Turning Houses Into Homes (4-minute read)

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Recently, a friend of mine told me if I ever had any ideas for changing up his living room to let him know. Friends will occasionally ask me to help with their interior design needs. And, as a friend, I’m always glad to help them out. As a subscriber to the old saying: “A friend in need is a friend indeed,” I enjoy sharing my gift of interior design with my friends. Often, they appreciate most my ability to turn their houses into homes.

Turning houses into homes differs from simply creating and implementing an interior design plan. Also a gift, turning houses into homes requires additional and different skills than those needed as an interior designer. Of course, they often go hand in hand, but not always. To turn a house into a home requires an understanding of both what “home” itself means and what “home” means to the individuals who live in the residence. Only then can the process begin of rearranging existing items and introducing new ones to create a home that both makes sense or “works” and truly reflects the personalities of its inhabitants.

So, what does the concept of “home” look like? What does “home” mean? “No matter what place you call home, the very word strikes a chord deep inside each of us. Home means sanctuary, the place we can rest, relax, enjoy time with friends, learn, grow … and just be. Our homes say a lot about who we are and what we think is important in life.”1

Back at my friend’s home, I begin to “see” the space anew. Among other things, my friend is also a skilled musician and song writer, so rearranging the living space to accommodate his baby grand piano, electronic keyboard, ukuleles, guitar, bass, bass speaker, and microphone with stand and speaker represents a significant consideration. Within a minute or two, I “move” (in my head) the love seat from the center of a side wall to a spot near the back of the room. Similarly – virtually – I move all his musical instruments and audio gear to the opposite far wall from the love seat. As my rooms always do, his space comes together in my head first.

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By simply putting all the musical instruments and audio equipment at one end of the long room and combining the high-top dining table with the sofa and love seat toward the other, the space both works better and more clearly reflects my friend’s interests. “In the end, if you want your home to make you happy, it’s not necessarily about hiring an architect or investing in the show-off designer art and gadgets that you covet. It’s simply about your living space reflecting the essence of the person you are.”2

Further, organizing your furnishings and displaying your collections as functional aspects of the overall interior design plan makes or breaks their effectiveness. Good design stems not only from combining like items together, as in a collection of family photographs, for example, but it’s also about “how” you’re combining them together. The placement of each item within a grouping or vignette significantly affects how well it works overall.

In its new manifestation, the room now tells a clearer story. Though visible to my mind’s eye at the start of the project, my friend’s revelation came mid-project. At one point in the process of us rearranging his furnishings he turns to me and says: “It’s a stage.” He could now see my vision for him. Now, a literal stage exists at one end of the room where before the overall space housed – disjointedly – a grand piano in one corner, audio equipment in the opposite corner, ukuleles hidden on a back wall all separated by a sitting area comprised of a sofa and a love seat sitting across the narrow room from one another. Now the room functions as a living room with a rehearsal space at one end or as a mini music hall with a “stage” at one end with seating for an audience of up to seven or eight people.

Turning our houses into homes stems from a clear understanding of what makes us tick, what stimulates us, who we are at our core, what we like to do in our spare time and with whom. By both looking at what brings you joy and where you find your bliss – those collections of everything from old cameras and clocks to books and wine bottles – you’ll see the clues to redesigning your home through rearranging your things. “You can keep things organized, but you don’t have to necessarily put everything away in storage. Showcase your hobbies, display fresh florals and collect furniture over time instead of buying matching sets.”3

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And, if you find – as is often one of the reasons most folks seek the help of a design professional – that you know what you like, but you don’t know how to turn it into a cohesive interior design plan, then hire an interior designer. The best of the best will not just turn out a beautiful house for you, but rather they’ll create a beautiful home that truly reflects you, your interests and your personality.

All photos by Lance Colby Hatch

  1. Angelo, Jill. “The Importance of Home.” Spirituality & Health.
  2. O’Reilly, Kara. “How to Make Your House a Home.” Psychologies. 11 June, 2012.
  3. Alavi, Farima. “7 Ways to Make Your House a Home.” HGTV.

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