Luxury owners put a ring on jewelry box houses

A miniature sausage dog named Huey played an important role in Hunter Frick’s decision to buy a 1970 1,300-square-foot country house in East Hampton, New York, instead of one of the many larger new homes he looked at. So did the fear of too many weekend guests.

“Huey can’t climb stairs,” said Frick, 37, senior vice president of real estate development marketing at Halstead, which divides his time between the Hamptons and New York City. “And anything that exceeds four people and you’re taking several cars to go to the beach, or hiring a chef to cook.”

Then, after buying the three-bedroom house for $ 576,000 in 2014, Frick gave him a makeover of $ 265,000, installing a new kitchen with quartzite counters and Gaggenau appliances, a marble bar and a mahogany terrace with a Outdoor entertainment system.

Bunsa, who bought the two-bedroom house in Miami from his father in 2013, has been renovating it in stages over the years, spending more than $ 280,000 to date.


Alexia Fodere for The Wall Street Journal

“The small footprint allowed us to spend more on details that would otherwise have been spent on a fourth or tenth room,” he said.

The jewelry box house, small, but full of amenities and expensive finishes, is attracting more homebuyers. An analysis by Home Innovation Research Labs, a subsidiary of the National Association of Home Builders, found that the number of newly built luxury homes of 3,000 square feet or less has increased by almost 20% since 2013, with a corresponding decrease in the larger ones. , high-priced homes.

Demographic change could be driving the trend. More than half of all households now consist of single people or couples, according to data from the US Census Bureau. UU., And traditional nuclear families represent only 20%.

A look inside the jewelry box houses

Modest exteriors hide elaborate interiors

Jennifer Bunsa remodeled the glazed terrace of her mid-century 2,400-square-foot modern house in Miami to include a manual blocker at one end
Marthe Armitage wallpaper and antique furniture, such as a 1960s folding desk by Peter Lovig Nielsen, on the right.

Alexia Fodere for The Wall Street Journal

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“Empty nests want to reduce their size, but they want luxury homes, not startup homes: luxury kitchens, marble surfaces, all the latest and the best,” said Tim Costello, CEO of Builder Homesite, a consortium whose website New Home Source: a clear online home for newly built homes: tracks the preferences of homebuyers.

At the opposite end of the age spectrum, many younger homebuyers do not want to deal with the cost and headaches of maintaining a large house.

“The general rule is that it takes 10 to 15 people to maintain a house in the Hamptons; our goal was to cut that in half,” said Mr. Frick, who shares his house in East Hampton with his partner, Gabriel Fernandez , 36, director. of global brand design in American Express.

Hunter Frick bought a house in East Hampton, New York, in 2014 for $ 576,000 and spent $ 265,000 to remodel it. The kitchen has an island and Macaubas quartzite countertops, a Kohler farm sink with brass fittings and Gaggenau appliances.


Emily Assiran for The Wall Street Journal

The ranch house of the 1970s, originally a kit house, now has a mahogany wraparound cover and a cladding of cedar slats.


Emily Assiran for The Wall Street Journal

But the modest size of the house was a challenge when it came to finding a contractor willing to take on intestinal remodeling: “Most of the contractors in the Hamptons focus on building multi-story houses and more than 5,000 square feet,” he said. Mr. Frick said. He kept the basic footprint of the house, originally a low-cost kit house, but added a large wraparound deck, which provides an additional living space of 800 square feet and a place for guests to gather.

A separate terrace from the master bedroom suite has a large mahogany wall spa shower, protected by a bamboo hedge.

Inside the house, custom carpentry and natural stone were used to create “small areas of delight,” said Penelope Kim, designer of Mr. Frick. The two small bathrooms of the house, which were once a riot of pink and green tiles, are now finished in travertine, limestone and arabesque marble tiles. A closet became a bar with a dramatic wavy marble slab streaked with green. “The doors open and it becomes a masterpiece,” Frick said.

Jennifer Bunsa, an interior designer, lives with her husband, Bryan Whitefield, 44, construction project manager, and her son Jack, 5, in the modern mid-1948 century house in Miami that once It was the home of his childhood.

Hunter Frick, on the left, with his partner, Gabriel Fernández.


Emily Assiran for The Wall Street Journal

Ms. Bunsa, 40, bought the 2,400-square-foot home from her father in 2013 for $ 495,000, and began renovating it in stages. She has spent more than $ 280,000 to date.

In addition to its emotional attraction, the house conformed to the family’s lifestyle: moving to a larger house would have meant moving from downtown Miami to the suburbs.

“I think it’s the perfect design. It’s the right amount of space, so we can be together as a family, but also separate and do our thing,” Bunsa said.

The house had not been updated in decades. Mrs. Bunsa ripped out the pocket doors that closed the kitchen, replaced the aged melamine with custom walnut cabinets, and placed a golden marble slab from Calacatta to the ceiling for a splash guard.

He relocated the hallway that connected the master bedroom to the living room from the center of the rooms to the side, creating space for a media wall.

A glazed outdoor terrace, called a Florida room, was closed with hurricane impact windows. “So now it works like my office and a game room,” Bunsa said. One of the original window blinds in the 1940s room has been reused as part of a dividing wall for the adjacent guest room.

The limited square space of the house meant that Mrs. Bunsa could squander materials such as handmade Moroccan tiles for the lobby and hand-locked wallpaper for the kitchen and Florida room. The hand-blown glass chandelier in the dining room, Knotty Bubbles by Lindsey Adelman, has a list price of $ 20,790.

Sharon and Michael Daggett built a 2,224-square-foot home with pool and guest house in Cimarron Hills, a private country club community in Georgetown, Texas, for more than $ 800,000 in 2018.


Amy Mikler for The Wall Street Journal

“It’s such a central element, it’s not a beautiful item in a room you never enter,” he said.

Newly built houses that fit the jeweler’s profile can be difficult to find, although more and more builders are starting to offer them.

The Fairways section of Cimarron Hills, a private community of country clubs in Georgetown, Texas, on the outskirts of Austin, presents new luxury homes ranging from 2,034 to 2,564 square feet.

Sitterle Homes, a Texas-based home builder, has sold about 40 of these houses with garden in Cimarron over the past five years, at prices ranging from $ 460,000 to $ 825,000. There are still 30 sites available.

The single level house has tall windows and travertine floors throughout.


Amy Mikler for The Wall Street Journal

“Now that the children are gone, they are looking for the right size,” Brian Shields, a Sitterle Homes partner and president of his Austin division, said about his clients. “They still want high design and better quotes and finishes.”

Sharon Daggett, who owns houses in Phoenix and Horseshoe Bay, Texas, had been looking for houses in Georgetown, where her family has deep roots. But most of the properties were huge houses, the size of a farm, 3,000 square feet and more, said Daggett, about 60 years old. He learned of the garden houses by chance when he was sitting next to Mr. Shields’ wife on a flight to Austin.

“I said,” I would love to see what you are doing with smaller houses, “Daggett recalled.

She and her husband, Michael Daggett, a retired certified public accountant, built a 2,224-square-foot home in 2018 that dominated green street number 17, at a cost of more than $ 800,000. They spent about $ 100,000 on new furniture.

Sharon and Michael Daggett.


Amy Mikler for The Wall Street Journal

Most of the interior space is concentrated in its large central hall, with only two bedrooms. A separate 340 square foot cottage with a third bedroom is located in an inner courtyard from the main house.

“It’s perfect for us. The little house is totally a guest house,” said Daggett, who also uses it as a home office. “That really appealed to me, because we have company that comes all the time.”

The large room opens to two outdoor entertainment areas that add an additional 800 square feet of space: an open patio with a wood burning fireplace and a large covered patio with a pool and large hot tub.

The patio, which overlooks the pool and golf course, has a bonfire, a seating area and an outdoor kitchen. Thanks to the mild climate, Daggetts can use the outdoor spaces for eight or nine months a year.

The couple, who likes to organize parties, also turned the closet of a living room into a cocktail bar. “We didn’t cut anything,” said Daggett.


one) A large sectional sofa can make a small living room feel tight. Choose furniture that suits the space without mastering it. “Many retailers of large boxes sell furniture that is too large,” Bunsa said.

two) To improve the feeling of spaciousness, give the low ceilings a glossy paint finish. “It increases reflectivity and attracts attention,” says designer Penelope Kim. Ms. Bunsa recommends hanging window treatments on or near the ceiling, even if the windows do not reach. “It makes the roof look taller,” he said.

3) Waste in natural stone like quartzite or marble for counters and dashboards, to add impact to kitchens and smaller bathrooms.

4) Use custom carpentry to create integrated storage areas for pantries and washer-dryers, for a less messy appearance.

5) Keep it light Add layers of ambient lighting, such as small ceiling lights controlled by dimming on the ceilings, “so that the house can maintain a sense of light in all four seasons,” Kim said. “And keep the color palette simple and neutral, so that the spaces flow from each other.”

6) But don’t be afraid of color. Color splashes, used judiciously, add depth. “Use a bright color or patterned wallpaper in the background to get attention and extend the view across the space,” Bunsa said.

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