Thursday, June 13, 2013

What's in a name?

Jewelbox's original name was Bethel House.

In the abstract, I like the name Bethel but sadly it carries both personal and commercial negatives.

When I was a six or seven year old kid, the son of a family friend drowned in Bethel creek and to this day I can recall with perfect clarity the pain that wracked his family, our family and the neighborhood. Personally, my association with the name Bethel is a little sad to say the least.

A quick Google search of "Bethel House" explains the commercial negative.
Go ahead and give it a try. I'll wait.

Back so soon? Quite a few Bethel House entries huh? And nearly all are shelters dedicated to homeless or displaced families or women who have suffered abuse or addiction. Noble causes all and it didn't seem appropriate to have "chic vacation rental home on idyllic Bahamian paradise" nestled in among them.
And imagine THIS conversation:
Me: "You want to stay at a great place for your vacation? Come to Bethel House! I don't have a card but just Google it and you'll get all the info you need."
Them: They never respond because they Googled "Bethel House" and are deeply offended that I seem to have suggested they need rehab, a shower or have a horrible relationship.

Fortunately, I'm married to a branding genius so enlisted Rich and our friend Natasha Shephard (who has crowned myriad homes and boats with names so perfect, you can't imagine them every having been called anything else) to make the magic happen.

Within 24 hours both had lists with near perfect names but when each suggested "jewel box" it sealed the deal. The house is on King Street, just off the corner of Crown Street and I'm a jewelry designer. What could be a more perfect name!!?!
I admit that it's a no brainer but at the time I was crushed that they wouldn't let me name it "Sweetwood."
Sweetwood, as I'm sure you know, is the common name for a local Bahamian plant with bark that's used for incense and tummy issues. And the house is made out of Abaco pine, which is nearly extinct! So having a house that's made entirely of it is pretty sweet! Get it!?!
They didn't get it either. Which is fine because the more time I spent with Bethel House/Jewel Box, the more I am certain that "JewelBox" is the name it was born to have!

 But mark my day, one of our houses will be named "Sweetwood." It will probably be made of limestone and the name won't make a lick of sense to anyone but me.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Step 1: Clean Up

The first step in any good construction project is to clean up the worksite. About 20 years of underbrush, rocks, wood, chicken eggs and other detritus has been swept away.  Yard is looking good, and we are ready to tackle the house!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

JewelBox: The Story

This is the house. Merriam-Webster defines “house” as the following:

1) a building that serves as living quarters for one or a few families
2) a shelter or refuge (as a nest or den) of a wild animal

In its current state, one could definitely argue that definition 2 is most apt but in fact, at one point, definition 1 definitely applied!

The inspiration for the purchase of this house was three parts vodka/soda/splash of cranberry and one part the following conversation:
While staring idly at this house on King Street, a local elderly gent with few teeth and probably less sense walked past and said:
“Nice House. Needs some paint. I’m a painter you know, I’ll paint it for you.”
I said “Uhhhhm, I’m pretty sure it needs a lot more than paint.”
And he responded enthusiastically “Ok, so you fix it and I’ll paint it!” 
Later, over sunset cocktails I recounted the story and thought “Well, he has a point. Why not fix it?”

We've watched the house fall apart for years, passing from hand to hand, always the pet project of someone who planned to rehab it someday but never really found the time. It is a wonderful example of colonial Bahamian architecture, over 150 years old, and stands proud still - in spite of hurricanes, abandonment and a general disregard. Rich and I decided that there was NO way we were going to let this house disappear only to be replaced by something new that lacked the style and character of this one.

Having just completed the renovation of our own wonderful 150 year old house, we were eager to tackle another old house, though honestly I’d hoped for something with windows and running water at least.

We checked it out and the place was a wreck. No floors or ceilings. Packed to the brim with flotsam from someone else’s renovation scraps and genuinely terrifying.

 Not terrifying enough for us to walk away from however. We loved the original Abaco pine siding (which was almost entirely intact) and the general frame of the house (which was not in tact at all) and we figured that with time (which we have) and money (which we don’t) and a spectacular building team (check), we could definitely make this happen.

And here we are. Two months after a tense negotiation, in contract and ready to roll. This is the blog. Written for many reasons:

1) I find that if I don’t write things down, I forget them. And if I do write them down, I remember that I've written them down, but not where I put them. Blog as Organizational Tool!

2) I know that many people dream of buying and building in the Bahamas and I hope that sharing our experience will either foster the dream or at least give it some perspective.

I go on record now as saying that I do not recommend buying an old house in the Bahamas and fixing it up. But labours of love go deep and sometimes some things just HAVE to be done.

Welcome to the Jewelbox blog! Visit often!