My Top Five Things that Make a House a Home

Working with clients to help them make their homes fit them better and making my own home into a place that feels right for my family has led me to these conclusions about what’s most important in creating a space that feels “right” to you. Other designers might have other priorities, but since mine is helping people be comfortable in and like their homes better, these are mine.

1)  Comfort

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Home needs to be comfortable. There should be at least one spot that you feel comfortable doing each of the following: sitting, reading, working, eating, sleeping, and any other activities that you regularly do at home. There’s going to be a nagging sense of unease about a place when you’re uncomfortable doing what you want and need to do there.

Comfort includes safety, to me. Home should be your refuge, the place you feel safe, relaxed, completely OK with being yourself. You can recharge there, rebalance yourself, get your bearings, come back to center.

2)  Functionality

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You can find your stuff. You can get around easily. You have space to work if you need to do a project. There are clear  places to do different things – cook, eat, sleep, read, play games, etc. Not that those can’t shift, or overlap. But basically, you have space. If you’re frustrated that you can’t accomplish what you’d like to in your house, it’s hard to feel good about the place.

3)  It’s personal

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There are reflections of your life and experiences at home. Objects, artwork, furniture – any or all of these, or other things – remind you of people you love, places you’ve been, things you’ve done. Home is not an anonymous place. The things around you should have meaning to you.

4)  Aesthetics

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It looks good (to you. it doesn’t matter if it looks good to others for you to feel at home with it). Many people would put this factor first on the list.  How my house looks is definitely important to me; I’m a very visual person. But not everyone is. My husband cares more about the acoustics in our home than the aesthetics; that’s a comfort issue to him. Your house should fit your aesthetic. If your aesthetic is messy and you’re happy with that, that’s OK. It just needs to suit you.  But, to feel at home with your space, you don’t want to look around and dislike what you see.

5)  Color and Lighting

I slipped two in there under this last one. The color of a room can influence how comfortable you are there. The same is true of lighting. Rooms that are lit solely by overhead lights feel colder, and cast people in a less attractive light. The light is harsher, as opposed to the warm pools of light created by table or floor lamps with shades. And having enough light – three sources in most rooms is a guideline – contributes greatly to the feel of the room. Actually I think I put lighting ahead of color in importance. It’s possible to fix a lot of ills with lighting; adequate, warm, flattering lighting really impacts how a space feels.

 

Note that many of these things all point to comfort, which is why I put it first on the list. It’s really the sum of lots of factors, and doesn’t just refer to comfortable seating which might seem like the most obvious factor contributing to comfort.  And, comfort also means you just plain enjoy being in your home. If it grates on you somehow then you’re not going to be completely “at home” there.

So, those are my five most important things to make your house feel like home. What would yours be?

Nuevo Retro

What is that saying about all things old being new again? That is so true in the design world.  For instance, take the “mid-century modern” trend.  Being a child of the 60s, the den in our house on Long Island comes right to mind! These retro pieces are showing up in today’s homes to provide that simple, sleek look that’s a sort of Danish-with-an-American-twist look that was so characteristic of the mid 1900s.

 

 

The renaissance of the hippie look is also something I’m getting a big kick out of. This dress in the window of the local Anthropologie store caught my eye:

It’s a more embellished look, maybe not so in-your-face as the flower power and love beads look of the 60s, but a more refined aesthetic with the definite flavor of that style. In home decor, places like World Market and Pier One have a lot of ethic offerings, as in this throw that reminds me of what we called “Indian print bedspreads” back then:

 

And this trio of accessories from West Elm, reference African culture in the spirit of one-world inclusiveness that is prevalent in the decor world today.

                    

                                                                                                                               

 

 Masai Chokers West Elm

 

 

What all this says to me is that the style police are off the job. There are dozens of different looks out there in fashion, in accessories, in home design. Yes, some are trendy right now. But you can choose the look you like without fear that it is not “in,” because everything old is new again, after all, and whatever your taste is, suits you just right.