18 Aug 2010

Home Truths About What We Call a Home (Part 1)

A few home truths borne out of popular belief shape up the concept that we hone about the home, starting with the famous saying: 'An Englishman's home is his castle', emphasising the sacred character of our home, whether we live in a humble shack or a palatial estate, whether we rent it or buy it, whether it is a family inheritance or a brand new build, whether it represents us or is more impersonal.

This thought process started with the fact that I am currently, so to speak, living out of a suitcase, or more accurately at my parents' home. I am typing away on my brother's computer, sat on an uncomfortable 1930s chair in a crowded study that looks more like an attic, surrounded by things that are not mine in a house that doesn't represent me and with which my affinities are pretty limited. Although I am surrounded by loved ones and have my own room, space is restricted and cluttered with junk that is not my own. As harsh as that may sound, that house is not my home. And actually, come to think of it, it might not even be my parents' own home either as they have recently moved in, have had to compromise with some of the house aspects, and are still finding their feet. So then, what do people need for a house to feel like a home?

Make a House a Home (title borrowed from the eponymous TV make-over programme): A home is first of all a place where you can gather your thoughts, get some head space, organise your ideas and feel at ease and at peace with yourself. It is not just a physical shelter from the immediate elements of meteorological weather and other exterior threats, it is also an emotional one. It is a place where you unwind, you relax, you take stock of your day/ your week/ your life. You do your own thing unperturbed, you potter about without having to explain why you are doing what you're doing (unless you share your home with an awkward companion!). Home is where you feel comfortable, where you can slouch in your PJs at stupid o'clock in the afternoon with no-one to judge you about it. Home is where the heart is.

Home gives you a certain degree of freedom and room for manoeuvre. You personalise it your way, ideally surrounding yourself with objects that inspire you and/ or make you happy. If you are happy in your head, within you, then you'll find that you are happy in your home. You grow with your home, let's say from your romantic chintzy phase to a contemporary loft theme. Your home is a reflection of you and an extension of your personality to some degree, be it through your tidiness levels, style and ambience achieved, choice of artefacts, room lay-out, etc. Homeliness seems to be the secret ingredient that will help turn any type of dwelling into a home.

However the connection you have with the concept of home will not necessarily be linked to owning or renting the place. I have visited or stayed in houses that were so inviting in terms of design, style and welcome, that they made me feel at home virtually instantly. Even a good old pub can be homely, through its atmosphere and liveliness, friendly staff, its décor, a roaring fire or a pretty beer garden; all these factors that are going to entice you in, invite you to buy a drink and linger over it, enjoy your time, and come back again to relive the experience. Boutique hotels have cleverly capitalised on that very idea of homeliness as part of their marketing strategy to help differentiate themselves from the mass hotel market. (to be continued)

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