When you think of “home,” what comes to mind? Is it the place you were born, grew up, or live now? How long has that been home to you? Do you have more than one home? The concept of “home” is rather tricky to pin down. Unlike a house – which is pretty much any basic unit of dwelling – a home is much broader, deeper, and more personal.
In this article, we will take a look at the meaning of home and how to go about turning a house into one. Because, when we get right down to it, home really is where the heart is.
The technical definition of home includes, according to Merriam Webster: one’s place of residence, the social unit formed by a family living together, a familiar or usual setting, a congenial environment. It’s not surprising that the phrase “at home” is, similarly, another way of saying one is in harmony with the surroundings, relaxed and comfortable, and/or at ease.
While some people associate the word “homely” with less-than-positive aesthetic appeal, it other meanings and associations as well. Homely definition, when used in conjunction with a place or one’s surroundings, is “simple but cozy and comfortable”. When we get right down to it, it is this very description that is the goal for many homes.
SIMILARITIES OF SUCCESSFUL HOMES
Of course, the global concept of “home” varies significantly from one side of the world to the other. But there are certain elements present in a successful home that are relatively universal. Of course, the main thing is the people who call the house “home.” After all, “The notion of home dissipates when the inhabitant is gone; what remains is not a home but a house”
Thoughtful Layout – “For a home to function well, it needs the basics of threshold, sanctuary, space-to-be and space-to-share” (Shane Cotter and Kathryn Wilson, founders of Architectural Farm). In other words, the individual components of a home are arranged in such a way as to promote individual and collective enjoyment, in whatever ways those might be. You might consider plenty of seating, white space around objects, comfortable textiles, and useful lighting.
Comfortable Components – The meaning of home is “the idea of belonging somewhere not only in physical terms, but also the feeling of being comfortable, the moment of perceiving and enjoying the small things that inspire you and bring you peace” (Leonidas Trampoukis, co-founder of LoT). In other words, home is comfortable, soothing, and peaceful. While the pieces that bring these types of feelings about vary from one individual to the next, the idea is that the ultimate goal for a home is to bring comfort within its sphere.
Community Space –Every home should have a space that is large enough and laid out in a way that’s conducive to the whole family’s gathering. Even if they’re doing their separate things, the family can still be together at home.
Kid-Friendly Details – Our homes represent more than our financial assets; they have a deep and unique emotional meaning. Our earliest memories of home are often connected to our childhood. With this in mind, a home where children congregate should certainly accommodate them.
Organization – Home is a way of organizing and understanding the space within ourselves and the way the world is constructed around us. Surely a home is more inviting and more livable if the components within are organized to promote living well. This will look different for everyone, of course, but some fundamental design components of organization include shelves, boxes/baskets, trays, cubbies, and much more. Organized things feel better, look better, and are easier to access, whether visually or physically.
Imperfection – A home isn’t always going to look picture-perfect. Truthfully, as humans, we’re never quite fully at ease in a place that feels too perfect. It’s intimidating and false. So don’t be afraid of (embrace!) imperfection in your home. Wrinkles on the bed, pets on the furniture, mismatched furniture, chippy vintage pieces, whatever it might be. Let your home celebrate this perfectly imperfect experience we call life.
TIPS ON MAKING A HOUSE YOUR OWN HOME
Home is a place we love to be. In fact, “Home is home, and everything else is not-home” (smithsonianmag.com). The trick, then, is turning the physical space of your personal dwelling into a place where you feel, well, at home. Now that we better understand what a home is (or isn’t), let’s take a look at application. How does one go about creating such a space? After all, the house itself isn’t as important as what’s inside, when it comes to creating a home.
Classic Hardwood Floors – Timeless hardwood floors are one component that makes a house feel like a home. They may seem “old fashioned” when compared to the myriad of flooring options these days, but hardwood floors never really go out of style, and they can gracefully accommodate all kinds of real-life crazy. Plus, they add natural appeal and visual warmth.
Natural Light – Whenever and wherever possible, welcome natural light into your home. The space will feel so much brighter, bigger, and happier. Of course, your home’s natural light potential is largely dependent on its existing architecture – vaulted ceilings, walls of windows, positioning, etc. But you can keep window treatments to a minimum and use reflective surfaces in your space to maximize whatever light you do have.
Lighting Options – Soft, diffused lighting is so important in creating a homey atmosphere; it goes a long way to make a room look and feel cozy. While overhead lighting might be your home’s main source of light, personalize (and soften) everything with your own lighting fixtures. Vary the heights and scopes for aesthetic depth and light-based functionality.
Furniture Relaxability – At its core, a home is comfort. Likewise, the ability to put one’s feet up at the end of a long day (or even throughout the day) is also comfort. Something as simple as including an ottoman at the foot of a chair will enhance the feeling of homeliness. Other ideas: chairs with rocking, swivel, or reclining features.
Intuitive Conversational Areas – Intuitive design is an important, albeit subtle, aspect of great design, and providing intuitive spaces where you and others can interact will go far in creating that desirable homey atmosphere. This is not just limited to seating in the living room, although that’s important. Think of seating areas in bedrooms, which can be conducive to late-night chats with children or spouses, or home offices.
Custom Details – When your house comes with standard or builder-grade details (anything from cabinet hardware, lighting fixtures, or bathroom accessories), it will look and feel like a house. Customizing those details will take it a step closer to becoming a home. Swap out a faucet, exchange the hardware, or do whatever else to really customize your space. “Customizing small details like hardware is a quick, easy, and cheap way to make your house feel more like a home” (designsponge.com).
Storage – When we think of “home design,” many of us might jump immediately to the purely aesthetic components, but it’s important to remember that the functionality of the space must be en pointe before it will truly be a home. This includes things such as storage. “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” Of course, you can always opt for beautiful storage solutions, which is a win-win in both the aesthetics and functional departments.
Personal Collections – Whether it’s stuff you’ve collected while traveling the world or your favorite pieces of artwork by your 4-year-old, displaying bits of a beloved and personal collection goes a long way to bring out a feeling of home. Because, really, “all the stuff that proudly adorns your home tells the story of who you are and where you’ve been” (goodhousekeeping.com).
Lamps – As a part of having great diffused lighting options, don’t forget the role that lamps play in making a house a home. All kinds of lamps, from floor lamps to tabletop lamps to task lamps, will allow you to be able to direct and control light to fit the ambiance you want or need. This means that people will be able to use the space that truly fit their lifestyle and needs, ergo, they will feel at home.
Vintage &Handmade Objects – Some people may not travel the world and bring home unique collectibles, but that doesn’t mean that the vintage or handmade touch must be abandoned. Finding and then surrounding oneself with beautiful and meaningful unique objects, be they pottery, artwork, or furniture, will create that sense of history and individuality so prominent in true homes.
Throw Blankets – Nothing beats the ability to grab a throw blanket and snuggle down into it whenever you feel a chill at home. In fact, some people feel cold year-round, so this is particularly important to consider for them. Keep at least one throw blanket easily accessible in every room in your home to add that extra punch of comfort and familiarity.
Family Heirlooms – Displaying or using objects that have a personal background, story, or connection with you and your family is a lovely way to create a feeling of home. How about putting those patchwork quilts your grandma made into the rotation? Your home becomes timeless, rooted in the past as well as branching into the future while thoroughly enjoying the present.
Area Rugs – Area rugs are an absolutely lovely touch in creating a homey home. They are soft and warm underfoot, which instantly helps to make a place feel more live-in. Area rugs offer another often overlooked benefit in a home – they help with sound acoustics/insulation, making the place not feel all echo-y like a museum.
Chandeliers – Chandeliers are one of the best ways to transform the harshness of fluorescent overhead lights, the dimness of single exposed light bulbs, or the stale feeling of generic box-store lighting fixtures into something really special. There are great inexpensive chandelier options, so price needn’t be the issue when transforming your home into something that’s really quite magical.
Meaningful Artwork – Here’s the thing about art, which you probably already know but it’s worth restating: Art is highly personal and, as such, can be found in any and everything. Found objects from nature (pinecones, anyone?), family photos, paintings, collages, sculptures, you get the idea. Art can be anything and everything you want it to be. Display what you love in your home. Period.
Comfy Nook – “No matter how clean and modern your style, every home needs at least one or two cozy spaces where you can just lounge and let loose”. Set up a reading lamp and a bookshelf by your favorite armchair to create a cozy nook, or even keep a floor pillow and throw near your favorite heating vent. Whatever it takes to build a place that lets you genuinely relax.
Serene Bedroom – A peaceful, cozy bedroom is key in making a house feel like a home. Although not everyone will get to appreciate the space, it’s vital for the home’s inhabitants to have a bedroom retreat. Those who travel may appreciate this the most – despite large, luxurious hotel beds, nothing beats coming home and waking up in one’s own serene and personal space.
Quality Bed Pillows – There is a decided difference in the enjoyment one gets out of one’s home when it is designed for living well versus living beautifully. Often, those two coincide, but sometimes there are differences that only the inhabitant will notice. Quality bed pillows – the best you can afford – on every bed are an example of this. Pillows that are really and truly comfortable will enhance the desire to be home, to feel at ease and rested there, even if you’re the only one who knows they’re there.
Space to Play – In any home, there really needs to be room for play. Whether the playing in your home involves board games, ping pong, chess, exercise, or even simply reading or cooking together (or whatever else!), be sure that there is space accommodating for life-enriching play.
Comfortable Dining Room Seating – If the heart of the home is the kitchen, then the dining room in today’s open concepts is an appendage to that all-important room. The comfortability of dining room chairs is essential in facilitating lingering togetherness – meals, conversations, games. Whatever it is you choose to do around the dining table, the chairs’ comfort will only add to that home-based memory.
Outdoor Accommodations – Playing in the backyard with cousins/friends/neighbors creates those memories that are forever connected to home. Or having the ability to relax, dine, chat, or just meditate outside on a small patio, where a couple of lawn chairs allow sitting outside and watching the stars come out, bring out the feeling of home like few things else.
If nothing else, remember: Home is not where you live, but rather where you love. Happy homecoming.