2017-11-09 / Front Page

ROOM FOR ONE

Air Force spouse makes most of home during yearlong stay
BY RYAN GIBBS


Jewel Marlowe in the great room she renovated for the One Room Challenge. As the matriarch of a transient military family, Marlowe has perfected low-cost temporary makeovers. 
PHOTO BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN Jewel Marlowe in the great room she renovated for the One Room Challenge. As the matriarch of a transient military family, Marlowe has perfected low-cost temporary makeovers. PHOTO BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN A military wife temporarily living in Jamestown soon will begin looking for a new place to call home. She will, however, leave one room behind that will stay with her for the rest of her life.

Jewel Marlowe has just finished the six-week One Room Challenge, a biannual contest that tasks 200 bloggers from across the nation to redesign a single room of their houses. The participants post weekly updates onto their blogs.

Marlowe has been renovating the great room since the competition commenced in October, two months after her family moved to the Mackerel Cove area.

“It’s a way to showcase your talents and become more involved with the blogging community,” she said. “It’s really fun but it’s been a lot of work.”


Jewel Marlowe found this mirror while antique shopping in Newport. The former history major likes her modern designs to have a vintage touch. Jewel Marlowe found this mirror while antique shopping in Newport. The former history major likes her modern designs to have a vintage touch. Because the rental is temporary, Marlowe has some limitations. For example, the homeowners won’t let her paint the walls. So, like her residency, the renovations are temporary, like hanging artwork and arranging furnishings.

Marlowe’s redesign includes a fusion of modern and antique characteristics. She has bought certain accessories specifically for the challenge, while acquiring other decorations from her travels. Marlowe has been around the world with her husband, Gary, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force, and their four children. He currently is enrolled at the Naval War College.

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There is no detail too trivial for the challenge. For example, Marlowe said the mirror that came with the room was too small for her blueprint. That’s when she found the perfect replacement while antique shopping in Newport. The Victorian mirror jumped off the wall.

“Why do these over-the-top, gold-toned antiques keep speaking to me?” she wrote in her Nov. 1 blog post.

That mirror, however, was too narrow for the mantel, but she needed a spot with plenty of clean, straight lines to balance the ornate frame. She chose the middle of the expansive window. On her blog, which includes tutorials, she details the reason for every decision she makes.

“I’m trying to give a glimpse of how the process works and the drama behind the scenes,” she said.

Marlowe’s favorite renovation has been personalizing a pair of Nordstrom sofas she bought from Craigslist for $100. The couches originally had an olive-green leather upholstery that she wryly described in her blog post as “victims of an ugly-stick gang attack.” She fought back with navy blue paint, bond primer and finishing wax.

“They’re amazing,” she said. “You would never know they were anything but brand-new.”

The post on the couches, which she published for week three in mid-October, includes photos that detail the technique. She included a step-by-step walk-through so her readers can repeat the process on their dilapidated leather sofas.

Renovation inspiration

The One Room Challenge is Marlowe’s first major project for her blog. It’s not an easy task, she said, because the transient family has moved more than a dozen times, from Idaho to the United Kingdom.

Her travels have influenced Marlowe toward interior design as a hobby. Her interest also stems from Utah State University, where she was a history major.

“I like to see how history is reflected in culture and art,” she said. “I like to see those eras play out on the stage of a room.”

She took her hobby to the next step while the family was living in Virginia during the mid-2000s. Marlowe visited the library and read “at least 30 books” on the subject. After teaching herself the basics, she continued her nascent interest while in England, where she began buying and selling antique furniture at auctions. When her family moved to Washington, D.C., she was inspired by the lavish designs of the military galas, which led to dinner parties with other wives in her husband’s squadron. The Marlowe house had to be “magical all the time.”

“We had to host and entertain,” she said. “While they were all deployed, this was my way to do something for myself.”

Marlowe launched her Jeweled Interiors blog in April. She started writing to share the design tips she had learned while moving from state to state.

Her blog typically covers ways to redesign rental houses with an upscale theme while spending as little money as possible. Her accessories, decorations and furnishings have come from Craigslist, Walmart, Hobby Lobby and TJ Maxx.

“Military spouses find it useful because they have to move a lot,” she said. “But hopefully it reaches beyond them.”

Marlowe posted her seventh and final post for the One Room Challenge in the middle of last week. It included a final overview of the work. Among her last addition was wall art she created out of plywood and plastic cloth. She was about to throw away the cloth before she realized the colors matched the theme.

“Instead of pitching it, I glued it to my plywood and framed it out with trim,” she said. “I can’t believe how fantastic it looks. I really don’t think anyone knows it’s a $2 piece of plastic.”

The One Room Challenge, which is in its 12th year, was founded by blogger Linda Weinstein. Each season includes 20 featured bloggers who are sponsored by companies, but the other 180 bloggers, including Marlowe, don’t get free furnishings for those sponsors. Instead, they think outside of the box, using frugal furnishings with adaptable accessories.

“This has been a fun way to figure out what represents me,” Marlowe said. “It’s just a hobby for me. I’m not doing this as a business. I don’t know if that will come from this or not, but any way to get my foot in the door.”

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