Small Homes that Live Big

Stumped on what to do about buyers who are looking for a home that comes with a tiny price but a McMansion look and feel? Enter stage right: the jewel box home.

Ranging between 650-2,500 square feet, these are a win for buyers who want something custom but affordable, but they’re also an ideal product for builders looking to diversify and sell a higher-end product across multiple demographics.

So what is a jewel box home?

It’s just a smaller-than-average single-family home — not a starter home or a tiny house — built with high-quality materials, exquisite detailing and custom finishes with an emphasis on tailoring the home to the owners’ way of life for maximum elegance, harmony and function.

“Just because [a home buyer] is downsizing doesn’t mean that they want less,” said Kay Green, president of Kay Green Design Inc. “They simply want the same great amenities in a smaller space.”

Jewel box homes typically appeal to newlyweds, single professionals, empty nesters, retirees, Millennials and just about anyone with a “less-is-more” mentality, Green said.

Space planning in jewel box homes is essential. Green said it’s important to design in a way that maximizes space, leaves no area without a purpose and creates personal escapes. She offered open concept showers as an example.

freestanding tub glass shower

Courtesy of Houzz

“Placing a tub inside a glass shower maximizes space and adds a wow factor,” she said. “We’re creating that spa-like feeling for the buyer.”

Use of bright, reflective finishes, like brushed chrome, pocket and barn doors, decorative fixtures, dramatic lighting, floating shelves, white walls, lots of windows and continuous flooring throughout the home also help maximize space and function, she said.

As the recession trudged on, Tony Weremeichik, a home builder and principal of Canin Associates in Orlando, saw jewel box homes as a critical architecture and land-planning solution. He knew there would be continued demand for smaller houses, but wasn’t exactly sure who to target and what to target them with.

“With a move toward smaller houses, you ask yourself, ‘How do you do that right?’,” he said. “How do you plan out a community of smaller homes?”

What he found upon doing some market research, was surprising. Women make over 90% of all home-buying decisions, and between 2008 and 2010, almost 20% of home buyers were single women, he said.

Once his target market became apparent, he started making his home builds “women-centric” — averaging between 1,800-2,000 square feet with three to four bedrooms, and custom-designed for women looking for an investment in a single-family detached home.

Meaningful space and quality materials are what keep his customers happy, he said.

“It’s not about creating a small floor plan. It’s about looking at the spaces first: considering how it will be furnished, whether it’s comfortable, what the flow will be like,” he said. “It’s important to have quality spaces, designed well.”

For example, blurring the lines between indoor and outdoor spaces with sliding doors helps to maximize space and give the buyer the feeling of a personal oasis at home. Islands with seating, domestic suites (mud rooms, pocket offices, vac/broom closet), the space beneath the stairs, diverse cabinetry and built-ins are also critical in making jewel box homes spacious and functional, he added.


Courtesy of Decoist

Another key advantage to building jewel box homes: They’re ideal for high-density areas. In some of Weremeichik’s planned communities, he has reached densities up to 9-11 dwelling units per acre.

The Cottages on Greene, in East Greenwich, R.I., is an innovative example of jewel home building on an urban infill, and has been used by HUD as a case study of best practices.


Don Powers, founding principal of Union Studio, the firm that designed the Cottages on Greene, said that getting projects like these approved is typically the hardest part, since it has to be appealing to all involved stakeholders.

“You have to design it carefully and demonstrate that no single piece of the neighborhood is any bigger than the pattern that it abuts,” he said. “And your sales game at the level of approvals has got to be high.”

Another critical piece of the strategy: knowing the codes inside and out, and not just the code, but the intent behind it.

“If you can convince them that your intent will meet the requirements, they can override the rules,” he said. “Know the safety objectives as well as [the code officials] do.”

Planned well, jewel box homes can be an ideal fit for both builder and buyer.


This article originally appeared on NAHBNow

5 Ways To Create A Model Perfect Living Space


Choosing great finishes really enhances the perceived value of the home and compliments the overall feel; they can be the most show stopping element in a home. The easiest place to start is in the kitchen and bathroom. Today, backsplashes use a mix of beautiful glass, stone and metal mosaics. Manufactured countertops that replicate natural stone are in high demand. Incorporating a stone tile treatment into the shower in the master bath adds a luxurious and spa like feeling. With so many great tile treatments on the market right now, it is easy to add them to your model home.

Eagle Lake_Essex_Kit_WEB_01



Using your space wisely is the most important thing you can do in order to make your space look as big and inviting as possible. You want the furniture layout to enhance the space and allow for easy traffic flow. When you enter the room, what is the most important feature of the room that calls out for attention? All major furniture arrangements should be designed around that item. Some rooms have an existing focal point, like a fireplace. If your room doesn’t have a natural focal point, you must create one. Try a large-scale piece of art, a gallery wall, or a unique console for your television.

SPH Bedford 0581


Color Scheme

Choosing a color scheme will make the space seem more inviting and memorable. Think about what you will use the space for. To make the master suite more appealing you might want to think about softer, more relaxing colors. Once you choose a color you can build around that with bedding, pillows, and art to match your color scheme and really pull the room together. The entire home’s color scheme should flow, but adding pops of color in different rooms can help each room feel personalized. Paint is a simple and cost effective technique to create ambiance in a room. You can choose a neutral pallet or create a “wow” room by choosing a more stand out color.




38C-002 H Bedroom 2

Statement Furniture

Statement pieces are great, they add extra interest and excitement to any room. They have the power to draw attention to a particular area or nook and define a space. Whether you have a traditional dining room, a contemporary living room, or a sleek modern bedroom, you can breathe life into the space with one noteworthy piece. Try an accent chair with a different pattern, bright color, or different fabric. A great statement piece leaves a lasting impression.


Eagle Lake_Somerset_Office__WEB_01Andover-1111

Window Treatments

Draw focus to your view by framing windows with quality window treatments. Great treatments help soften a space and make it feel more inviting. When hanging window treatments, it is best to hang them as close to the ceiling as possible to help give the space the illusion of being larger. Choose the thickness of your fabric based on the amount of light you want in the space — a thick fabric is perfect for a media room, it lets less light through, while an ultrasheer fabric for a breakfast nook allows the room to be bright and airy.