can we make a home?

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I hope you have a good home or better yet a loving home life. Sadly, many cannot boast of that – either a home or a positive home life. Nevertheless, most of us, who would be reading a blog online, most likely have somewhere to call home and in some respects a place that is somewhat pleasant, or at least keeps out the rain. What makes that place of shelter a home? Don’t answer that, because there’s no definitive answer, nor is that necessary right now. Except…

Can an architect aid in that process? I know we design houses (physical objects – not family relationships), but can our work, can our contributions, can our experience assist in making that house more of a home? Perhaps I am projecting an air of hubris, but let me explore this avenue with you.

Several weeks ago, I was somewhat responsible for putting my family through the frustration from minor renovation projects in our home of which painting was the primary culprit. We had a painter paint most of our first-floor walls and ceilings. Ten years went by and it needed a change – one I had pondered for the past nine years. There’s more to the story, but the relevant part is for two weeks, we lived among drop cloths, moved furniture and plastic taped to the walls, knowing that the next morning the painters would return. This left a feeling of impermanence with us that grew quite unpleasant. Once it was complete, we were able to go back to our routines and regained our sense of permanence, an ingredient I believe, in a sense of home. We love the changes we made (Ok, our son didn’t, but that’s another story).

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Statistics tell us that people move frequently. Some sources state that we will move six or move times in our lifetime (the Census bureau reported 11.7 times in our lifetime actually). I can boast of a dozen times if I count my college years. Regardless of the specific number, we can all agree it is many times. What if that could be reduced? Should that be reduced? What if you chose not to ever move again or do you enjoy that process?

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I wonder, just wonder if we (architects) were given more influence over a person’s home, would they be less apt to move? Audacious you say? If we eliminated the variables beyond a person’s control that force them to move (i.e. job change, divorce, family structure change, unemployment, natural disaster), what could cause a person to want to stay in their current house – indefinitely? What would give them the sense of permanence, comfort, sentimentality, and I’ll say it – love for their house, for their home or even where they live? What if one couldn’t even make them move?

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No one needs an architect to have a home (or even a house for that matter). People have had homes for thousands of years without us pesky architects, and we may me more mobile now than we have ever (history or anthropology majors can set me straight if I’m wrong). I believe, from my limited narrow experience that people do not love their homes, nor do they feel a sense of permanence in them. “Once the kids leave, we plan to move to…” “As soon as <<insert event>>, we are out of here.” “I don’t want to <<insert change>>, because we don’t know how long we are going to live here.”

house6 dwg 06.pngI designed our house, my family makes it a home, but I believe the thoughtful, deliberate decisions Amy and I made in the planning contribute to it or facilitate it being a home more so than other places we lived. In fact, I wrote about that earlier this year. I believe that, and we’re not moving if we can help it. We love it.

This is nebulous territory, but I love the warm water of ambiguity. I will just end it here and let you share what you think.

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(psst…this is the part where you talk…)

can we make a home?

10 thoughts on “can we make a home?

  1. Sean Tobin says:

    Nice thoughts, Lee. I had not really considered it before, but I am now sitting here wondering about how many more people would stay put if their house was, truly, ‘their’ house, and not a semi-customized stock plan that was chosen from a limited number of designs in a subdivision. What IF there were more people who stayed in their house because they love it? Got me thinking now….

    1. That’s all I ever want to do is get people thinking. I’m not proposing whole house renovations, but carefully ‘designed’ alterations that could change one’s perception of their own house beyond what HGTV and the DIY movement is offering.

  2. I’ve never owned a home and after discovering those “pesky” aka great architects abilities to create exactly what I want and need, I’m convinced there is no other option for me. And though our current living situation isn’t the most favorable (Living with the in-laws), we’re so grateful for the opportunity to work towards making our first purchase our last purchase. #nocookiecuttersplease #uniquelyours #operationloveourhome

  3. As an aside, I do not think that tiny homes are a fad, for one very good reason. There is a dearth of affordable rentals for disadvantaged single persons. Small rural towns with shops and medical facilities would benefit from more clients in the vicinity and customers benefit by proximity. Nobody explores this and tiny homes are designed mainly as a quirk, not as viable long-term housing. I’d love to see an architectural competition utilising new materials, new tech, to make a small home that could be prebuilt/kit for permanent placement, with towns and shires co-operating in their eventual placement. It can be done for 30-45K each.

    That said, people buy huge homes, forgetting that somebody has to clean, paint and maintain them. They don’t consider the possibility of injury or disease to a family member. Our self-build was designed with 3 bedrooms(4.5 x 4.5 m) ,2.7 m high and 2 bathrooms (one fully accessible), 1 metre wide corridors , 900 mm doors, 5 m x 6 m. galley kitchen, 4.5m x 6m lounge in ‘shotgun’ style. Every outside door is one brick high, easily ramped later. Double insulation with door and window placement for the Venturi effect. We could have done more but the budget was tight. 110 sq m,( plus a 36 sq m. shop at the front). I never intend to leave it.

    1. Thank you for commenting, even though the tiny house comment before is getting off track of this post. I am not opposed to them nor believe they should be a fad; I’m merely commenting on my observation in my area and what I see on TV. That is not a nationally comprehensive or global summary, yet if it were catching on more, we’d hear more about it.

      Right after you state they are not a fad, you state immediately that there is an abundance of rentals (not tiny homes) available and how they COULD be utilized for a select marginalized population (good idea BTW). That doesn’t support your comment about them not being a fad nor their existence.

      You are correct in your explanation of the huge homes that people buy and what that means. I agree.

      To be honest, I’d be more interested in hearing about your own self-build as you can 1) speak of it objectively and comment that it is “home” 2) speak of it passionately, 3) share your knowledge with someone else in a manner that might make tiny homes appealing and result in them being less of a fad and more likely to be considered. This could be part of the competition you suggest.

      In my region (Pittsburgh PA), there was a tiny home promoted with more to come ( However, when the details leaked of how utterly expensive it was ($191,000 for 350 sf or $546/sf) no one would want to replicate it knowing they’ve given up an opportunity at a “less than tiny” home for the same price (perhaps around 900 to 1,000 sf). Going from the American average of 2,400 square feet (223 m2) to something radically less (say 500 square feet or 42 m2) will take some time to catch on, if ever. Those who embrace it are also intentionally seeking a radically different lifestyle. On an aside, one of the largest building types going up in my region is self-storage facilities. What I can conclude from that is people have too much stuff and their current homes cannot contain them. Therefore they rent another “home” to store their useless junk. Sad.

      If you read any of my posts from the past 6 or 7 years, you’ll see I’m an advocate for small(er) houses. Today, I was just interesting in writing about the design qualities of home.

  4. Making a home is, in the end, making a building: the extreme subjectivity of the occupant is as pungent as the program of a prison or church: the reactions people have: negative to the picturesque/pandering or the abstract/Modern simply ignore the humans who love the homes: the economics do not lie: TV reality shows in all their calculated nihilism and culturally sad realities are very highly rated, and Modernist homes do not retain economic value: the realities of our inbred expectations make Homebuilding a place of subjectivity, often defensiviveness: that is baloney: it costs so much time and money to build anything that anything that is built is loved by the builder: let it be at that…

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