What makes a dwelling a home? The answer is changing

  • At this home in Louisville, Tenn., architect Jeffrey Dungan turned the upper level into a personal atelier for an artist. Repurposing spaces to suit how we want to live and work is one of the defining home trends of this year. Contributed photo/Jeffrey Dungan

Associated Press
Published: 3/8/2019 12:14:37 PM

What makes a house or an apartment a home?

For some of us, home is a walk-up apartment that we share with a roommate or two. For others, it might be a center-hall house on a leafy suburban street, or a modern glass box overlooking the sea.

The variations are endless. The only real universal feature is a roof over your head; everything else that distinguishes a home from mere shelter is different for each of us.

Evolving technology and lifestyles are also changing what we want our homes to be.

“With so many entertainment and smart technology options at our fingertips, we find homeowners are spending more time at home,” said Kerrie Kelly, an interior design expert for the online real-estate marketplace Zillow. “People are focusing on how they truly use a space to reflect how they live, versus what the room is ‘supposed to be.’”

For instance, she noted, dining rooms are no longer just a place to eat.

“Adults work from this space and kids do homework here, making a single-use room more multi-purpose,” Kelly said. “We also see ‘library rooms’ in lieu of formal dining rooms, with more attention to comfortable seating for taking in a variety of media. And lastly, the laundry room isn’t just for washing clothes any more. Pet-washing stations are popping up more frequently instead of laundry tubs.”

For city dwellers, she’s noticed an increase in conversions of loft-like work spaces into living spaces.

“People are interested in living in an urban environment in order to enjoy culture without getting in the car,” she said. “Easily accessible restaurants, entertainment and shopping appeals to all age groups.”

The retailer IKEA surveyed people across the globe for its 2018 “Life at Home” report, and found that one in four respondents said they work more from home than ever before. Nearly two in three said they’d rather live in a small home in a great location than in a big home in a less ideal spot.

Jeffrey Dungan, an international architect based in Mountain Brook, Ala., said that more clients want to use their homes for creative pursuits.

“There’s this idea that with the increasing popularity of the Maker movement, and people turning hobbies into successful businesses — whether it’s a side hustle or primary income — the home is more and more becoming a place of business,” he said. “Home is the place where you can do what you love unapologetically, and as more people turn what they love to do into a business, then in a way their business becomes home.”

Dungan worked on a home in Texas where the client wanted a sewing room placed right off the master suite. Other clients are also asking for dedicated spaces such as yoga and art studios.

In IKEA’s report, Alison Blunt, co-director of the Centre for Studies of Home at Queen Mary University of London, said there are essentially five things that matter to people when they consider the ideal home: “Comfort, security, a sense of autonomy and ownership, and the capacity for privacy. Home at its core goes back to a sense of belonging.”

A survey by the home-furnishings retailer Article in 2018 asked people what it took for them to finally call a dwelling a home. Many responders said it takes a couple of holidays, barbecues, family visits, big sporting events and game nights before they really feel “at home.” So feather the proverbial nest however you like, and have fun while you do it. Then invite somebody over.


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