House Versus Home

One of the main reasons I was attracted to residential work while in school was because the notion of "home" is the one refuge we all have against the world. So I try to find time to think about the meaning of what it is that we really do. We define and organize space for sure, very well. We think about dogs and knap-sacks, and cookies, and 5:00 am alarms. We interpret need and hope and want. But ultimately what is it that makes a house a home?

A house is a structure, defined primarily by its physical elements. Brick and mortar and wood. It has rooms suited to particular purpose, well-fitted and fulfilling imagined intended needs. A house needs to be efficient, convenient, and practical. A well designed home needs to take optimal advantage of its site, offer views, suit the neighbourhood, and possess a clarity of architectural expression. It is a piece of real estate.

A home is entirely different from a house. It doesn't need walls, or a roof or efficiency. It can be chaotic, noisy and messy. It is a relational space, a place for drama and calm, for anger and love. It is an emotional place. It demands imagination, support, love and respect. A teenage boy can leave his abusive family to live on the streets, and find home. An old woman can be forgotten in a nursing home by her busy children, and find home in the spirit of an attentive volunteer. Home is a refuge against the world.

So how does a house, designed as a home, meet the emotional needs of its inhabitants? Well I believe it begins as an expression of the personality of its creator. It understands and accepts the chaos that will ensue and it wraps itself around the birthday candles and hurt from a first romance. When we love a room it's because it loves us back. And in my opinion that is the most beautiful space imaginable.

Jeffrey Douglas