Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Color Splash in Small Spaces

I wonder how many hours I wasted in the paint aisle at the Home Improvement store debating color shades? Not just color, but actual shades. Is it too dark? Too light? Should I go with Buttercream yellow or Soft Caramel? Sigh. More often than not, I brought home stacks of paint chips to hold against my walls and ponder.

Color is very important in our homes. It sets the overall tone and gives the feeling of warmth and makes a space personal. In my humble opinion, color is more important in a small home because it can give the illusion of a large room, or make a visitor feel instantly overwhelmed and closed in.

Whatever your personal style, color is the key.

My little Jewel Box® is yellow. The entire home, with the exception of the bedrooms is yellow-a very very soft, pale yellow-so soft it is almost white. Even the ceilings are yellow. It is bright and cheery and calming. When the sun comes in through our big picture window the house is alive with light and warmth.

A small home can feel closed in and smaller just by the paint selection. Dark brown wood paneling in my great-grandmother's house made the living room feel small and I almost felt claustrophobic at family gatherings. But once we convinced her to give it a coat of white paint, the room was instantly larger and airy!

One of my favorite tricks to do with paint to make a room feel larger is to draw the eye upward! Painting the ceilings the same color as the walls or adding decorative trim visually makes the ceilings feel taller!

Just by adding a thin piece of trim, this homeowner made us feel that her ceilings were tall and the room instantly opened up to us.

Photo Courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens

In my master bedroom we painted the ceiling and the top third of the walls the same color, much like this beautiful room. We added a piece of trim around the bottom of the painted area and gave our ceilings a quick and easy lift!

Photo Courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens

The opposite was done in this lovely room. Adding the wainscoting and chair rail gave this warm living room added appeal!

Photo Courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens

Hanging curtains just under the ceiling, away from the actual window can also give the illusion of high ceilings and more space.

Photo Courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens

Choosing cool colors will instantly make a room look larger.

Photo Courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens

Hanging over-sized, colorful art is also a way to big style to a room.

Photo Courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens

Living in a small space doesn't mean we have to shy away from color! Your home should reflect your unique personality no matter what the size!


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Storage: Kid's Art!

I just love my creative kiddos and I hate to throw away any piece of artwork that they have spent their valuable time creating! But I must admit, it begins to pile up! What starts out as a small collection quickly grows. Here are some fun and creative ways to display and store your child's masterpiece.

Photo Courtesy of Family Fun
  • Take advantage of a trusty old Three-Ring Binder! Let the kids decorate the front, punch some holes in their artwork and file away! Each child can have their own special color.
  • Re-use pizza boxes! That's right, a clean pizza box covered in shelf paper is the perfect storage box. Flat and square, they stack easily and fit on most closet shelves, under beds and out of the way!

Photo Courtesy of Family Fun
  • Display new creations by attaching string to a yardstick for an impromptu mobile. Using binder clips purchased at an office supply store, you can switch out old creations with new ones on a weekly basis!
  • Scan artwork into your computer and use as your screen saver or digital wallpaper!

Photo Courtesy of Family Fun
  • Purchase inexpensive wooden picture frames and paint them all one color. Frame your little Picasso's drawings and group them together to make a stunning and eye-catching display in their bedroom or in your entryway!

Photo Courtesy of Family Fun

  • One of our favorite ways to display artwork is by attaching a clothesline and clipping art to the line to display a gallery of work. You can also use magnetic strips like the one pictured above, attach a self-adhesive magnet to the art and display!

Photo Courtesy of Family Fun
  • What to do about on-going projects? We purchased simple wall-mount mailboxes from the local Home & Garden Supply store and painted them to match our walls. By using alphabet magnets to spell out the kids name we created the perfect spot to store drawings that didn't get finished that day and need to be finished. After all, some art is an on-going work in progress!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Let's Get Organized! Storage Part Two!

Help me!!! I'm trapped inside this house and I can't get out! Well, maybe it's not that bad, but the weather here is just awful. We had our first blizzard in over 25 years, with sub zero temperatures and a biting wind. Needless to say, we are all occupying ourselves indoors these days. This situation has it's upside in that I am giving my little cottage some much needed attention. My closets slowly re-organized themselves last week and now I'm turning to the kitchen and bath and other problem areas of my house. Junk drawers, bathroom cabinets, computer stations, craft cabinets-they're all getting a taste of my cabin fever!

Here are some helpful hints for some clever storage solutions for a small home that I am attempting to take advantage of this winter.

Take advantage of the backs of doors!
The backs of doors can be painted with metallic paint and hung with magnetic towel hooks and removable bins. Store shampoo, towels and toiletries in bathrooms. Hang jewelry, store cosmetics and accessories on the backs of bedroom doors.

Photo Courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens

Use computer armoires to hide unsightly technology.
These are also great craft cabinets. Just close the doors for instant clean up!

Use transitional spaces.
Those unused areas like small hallways between garage and kitchen or the narrow space next to the back door are perfect spots for a nice cabinet to hold sports gear, cleaning supplies or a message center.

Assign each family member their own space.
For a family bathroom or mudroom, keep personal items organized with a portable tote or basket for each family member. These can easily be stored in a linen closet or under the bathroom sink after use.

Photo Courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens

Use your drawers!
Installing a simple peg-board in an existing drawer can allow for more storage for dishes and tableware. Since the pegs are adjustable, this drawer can be flexible for your unique needs.

Photo Courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens

Store more in your cabinets by using your vertical space.
Adding hanging baskets on the backs of cabinet doors gives you storage options you didn't realize you had.

Photo Courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens

Photo Courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens

Slip it under the bed.
Store winter sweaters, blankets, and luggage in bins under the bed.

Hang it up!
Hang a pot rack over the sink to wash pots and hang to dry! Stylish and convenient, a pot rack adds to your kitchen's decor.

Photo Courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens

My favorite part of the organizational process is when an idea for storage turns into a beautiful addition to my home's decor!


Monday, January 11, 2010

You've Got Mail!

This month the Jewel Box® Home is focusing on storage - one of the biggest and most frustrating challenges of small home living. Amber and I have both faced the frustrations of creating storage in tiny spaces and know that this aspect of living smaller can never truly be solved. But there are ways to cope!

For me, finding a way to organize mail, bills, children's school information and everyday finances is a never ending problem. Here is my system. This is the cabinet next to the back door of my kitchen.

Photo Jewel Box® Home

In this cabinet I store three bins:
  • A mail bin where all mail is stored until sorted into the correct file folders
  • A bin for bills/finances with folders for mortgage, utilities, cars, credit cards, insurance, etc...
  • A bin for family with folders for each family member labeled for school, work, etc...

Bins for mail, bills/finances and family stored in cabinet.

Cabinet drawer holding invitations and flashlights.

Close-up of bins for mail, bills/finances and family

I'd love to hear your tips for corralling papers and bills!

On a completely different note, this past Saturday I was interviewed by Mindful Metropolis about Jewel Box® Home and decorating, entertaining and living in a smaller house. The interview came up very suddenly and I found myself without time to buy fresh flowers. Take a look at my 'spur of the moment' solution.

These are branches from my serviceberry tree and pomegranates from the Christmas fruit bowl. I was going for elegant simplicity. Not great, but in a pinch I think it works.

This is the house on the morning of the interview. If you look closely, you can see my dog 'Buddy' waiting patiently for the reporter to arrive.

And if you are interested in custom furniture, Small Room Decorating Magazine was kind enough to include my decorating advice in When to go Custom from their Winter 2010 issue.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Let's Get Organized! Closets!

Most people, around the New Year, make resolutions to lose weight, tackle long abandoned projects or, my all-time favorite, make promises to get organized!

We, here, at The Jewel Box® Home recognize the need for organization in a small home. Without organization a small home can become even smaller as our "stuff" accumulates. Paperwork and mail, out of season clothing, library books to be returned, odds and ends-it all piles up and can push us right out the back door and into the yard! We all have that "junk" drawer or nook where we put unwanted items that have no home. My greatest enemies, however, are my closets!

Photo Courtesy of Eva Designs

The dreaded closet. My private nightmare! It is so easy to tidy up by putting something "temporarily" away in a closet where you can shut the door. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Bad idea! Let's get organized and take some small steps to make our small homes more functional.

Photo Courtesy of Country Living

Some Tips to help tackle that closet chaos:

  • Remove all the contents! That's right-drag it all out and create an even bigger mess! Let's face it, there is just no other way to do it. You must look through each thing in your closet and determine whether it stays or goes!

  • Donate or discard anything you haven't worn or used in the past two years. Pitch out all those yucky wire hangers.

  • Is there anything that could "live" in another closet or elsewhere in your home? Is something best suited in another area? Make sure that coat closets are for coats, linen closets for linens, clothes closets for clothes. It is so easy to store items that don't belong, but this can only lead to inconvenience later.

  • If it is not within your budget to purchase an entirely new closet system, consider starting with decorative boxes, baskets and clearly labeled containers. Some fun places to shop economically for these items are Target, The Container Store, Eva Designs and Home Goods. I just love the Elfa Storage Solutions offered at The Container Store. Think about splurging on plastic shoe boxes for all your shoes or matching plastic or wooden hangers. A little streamlining can go a long way!

Photo Courtesy of Closet Solutions

Cleaning out one closet a week can make a huge difference when tackling your organizational goals for the New Year. Remember to reward yourself with before and after pictures of your project and be sure to put your feet up afterwards and admire your hard work!


Sunday, January 3, 2010

When Everyone You Know Lives in a Bigger House

Last week when Amber and I asked for future blog topics, one in particular stood out - how to deal with the fact that everyone you know lives in a bigger house.

I personally have struggled with this since ever since I became a homeowner. It wasn't a problem at first, because all my friends also had 'starter' homes. But then everyone - it seemed - started buying a bigger house or building an enormous addition. So why did I care? Because people who live in larger homes are happier, right? Don't be so sure.

When it comes to housing, Americans fall into three categories: those who live in big houses and are happy they do, those who don't live in big house but believe they'd be happier if they did, and those who don't care about the size of their house. This third category is by far the smallest. Why? Because Americans are raised to believe that bigger is better.

But research shows (Stumbling on Happiness, Daniel Gilbert) people living in big houses are actually no happier than anyone else. So why does everyone seem to believe they are?

Because living in a big house can look pretty fabulous! My fantasy big house is the one from the movie Something's Gotta Give. Take a peak.

Photo Hooked on Houses

Photo Hooked on Houses

Photo Hooked on Houses

Photo Hooked on Houses

Photo Hooked on Houses

Photo Hooked on Houses

The key word here is fantasy. The Something's Gotta Give house is a set built for the movie. Take a look.

Just like the gorgeous set created for the movie Something's Gotta Give, when people hear those magic words 'big house', 'mansion' or even 'summer home' their imaginations instantly produce mental images of amazing interior rooms, stunning bathroom suites, lovely kitchens filled with the latest appliances and outdoor rooms with brick fireplaces and flowered pergolas. And while all this may exist in a larger home, these are not the only things that determine a person's happiness. If we add some of the missing details to our mental picture - the large heating bills, enormous mortgage, security systems needed to keep the property safe, and cleaning and maintenance required - we can recognize that big houses beat out small houses in some ways, but not in others. We need to make allowance for the fact that details we fail to imagine can drastically alter the conclusions we draw about big houses.

And now for an update from Charlie about real life in a big house!

Hi, I’m Charlie and I’m a big house addict....

Addicts of all stripes really love cheap dope.The current dope of choice for large home addicts is inexpensive construction labor and materials during this horrible recession.

  • Great dope + inexpensive source = big binge.

Here’s the story of my binge. Our home had a plumbing leak, and it damaged a bathroom and the area below it. It was enough to report it to the insurance company. An adjuster was dispatched and a check was cut.

  • In the language of addiction, insurance adjusters who cut checks are enablers.

The next call was to a trusted custom home builder for a bit of labor, paint and trim. The proposed work was less than the check, so the builder offered suggestions to maintain our home and enhance its value.

  • To a large home addict, a builder with helpful suggestions is a dealer.

The heartless, cunning dealer promptly drew up plans for a snazzy 1st floor bathroom and we ached to sign the contract and start the work as quickly as possible.

  • Addicts call this aching sensation “having the Jones.” Ask anyone who’s tried to quit smoking or heroin – it’s what makes quitting so hard.

In two weeks, the fixtures were in (including a stunning sink fixture from Italy with pewter inlays and claw feet). Work started. We got our fix (aaaahhhh) and our binge began.

Binge: We added a distinctive new front door, pediments over doorways and decorative millwork and lots of paint. There are fantastic deals everywhere because of the recession. Addicts love cheap dope – so why quit? And my charming wife was on board - so it must be OK.

  • Loved ones who tolerate the swirl of addiction are known as co-dependents.

We were delighted with the work, so the heartless, cunning dealer suggested we consider additional improvements. This was a no brainer. Besides, the stock market had recovered (somewhat), we had become more liquid (sort of) and it’s a good investment, right?

  • Active addicts wrongly call this thinking pattern “wise.”
  • Addict in recovery call this thinking pattern “stinking thinking.”
The heartless, cunning dealer (who is also quite talented) knew exactly what to do. One day, detailed blueprints for a new kitchen arrived. The design was amazing and the professional grade appliances were already on hold – so how could we refuse. Currently we’re dickering over some details. We’ll do it - what the heck.

As usual, I’ve accentuated saucy details to make the story more interesting, but it’s all true – right down to the Italian bathroom fixture with pewter inlays and claw feet.

But I don’t view this as a binge as equivalent to booze or dope. We’re really moving money from one investment class (stocks) to another investment class (real estate).

As I write this update in the den, the rest of the family is in our bedroom upstairs watching TV. The rest of the place – another 9 rooms – plus 1200 square feet of plush, freshly painted basement are dark and quiet. A little excessive, yes? It’s quiet and lonely. Things don’t make you happy, people do. Like most addicts I feel shame.

But here is a method to my madness: These improvements make the house more valuable and liquid. When the time comes to make a change, it can be done quickly and at a higher value because of these investments.

  • MBAs call this return on investment.
  • Addiction specialists call this rationalization.

Sober reality: The fact is that there are an unlimited supply of prosperous, pretentious, ego driven large home addicts who would love the instant gratification of owning a place like this. Like other addicts, they’ll make sacrifices elsewhere to get their fix – time with their families, retirement savings, college funds, vacations, tutoring for struggling children, etc. Addiction is all about finding a way to feed your habit. Low interest rates on 30 year jumbos make it all the better.

So for now, we’ll do the work, enjoy the place and wait for the market to recover. But the pieces of the recovery plan are coming together nicely.

For addicts, the first binge in their life is always the best. The second best is the one right before you’re ready to check into detox – a last hurrah. Everything in between never quite captures the high that was so fun the first time. It also leaves you miserable, lonely and ashamed when the dope is gone.- Charlie

And thanks so much for topic suggestions! Amber and I will be covering those in the next few months.