What Makes A House A Home?


Two years ago our family of five moved into the house we currently live in. I was so excited about our new place, and anxious to get us settled in.

One afternoon while I was unpacking boxes, my kids asked me to join them in playing a game. I told them I was too busy working—they would have to play by themselves.

Five minutes later my daughter asked me again, “Please, Mom. Please come play with us!” Again I said “no”.

Five minutes later, same thing: “Pleeeeease, Mom!”

I impatiently snapped back something to this affect, “Kids! Stop asking me to play with you! Can’t you see I’m busy trying to make our house a home?!?!”

I was immediately struck by the irony of my reply. I apologized to my kids, and then sat down to take a break and gain some perspective.

My thought had been: beautiful and organized house = pleasant place to live. But what good is a pretty house if the people living there don’t love and laugh together? Certainly creating a sense of warmth and stability is more about heart and hearth than design and décor.

Or is it?

I began to poll my friends, asking them:

What made the house you grew up in feel like home?

I was surprised by the answers. First, everyone I polled, after pondering the question for a while, would say something like, “I don’t know what did make it feel like a home…but I can definitely tell you what didn’t.”

Second, I was surprised that the majority of those responses—what made your house not seem like a home—were about the physical nature of the house, not the relationships there. Certainly I had the occasional anecdote about things like having to walk on eggshells when daddy got home from work. But most of the answers were like this:

  • One friend told how she was so ashamed of how dirty her house was, she would often arrange to have her friends pick her up at other location. Her home today is always spotless.
  • Another friend told me how his mom always kept the curtains drawn, making it dark and dreary. His home today is full of wide-open windows.
  • I myself grew up in a beautiful home. As beautiful as a museum. I was always worried about making a mess and ruining something. As an adult I’ve always chosen furniture and flooring that are sturdy and stain resistant, so people feel comfortable.

What do you think?

What makes a house a home?

Is it the physical or the relational?

What made the house you grew up in feel like home?

What didn’t?

How have those things affected the kind of home you’ve created today?

One thought on “What Makes A House A Home?

  1. This is interesting. My house definitely felt like a home! I think that was because of my mom. She decorated our home to be a cozy, comfortable place that was beautiful and decorated, but not a museum filled with breakable things. Our house wasn’t always immaculate, and my mom was always willing to wait on the dishes to play with us or talk, but it was tidy and I remember coming home from school many days to the fresh smell of an afternoon she had spent cleaning. I think her presence made it feel like home too…she was always there with a hug or an encouraging word. We ate dinner together every night, even if that meant we ate at 8:00 when everyone was home from practices and activities. I was always proud to bring my friends into our home and I knew that they would be welcomed; they usually felt at “home” too!


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