What makes a home homey? Kids
may be the great divide, but I've seen houses that hold multiple children
and still manage to feel sterile, and studios occupied by single workaholic
Wall Streeters that seem expansive and full of life. Is it true that "glamour
is the enemy of homeyness," or are both possible?
Having finally found the doohickey that connects the camera to the computer,
this weekend I uploaded a big stream of photos from several different summer
visits to friends' homes. As I watched the photos go by, I started seeing some
commonalities among homes that were quite different in terms of style, location,
and demographics. At the same time, with E. away, my own usually joyous home
started to feel wan and dissonant. A casual visitor may not have noticed anything
really different--a couple more dishes in the sink, a cleared desk in the studio--but
the vibe was shot.
So what are the "best practices" that will make people feel at home
in your home? Here's my list--what's on yours?
- Designed for the people who live there. Homes have integrity
when they describe, on a bell curve, the people who live there--a bit of where
they've come from, a lot of who they are today, and some what they aspire
to. If your home only describes who your parents were, or who you want to
be when you get the next raise or when you get it together, your guests will
feel the disconnect, even if they can't pinpoint the problem.
- Flow. Does your home have a sense of fluidity, or does
one room feel cut off from the rest? Do you have a pathway from public space
to private space? There's a reason that, back in the day, houses were designed
with front doors and side doors, parlors in the front and kitchen and bedrooms
in the back. Your guests need an entry space, a decompression chamber--even
if it's just a console table and a coat cook--in which to adjust from outside
to inside, and you need the space to decide who gets invited in to linger
at your kitchen table and who gets shown the door.
- Just clean enough. My dear Aunt Marie's taste runs a little
to Country Cottage--probably not most AT readers' cup of latte--but she has
a placard hanging in her kitchen whose sentiment, if not style, we can relate
to: "Clean enough to be healthy, messy enough to be happy." There's
a balance between well-cared-for and hermetically sealed.
- Connected to the world outside. Comfortable houses always
seem to have a little bit of the outside in them, whether it's a profusion
of houseplants or just a hand-picked river stone.
- In flux. Rooms should have room to grow. Beware of perfection--your
guests may feel like they're visiting the taxidermist's.
Photo: Lisa and Michelle's, Portland, ME