All of us wish to turn a house into a home, but what exactly does “home” mean to each of us? Does it describe a place that we return to at the end of the day? Is it the place we feel most comfortable in? Must this place have a certain amount of personal memories in order to be called our “home”? As Realtors, we work closely with a buyer to help them find a ‘house’ that meets their needs. When does that ‘house’ become a ‘home’?
Strictly speaking, a house is made of walls, doors, windows and floors. All of these materials are cold and impersonal whether they take the form of a cozy bungalow or a stately mansion. Over the years, builders have filled fields and farmland with homes that mimic each other on the outside and share similar floor plans on the interior. And yet, when we show these ‘cookie cutter’ structures to prospective buyers, it never ceases to amaze us the different personality each one takes on. Bright cheery colors or earthy soothing hues express how we envision this place we call home. Some take on themes such as southwest, lodge, or mountain cabin. Others reflect changes in our lives like the newlyweds with hand-me-down furniture pieces that do not match or sparsely furnished when the turmoil of divorce invades the home. Some of us need to fill our homes with clutter and others want to streamline them with just the bare essentials. Is one more home than another? Is it the colors, the furnishings, or the bric-a-brac that makes it home or is there something more to making a house a home?
Close your eyes for a minute and think back to the first place you called home. Was it filled with love and laughter, a place where you felt safe to express yourself, a place you could come to when you felt sad or had a bad day? The first home I remember was a small two-bedroom ranch style home with one bath and no garage. It wasn’t different from the other homes on the street where we lived, at least not from outside appearances. Inside, was another matter. My mom had it decorated “elegantly” on my parents limited funds. A plate glass mirror adorned one wall of the living room while a shadow box that held the trinkets they treasured was proudly displayed on another wall. Inviting patterns of wallpaper welcomed friends into our country-sized kitchen that was filled with aromas of home cooked meals. I remember peeking through the crack between the wood floor of the living room and the linoleum of the kitchen to watch my dad as he decorated my birthday cake to look like a store bought cake. My brother and I had a big backyard to play cowboys and Indians with the neighborhood kids, catching lightening bugs in jars and playing red light, green light until the street lights came on and we all headed home to be tucked into bed. I remember singing and dancing in front of the mirror of my bedroom door with dreams that some day I would be a famous singer or dancer. I just knew I would be there was never any doubt.
As an adult, my view of home is different and yet the same. I look forward to going ‘home’ after a busy day at work because I know I will find comfort and familiarity when I step through the door. It represents a safe haven from the pressures and stresses of the outside world. My home reflects peacefulness, tranquility, and yet it still allows me a place to express myself and sets the stage for my dreams and aspirations.
Cultural anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson says that your home is a reflection of your life. A home is not defined by the structure or by income levels but by the people that fill it. Small or large, poor or wealthy, a house does not become a home until it is filled with people. Only then does it take on the personality that changes it from a house to a home.