Sunday, June 14, 2009

Two For the Price of One: Decorating with Yellow and What Qualifies as Small?

Decorating with Yellow

Let the sunshine in!

There is nothing like the right shade of yellow to bring warmth and light into a room or space. Take a peek at the photos below to see how a soft shade of yellow shade was used to revive and bring light to a New York apartment. The yellow theme is also reflected in the richness of cherry and maple furniture and subtle fabrics used throughout the apartment. These looks are courtesy of Martha Stewart Living magazine. Enjoy!

A lovely table setting that also brings in the warm yellow theme.

This is the only room I'm not crazy about. The plant on the left is a bit distracting and I don't think the side chair on the right compliments the sofa. But the red Chinese trunk is a nice touch and the open bookcases, which can overwhelm a room, work nicely here.

What a beautiful grandfather clock and the stenciling on the wall is nice.

Even though the photos vary in size, the look is cohesive because the same frame is used throughout.
The rich color of the wood in this cabinet picks up the gold tones in the color palette.

A clever use of gold toned frames that are similar in design pull this art collection together. Also, the rolled arms on the side chairs add to inviting feeling of this seating area and nicely mimic the round lines of the lamp.

What Qualifies as Small?

I must point out that the apartment above is not small in size. So why am I using it as an example of good design for smaller spaces? Because many of the hallmarks of small home decorating on are display. The same color palette is used in all common areas creating a beautiful visual flow, the 'legs' show on all the sofas and chairs, floor coverings are simple and functional with subtle patterns, fresh flowers add bursts of color and accessorizing is not overdone - although I would have preferred fewer objects on the antique chest in the living room. The bronze bust is so lovely it deserves to be the center piece along with the yellow and orange tulips.

But I also mention the larger size of the apartment for another reason, it opens the door to discuss a comment I received just the other day on the March post 'Decorating a Smaller Home: The Traditional Look Done Right!'. In her comment, Omama said "Bo-ring. Correct, perhaps, but dull, dull, dull. And, 1500 sq ft isn't actually "smallhouse living".

As the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and so too with interior design styles and looks. And I'm quite sure that Omamma is not alone in her opinion of the traditional look as a bit dull. But I raise her comment because of its reference to 1500 square feet falling outside the definition of a small house.

Since the small house movement began, what qualifies as a small residence has been discussed endlessly. Sarah Susanka, who arguably started the small revolution with her 'Not So Big House' books, was the architect of the original 'Not So Big House' which measures over 2440 square feet and the 2004 Showhouse totals 3476 square feet. In 'Not So Big' Ms. Susanka says, "While you might not be able to afford a 6,000-sq.-ft. house, you may find that building a 3,000-sq.-ft. house that fits your lifestyle actually gives you more space to live in." It appears that by Ms. Susanka's definition, any house under 3,000 square feet might be considered small.

The 2004 Show Case house by Susanka at 3476 square feet

On the other hand, Apartment Therapy which runs the annual Small Cool Contest has the following categories for living spaces:

TEENY-TINY 300 Square Feet and under
TINY 600 Square Feet and under (but over 300 Square Feet)
LITTLE 900 Square Feet and under (but over 600 Square Feet)
SMALL 1,200 Square Feet and under (but over 900 Square Feet)
INTERNATIONAL All non-US entries (under 1,200 Square Feet)

As defined by Apartment Therapy, anything over 1200 square feet is not small. Before going any further, I have to add that I do love the Apartment Therapy mission espoused by its founder Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan. "A calm, healthy, beautiful home is a necessary foundation for happiness and success in the world."

To cloud the issue further, the Small House Society, where Jewel Box is listed as a 'Resource for Life' has members with houses ranging in size from under 100 square feet to over 3000 square feet. What I like about the Small House Society is the open discussion it promotes that focuses not about people claiming to be “tinier than thou” but rather people making their own choices toward simpler and smaller living however they feel best fits their life.

Tumbleweed Tiny Houses range in size from 85 square feet to 837 square feet.

So where does Jewel Box fall in the small house size category? Rather than tiny houses measuring 1,000 square feet or less, a size too novel and impractical for many people - especially families with children - Jewel Box concentrates on homes in the 1,000 to 2,500 square foot range, a modest living space by American standards, but "doable" for most households.

As important as size, is the philosophy of a Jewel Box Home. These living spaces are designed to meet the needs of home life, rather than follow trends or impress neighbors. The comfort of family and friends takes center stage. Beauty and function are valued over accumulating space and things. Just as a jewel box displays the gem inside to its best advantage, a Jewel Box Home enriches the lives of its people.

I am quite sure many people will consider Jewel Box dimensions too large for the small home category. But I am hopeful that those households living in much larger homes, might see a beautiful 2000 square foot Jewel Box as a reasonable and achievable shift toward living more lightly on the Earth.

Until next time!



  1. Very well said. 3400 hundred square feet home is not a small home. But a 2500 sq feet is a small home for a family of four yet as you put it doable.

  2. Hi Genevieve

    I live in a 105 year old 2100 sq. foot home right now, but I've owned homes that ranged from 1800 sq. ft to 4200 sq. ft. Having lived in a wide range of sizes, I have to say that this size is the most comfortable for a family of 4 with two step-kids that visit (6 total at any given time) and if it was any smaller we would have issues. So, like you said, small is in the eye of the beholder. Personally this is as small as we can go comfortably. If it was just me and my husband, well, then it would be a different story ;)

    I think your reader needs to think about what size family is living in the house. If it was someone with 10 kids even a 3500 sq ft. home would be considered small for them.

    Oh and the pictures are beautiful. I love yellow :)


  3. Our first home was 935 sq. feet. It felt just right when we were a family of 3, but small when we became a family of 4. Our current home is 1680 sq. ft and feels big to me. I guess if you always live in a certain type of house you get used to it. I am always surprised when I watch shows like house hunters and people complain that rooms are too small and they look really big to me.

  4. Vinita, Rue and Carrie,

    Thanks so much for your insightful comments. I so appreciate the time you took to send a post!



  5. Traditional homes boring? I, for one, appreciate traditionally decorated homes more than the ones that have psychedelic, color-of-the-month, trendy stuff. Thank you for showing us beautiful photos of homes (small, medium, or large) with the kind of decorating that will look good for many years, not just for the moment.

    An added bonus for longer lasting interior design: it's greener than replacing all your stuff every few years just so you won't look boring.

  6. Found your blog from theinspiredroom ad. Love what I see. We live in a builder subdivision in Ontario, Canada. The homes in our neighbourhood range from 1400 sq. ft. to 4000 sq. ft. Our home is 1900 sq. ft. not including a finished basement of 600 sqft plus storage. Includes 4 bedrooms upstairs, one large bedroom in basement and four bathrooms. We have plenty of room and tons of storage space with a family of four and a huge extended family. Sure, bigger rooms would sometimes be nice, but we do okay.Looking forward to checking out more of your blog and ideas.