A Jewel Box Home — Living Large On A Smaller Scale

A talented bloggist and interior decorator with the right mentality for our challenging times has joined our community. Genevieve M. Ferraro, creator of , advocates to “forget the McMansion” and embrace the charm of smaller homes.

A talented bloggist and interior decorator with the right mentality for our challenging times has joined our community. Genevieve M. Ferraro, creator of The Jewel Box Home, advocates to “forget the McMansion” and embrace the charm of smaller homes.

Her website is a guide for entertaining and decorating your smaller home, and is rife with tips, tricks, and Ferraro’s personal anecdotes. She illustrated to Mibs why her work is timely with the following facts:

James Howard Knustler, well known proponent of New Urbanism and author of “The Long Emergency,” Atlantic Monthly Press, warns, as we enter the age of a permanent global energy crisis, [the large sprawling house] is coming off the menu.”

The housing crunch is expected to last until 2010. (Housing Market Just Gets Uglier, USAToday, May 28, 2008)

The average size of a new home– which rose from 1,600 square feet in the 1970s to 2,300 square feet today– is falling. (The Incredible Shrinking House, CNN Money, May 7, 2008)

Over 60% of potential home buyers would rather have a smaller house with more amenities that the other way around. (National Association of Home Builders, February 2008 survey)

For one of our favorite entries from Ferraro’s blog, keep reading.

Top Ten Reasons to Live in a Smaller Home Who says you need a big house? My son Marc Ferraro at 12 years old asking me why I was obsessed with moving to a bigger house.

As many of you who read this blog know, two years ago I was knee deep in big-house envy. And I’m embarrassed to admit, but it touched practically every area of my life, including my relationship with my sons. I was convinced that they needed a larger house for their mental and physical health – separate bedrooms with separate study areas, a bathroom of their own to share, or better yet, a separate bathroom for each boy. This would give them their own space, they would be better students because they were more organized. They wouldn’t keep each other up at night so they would get more sleep and be healthier. And when one of them was sick, it was less likely to spread across the shared bedroom to my other son.

Anyway, I complained about this endlessly and of course they both heard me. One day Marc had enough. He turned to face me and forcefully blurted out, “Who says you need a big house?” After I recovered from the shock of hearing him say this – up to that point both boys had humored my dream home fantasies – I said, “I want things to be better 
for my family, especially you boys”. I will never forget what he said next, “Mom we don’t care about the house. We like it here and don’t want to move. This, is your problem and we are tired of hearing about it”. This from a 12-year-old!

After feeling somewhat betrayed by my own son, and walking out of the room in a bit of snit – even though I’m middle-aged I can still throw a calculated fit like a pro – I slowly came to my senses and realized that my son was right. This was about me and what society advertised as important for a good life.

 So why should anyone not only feel good about, but celebrate living in a smaller home? Here are the top ten reasons:


  1. Greater Financial Freedom. Super-sized houses come with hefty mortgages. Factor in property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, utility bills and maintenance costs, and most of your paycheck quickly goes into housing expenses. Buying a smaller home leaves more money for other investments and activities you enjoy.
  2. Less Maintenance. Big homes mean more space, more rooms, bigger lawns – all of which add up to more work. Choosing a smaller home gives you more time to do things you and your family enjoy.
  3. Closer Family Ties. Families living in a smaller home naturally learn to respect each other’s needs and wants. Children also learn the important life skill of how to share personal and communal living space.
  4. More Comfort. Most big houses are focused on size, not livability. The advantage of a smaller home is that living spaces are built to human scale. Rooms feel cozier, warmer and more inviting. Human needs take priority.
  5. Less Intimidating. The upside to a big house is having an impressive place to live. Larger houses make a grand display of space and luxury appointments. But this can be intimidating to guests and sometimes even younger family members. In a smaller home common areas are warm and inviting, retreat areas are relaxing and calm.
  6. The “Green” Advantage. Smaller homes have a smaller footprint. Fewer rooms and less space mean fewer resources are used for heating, cooling and lighting. Owning a smaller home is a great way to be responsible environmental citizen.
  7. Functional, Efficient Living Space. Because of their large volumes of space, many rooms in bigger houses aren’t used efficiently. This is especially true of formal dining rooms, oversized great rooms and two-story foyers. The functional layout of space in smaller homes allows the daily rhythms of life to flow more easily and naturally.
  8. Bigger Homes Don’t Necessarily Make You Happier. Many people think moving up to a bigger house will make them happier. But that happiness is never fully realized or is short-lived. Why? A larger home comes with a bigger mortgage and more upkeep. Nor does a bigger house necessarily satisfy more of our needs.
  9. More Money for Education. A lower monthly mortgage payment means more money is available for education. This is especially helpful for families with college age children, but also gives adults the freedom to return to school and change careers or explore other opportunities after retirement.
  10. Decorating and Entertaining are Easier. Decorating a big house is expensive and professional help is often needed. When entertaining, guest may feel isolated and parties unstructured. By contrast, decorating the smaller takes less money and is easy when basic rules are followed. Also, the more comfortable proportions of the smaller home usually make for better parties.