscribe to the theory that humans behave like herding animals. We like to group together and then gain status within the group. I had joined the home-owning group, and was ready to improve my status by moving to a larger house. When my husband wanted to stay in our smaller home, I was crushed. If not part of the upwardly mobile home-owning community, who was I? I felt like the lone springbok cut off from the herd.

Given my past obsession with trading up, many of my friends and family are surprised that I no longer want a big house. But I am passionate about creating the Jewel Box ™ look and helping others do the same. And then there are the intangibles. In a larger home, would I hear my younger son whistling in the morning? Or both boys laughing and talking at night in the bedroom they share? Priceless! And would my boys feel comfortable sharing their opinions on the frequent verbal sparring matches between their parents? According to the boys, “Our friends’ parents argue like amateurs. You and dad are professionals”! Again, priceless!

So when my son made his announcement the other day, I said, without hesitation, “I don’t ever want a big house or mansion. But the rich part could be fun; I can take a pass on famous.” Of course, if ever I am rich and famous, you will probably read about my Jewel Box™ vacation house in People magazine.

Until next time!


Friday, April 25, 2008

Small Homes as Status Symbols

To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition.
- Samuel Johnson

George Carlin is known for saying, "A house is just a place for your stuff". Technically, this is true. But for most of us, where we live not only fulfills our need for shelter, but also tells the world who we are. More than any other possession, a house is used by our family, friends and neighbors as a barometer of our status and importance within the community. And that is why our houses are such emotionally charged topics of conversation. We attach so many feelings to our homes; pride, success, satisfaction, power, jealously, belonging, love, the list is endless. And what does all this have to do with small home living? Most people move from a small home to a larger home because by society's standards, bigger is better. Many life events - the birth of a child, a significant job promotion or rise in income - come with the expectation that we will move to a bigger house. Until recently, it was considered unusual for someone who had the financial resources not to trade-up to a larger home. Empty nesters were the only market segment where it was acceptable to go smaller. But this mind set is changing.

Cars are the second biggest purchase people make next to their home. Big cars, long considered symbols of success, are now getting some bad press as gas guzzling polluters. Hollywood celebrities and power brokers who drive small hybrid cars are applauded as role models for good environmental citizenship. Indeed, small cars are now sometimes seen as status symbols.

So can a smaller home be a status symbol? Absolutely! The day is coming when people who have the money to live in mansions will choose smaller houses. Rather than making a grand display of wealth and space, they will live in homes that blend beauty, harmony and function, in spaces defined by their owners needs. They will have stepped out of the large home mentality circle of safety and become enlightened!

Until next time!


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Jewel Box Home and Carlos Santana

Live your Light
- Carlos Santana on Tour 2008

This past Saturday, my husband took me and our boys to see Carlos Santana in concert. In my husband's words, "We are making 'the pilgrimage' to see the guitar god". For those of you not familiar with Santana, he is 60 years old, played at Woodstock and was known by a single name before Madonna was out of her teens. To get a flavor for his music, download onto your ipod, or - if you are in my generation - buy a CD with the songs, Maria Maria, Europa and Smooth. As my boys would say, "This dude is lights out"! Translation, they are impressed.

So what does Santana have to do with the Jewel Box Home? Santana's music has always had spiritual underpinnings and these are especially embodied in his latest tour where he encourages his audience to live with a peaceful purpose and bring light into the world. The Jewel Box Home philosophy parallels these themes. It is all about creating a living space filled with light and beauty that is a comforting haven for family and a welcoming place for friends to gather. This is more easily done in a smaller home where the emphasis is on livability not size and human needs take priority. Without the burden of a larger house and its upkeep, we are freed to enrich our lives with a multitude of experiences and reach out to family and friends when needed. May your home and your life bring light and love to the world.

Until next time!


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ten Tips for Raising Children in a Smaller Home

Children will not remember you for the material things you provided but for the feeling that you cherished them.”

Richard L. Evans

Shortly before or after having their first child, most parents will utter the phrase, "We need more space. Let's start looking for a larger home." My husband and I did the same thing. Our first son was born when we lived in a one bedroom condo that was under 800 square feet. After we brought him home from the hospital, he slept in the bedroom, my husband and I slept in a futon on the living room floor every night. And this futon was only the size of a twin bed! We did this until my son was 18 months old and then moved to our current three bedroom, 1800 square foot house. I now have two sons and my oldest is 18 and leaving for college in the fall. So how do you raise children in a smaller home? Let me pass on a few tips that I learned from experience, as well as from a good friend who is married and has 12 children - that's right an even dozen - in a house no bigger than mine.

  1. Throw out the changing table. You do not need a changing table to change a diaper. Either change diapers on the bed or on a clean towel or diaper mat on the floor. I don't think I have ever seen a 1 1/2 year old lie still on a changing table for a diaper change. You will be saving money and space in your home.
  2. Babies and older children can sleep in the same room. Yes they can. So what if the baby wakes up the older sibling sometimes. Your older child will learn to fall back to sleep and babies like the company of someone else in the room.
  3. Children can share bedrooms. Contrary to conventional wisdom, children do not need their own bedrooms, they can share. This is what bunk beds are for. There is nothing wrong with two or three children sharing the same room. In fact, siblings tend to be closer when they share a room. My sons will talk to each other after the lights are out and discuss things they would never bring up with me. They also figure out how to solve problems on their own.
  4. Keep computers and TVs out of the bedroom. Put the computer and TV in the family room or the basement. This not only lets you keep tabs on what the children are watching or doing on the computer, but leaves space in the bedroom for the essentials - a bed and nightstand for each child, which leads me to the next tip.
  5. Keep furniture in the bedroom to a minimum. You only need a bed and nightstand for each child along with a lamp. This is more than enough personal space. But what about a dresser for clothing? That leads us to tip #6.
  6. Use closet organizing systems instead of dressers. If you organize the closet with space to hang clothes, as well as drawers and shelving units, you can do away with dressers and cabinets for storing clothes. I like the Elfa storage systems at the Container Store.
  7. Use the dining room table for homework. This is typically a space with good lighting, children can spread out and do their work and a parent is usually available in the kitchen or close by to offer help.
  8. Buy a nice book shelf and dedicate one or two shelfs for each child to store school work and books. This eliminates the need for a desk for each child and keeps children organized.
  9. Store toys in a nice cabinet kept in the dining room or family room. You can organize the different toys in baskets inside the cabinet. I know its hard, but try to get children to put toys away after they are done playing. Don't feel bad if you have to yell to get the kids to clean up. This seems to be a normal motivational tool.
  10. Adults shower in the morning, children bathe at night. This bathroom routine makes it possible for an entire household to function with only 1 full bathroom and a powder room.

Just remember, the skills learned by children living in a smaller home - negotiating shared spaces, learning to respect differences - are the same skills that lead to success outside the home.

Until next time,


Friday, April 11, 2008

Decorators Don't Always Know Best

My decorator made me do it!

Just because a professional interior decorator creates a look for you or subscribes to a particular trend, does not automatically make it a good idea. You may not like the look, or it may not be right for your home. In other cases, a decorator creates a space that is so unique and cutting-edge, that it is uncomfortable for both family and friends. A friend of mine, after
purchasing a new home, decided to splurge on an interior decorator for help with her living and dining rooms. She hates the end result, but she lives with it because she paid so much money to her decorator and spent so much on the furniture. The lesson here is, just because you hire a decorator doesn't mean you have to do whatever they want. Be assertive about your likes and dislikes. And never forget, you can always fire your decorator!

Let's take a look at the room in the picture. There are many things right about it. The scale of the furniture is in keeping with the proportions of the space, the chairs and table have nice clean silhouettes, there are black accents and the curved base of the table is visually appealing. But the color scheme completely blots out all these positives.

Until next time!


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Quick Color for Your Spring Garden

These stars of earth, these golden flowers.
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

As far as I'm concerned, its not officially spring until the tulips are in bloom. One year I planted over 1000 bulbs! But even when I'm too lazy to lazy to put down bulbs in the fall - which I was this past year - I still have tulips in my spring garden. How? I run over to Home Depot, Lowes, or my local garden store and buy pre-planted tulip bulbs that have already begun to sprout. Don't expect the same range of color available with fall bulbs, or the fancy varieties, but the basic yellow, red and purple shades are usually in stock. I love to plant groupings of 10 to 20 pre-planted bulbs around the front of the house, and fill two planters at the entry way with bulbs. Its easy and looks terrific. Just remember to stay with a single shade - I love yellow or red - and plant bulbs in groups to get a bright pop of color.

Until next time!