Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Prayer for a Little House

It has been almost three years to the day since my husband lost his job.  He has no immediate prospects. My family is now on the verge of losing our home.  In the moments when this knowledge pushes its way to the surface, I can't breathe and the room spins.  Was there really a time I obsessed about a larger house and looked down on this little place?  Now I would do almost anything to keep it.  

Amber's post today can be appreciated by anyone with a place to call home...

Joplin, Missouri is just down the turnpike from my hometown.  Certainly most of America has seen the news coverage of the devastation left from the tornado that wiped the town out last month.  Click here for National Geographic's coverage of  the remains of the city. 

Some family members of mine lost all they owned in that storm.  The home they had lived in for forty years, wedding albums, diplomas, treasured memories, and heirlooms passed down from their parents.  It has made me take pause and really appreciate my little home.  Count my blessings for the roof over my head and the love that my four walls hold.

A Prayer for a Little House
by Florence Bone

God send us a little home; 
To come back to when we roam.

Wooden floors and fluted tiles;
wide windows, a view for miles.

Red firelight and deep chairs;
Small white beds upstairs.

Great talk in little nooks;
soft colors, rows of books.

One picture on each wall; 
not many things at all.

 God send us a little ground;
Tall trees stand 'round.

Homely flowers in fertile sod;
Overhead, thy stars, O God

God bless thee when winds blow;
Our home and all we know.

Count your blessings!

Photos Courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens

Friday, July 22, 2011

Vacation Checklist

Forgot to mention that I'm in Savannah this week on a college visit with my son.  Here is a checklist from Amber to cover all those prevacation errands.

Did I turn off the coffee pot?  Shut the garage door?  Remember to pack my toothbrush?  As I prepare to travel on a family vacation, I find myself filled with anxiety before I ever leave the house.  This year I am ahead of the game with my checklist.  I thought I'd share it with you since 'tis the season for summer travel.  As you prepare to leave your little Jewel Box® Home, make sure you get the following checked off your list!

  • Stop that mail!!  Nothing tells a would-be thief that your home is unoccupied like a mailbox crammed with mail and four newspapers in the driveway.  

  • Arrange to have your lawn mowed.  Surely some kind neighbor or family member will help you out during your time away!  Not only is this also a theft-deterrent, but who wants to come home to yard work?

  •  Set your air conditioner at a higher setting.  

  • Set lights and a radio on a timer.  Just an hour or so on at night makes a house look occupied. 

  • Board your pets! 

  • Ask your neighbor to park in your driveway every other day or so. 

  • Before you leave take one last look around and don't forget to turn off that coffee pot and shut the garage door.

  • Relax and have fun!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

It's the Little Things

It's the little things that bring beauty to a smaller home.  Large, flamboyant "stuff" is jarring and out of proportion in tight quarters.  Simple everyday objects are an especially beautiful way to add light and color to Jewel Box® spaces.

This morning I cut these white Anabelle hydrangeas and elephant hosta from my garden and arranged them in an old glass vase.  Fresh fruit from the grocery store sits on the black cabinet.  I especially appreciate this fleeting beauty which only lasts until my boys eat the fruit.
(Yes, that is me on the left taking this photo.)

The green hosta foliage highlights the vibrant white hydrangeas.

Don't be afraid to 'change things up'.  I often move my fruit platter from the bay window, to the dining room table and back to black cabinet in the course of a week. 

Simple kitchen dish towels can be inexpensive and practical works of art.  These lemon towels hang in my powder room above lemon scented soap brought back from Italy by a dear friend. 

Close up of kitchen dish towels used in my powder room.
A topiary on the powder room window ledge adds another touch of color and complements green lemon leaves in the dish towels.
Topiary reflected in the powder room mirror.
I firmly believe it is important to bring beauty into any space where you spend time.  Not only will it make you feel better, but you will be more productive.  These framed tulip postcards, hang on the wall of my small office.  The frames are from Blick Art and tulips are one of my favorite flowers.

The colors of this thin geode slice have always fascinated me.  Along with polished rocks found in my garden, this stone has followed me from job to job.  Here they rest on a black filing cabinet.
Geode and garden stones.
Photos I took of an old Alaskan copper mine, on a trip to visit my brother, hang above the file cabinet.

Close-up of copper mine.
And this is a favorite photo of the Amalfi.  Again in a simple black frame.

Amalfi photo detail.
A gorgeous paper weight I received from a good friend over 15 years ago occupies the corner of my desk. 
One of my favorite office accessories.
And of course, the most beautiful thing in my life, my family, is captured in photos on shelving directly across from my desk.

May you carry beauty into all the small spaces of your life!


Friday, July 8, 2011

Friendly Friday - Empty Nester

For this Friendly Friday we are visiting my neighbor Ralph's house.  He is a widower with a son in college. 

Here is the front lawn decked out for his annual summer get together.  Stick around for more party photos. But first, let me show you the beauty of an empty nest.    

Ralph's son left for college two years ago.  During that time Ralph has transformed his house from a space focused on the needs of a teenager and his friends, into a sophisticated home that caters to adults, but is comfortable for all ages. 

The living room sets the tone for Ralph's home with rich olive taupe walls, creating a perfect backdrop for boldly colored artwork. Pine cones are a nod to natural found objects displayed throughout the house.

A floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace is the centerpiece of the family room which has the relaxed feel a north woods lodge. The mantel is solid unvarnished ash and the artwork highlights foliage from native trees surrounding the Great Lakes.


Outdoor design elements are carried into the kitchen seating area with iron pine tree stenciling on the overhead lamp and rust colored granite counter tops.


Brick red cabinets and a natural stone backsplash complete the look.  A pastel sketch of Ralph's son as a young boy brings a personal touch to the space.

The second floor of Ralph's house has seen the most dramatic change since his son moved out.  This office was originally one of three bedrooms.  To create this space, the wall between the hallway and bedroom was opened up and a ledge built. 

The burnt orange walls are variations on the color schemes used throughout the first floor.

All the photos in Ralph's office picture someone reading a book.  Notice that the frames are the same size and are black.  This brings symmetry to the room.   A close-up of one photo dating from the early 1900s, shows a hospital patient reading while convalescing in bed. 

Until two years ago, this upstairs bedroom was used by Ralph's son.  Now it is a meditation room!  Simplicity is the defining design element.  Long gone are the days where sports gear and dirty clothes covered the floor.


Hardware on the cabinet was replaced and the wood stripped bare to blend with the calm natural color scheme of the room.

Small touches, like this sconce, add to the stark beauty of this space.

Ralph has carried the serenity of his meditation room outdoors.  This is the view to his garden.

And now for my favorite empty nester home renovation made by Ralph.  He took out the bathroom tub and created an adult mini-spa! 

Yes, that is marble on the walls.  Just beautiful!

 Notice the built-in ledge for toiletries.  Sigh...

This is my dream bathroom!

Back to the party.  The 'Ice Cream Station' with a choice of ice cream and toppings was a huge hit.

And here is one of the youngest guests.  Ralph is the elegant bald gentleman in the background.  The party was epic!

Enjoy your weekend!


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Japan's Micro Homes

Thank God for Amber!  What would I do without her!  I owe you all several 'Friendly Friday' posts.  But for now, Amber is holding down the fort and here is her fascinating post about Japan's Micro Homes...

While surfing the web on a lazy Sunday morning, sipping coffee and trying to be as non-productive as possible, I wandered over the Jen's Cottage of the Month page as I do around the first of every month.  I was delighted to see her current feature on a homeowner in Tokyo!  Please run over and visit her right now and see the darling cottage style 70 meter living space that this clever woman has made her own.  If you didn't already click the link above then by all means click here and go visit.  I'll wait.....

Wasn't it darling???  Doesn't it make you feel a twinge of guilt for ever complaining about your small dwelling space?  I am in awe and inspired by a people that willingly sacrifice personal space and live in closet-like areas just so they can stay in their beloved city.  Amazing.

Then as I did a little more research and began examining photos and articles, I wondered.....where are the laundry baskets?  Where are the phone chargers and stacks of mail and magazines?  Where are the pet beds and children's toys?  Please tell me they bagged them up and shipped them off for these photos to be taken. Otherwise I'll feel so inadequate as a small-home dweller.

We know the Japanese have a love affair with all things tiny.  Two words.  Bonsai tree.  But some of these homes are amazing in their architectural ingenuity.

Some of these homes are so compact they could probably fit in the garage of an American McMansion.

Because so many young couples with children want to stay in central Tokyo close to the best schools and high-powered jobs, they are forced to build on the tiniest plots of land imaginable.  Architects are beginning to specialize in this trend and have named it kyo-sho-jutaku.   This new design style is accounting for a large portion of the $1.2 billion dollar architectural design industry.

Tiny home, tiny car.  Just have my valet park it on the back patio.

There are stand alone homes and also pre-built aluminum cube homes that can be purchased for around $17,000 and assembled in less than a day.  These people mean business!

Where are their phone cords?  Trash cans?  Dirty laundry?  Library books?  School papers?  Sigh.

I'm inspired by the Japanese commitment to lifestyle and their willingness to make the best of a tight squeeze.  I'll never complain about my lack of closet space again.  Well....for a while anyway!