Not everyone is fortunate enough to experience home as a place of safety and comfort. But for those of us who are lucky enough to find ourselves in this privileged position, the question arises of when do our homes serve us best and how can we enable them to do so?
I spend a lot of time thinking about, and researching, these questions and much of what I read always ends up steering me towards two main ideas:
- Our homes serve us best when they are functional and comfortable. We form the warmest bonds with our homes when they facilitate the experiences, feelings and rituals we cherish the most.
- Our homes serve us best when they are an expression of our personal rhythms and values and when they serve to reinforce and further these values.
In a paper written for the Housing New Zealand Corporation, Brian Walsh presents a fascinating point of view on home. Walsh’s paper focuses on the difference between housing and homemaking and presents the idea that our own worldview is central to the making of homes that meet our everyday living and emotional needs.
Walsh explains the term worldview as “a vision of life that says this is how the world works…a worldview shapes those who live in its embrace so that they develop certain habits, certain habitual ways of living and relating to the world”. Our worldview is the way that we give meaning to the world around us; it is made up of the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of the time and place we find ourselves in. These stories encompass our values and serve to create the habits of our everyday activities and routines.
Walsh proposes that “only when one’s housing can be experienced in terms of one’s worldview, indeed, only when one’s housing is, in important respects, shaped by one’s worldview, can housing become a home”. While Walsh is referring to much more than just the way homes are put together internally, speaking instead about meeting the housing needs of diverse communities, this same idea is crucial to consider for the interiors of individual homes. Only when the designs of our interiors are created in line with what we value most and when they facilitate the feelings and activities that nurture our minds and bodies, can our spaces begin to really feel like our home.
Walsh suggests that space is transformed into place when it becomes imbued with meaning and begins to tell a story. In much the same way our homes only truly become our homes when they are imbued with our personal narratives. These are the narratives of how we live our daily lives and the narratives of what we value in life. They are the narratives of who we are and who we wish to become.
Walsh explains that in human life, stories are carried by symbols. The objects we surround ourselves with in our homes are symbols of what we value and our worldview. If we design our homes with intention they will serve to tell and reinforce the story of our identity. Quoting Douglas Porteous and Sandra Smith from their book Domicide: The Global Destruction of Home, Walsh writes “home is a second body, which is seen as a symbol of self and self-identity. Home shapes you and, in turn, is shaped in your image”.
Referencing Karsten Harries from his book The Ethical Function of Architecture, Walsh highlights that all buildings communicate the story of the worldview of the people or the society that gave rise to them. “Buildings – all buildings, but certainly housing – tell the story of the builders. While prefabricated buildings seem to be generic…they nonetheless speak of the modernist worldview that was at the heart of their design”.
The spaces we inhabit and the objects we fill those spaces with, tell a story whether we intend them to or not. These stories matter, not because of what they signal to others but because of what they signal to us. When our home is a cookie-cutter representation of the latest trends, an assembly of the same furniture and objects seen again and again, what narrative does this story reinforce?
In its ideal form home serves as the primary space in our lives for fostering habits that give us our identity. Quoting the art critic, novelist and poet John Berger, Walsh points out that “home is represented not by a house, but by a set of practices”. It is what we do inside our homes, the activities that our homes facilitate, that will either make us feel more aligned with our values and ourselves or make us feel more alienated from ourselves. When how we design our homes is guided by our values our spaces begin to feel like ours. Our homes can only be places that serve to help us make sense of the world when they reflect back to us who we are and who we wish to become.
In his book And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief As Photos, John Berger points out that “originally home meant the centre of the world—not in a geographical, but in an ontological sense. Mircea Eliade has demonstrated how the home was the place from which the world could be founded." At their best, homes are places that are the embodiment of our most cherished story of ourselves. From this safe, nurturing place we are free to explore the world around us, knowing we can come back to process what we learn within the safe confines of the physical embodiment of our internal world.
When they serve us well, our homes can animate our daily routines, infuse our life with energy, mobilise our resources to think, feel and create with engagement. Our home spaces should help us to meet our needs for togetherness, calmness, recharging or any other activity or emotion we wish to nurture in our daily lives. Most of all, our homes will serve us well when they help us to more clearly define our worldview and reinforce who we are and what direction we wish to grow in.
Images above show our Handmade Ramen, Breakfast and Petite Bowls in Straw, Copper Kettle, Natural Shuro Palm Trivets, Helene Plant Pot, Handmade Fluted Utensil Holder, Organic Cotton Hand Towel in Natural, Cloth Bowl Covers, Woven Kettle Holder, Natural Dish Brush, Scrubbing Brush, Round Dish Brush, Handmade Fluted Fruit Bowl (used as a pasta sieve), Classic French Table Glasses, Stone Washed Flatware Set, Hemp Palm Broom, Hand Dyed Velvet Jewel Cushion Covers in Still Willem, Textured Merino Wool Blanket and Tasselled Merino Wool Blanket (both organic and coming soon to our online shop).