What Makes a House a Home?

By Kate Riley January 21, 2010

Did you ever wonder why the saying “Home Sweet Home” isn’t “House Sweet House” ?  I think the answer is quite obvious.  The word “home” has a much deeper meaning that is far more intangible.    

Like many of you, I spend hours looking through the pages of design magazines, loving the images I see.  I save thousands of those images in my files.  I get ideas from hundreds of sources and store them all away for inspiration.  When I eventually get around to it, I incorporate little upgrades here and there.

country living porch swing One thing strikes me quite often whenever I swoon over fabulous designer spaces.  Yes, they’re gorgeous.  Yes, they’re mesmerizing.   Yes, they make me long for a cleaner, more pulled together design in my own home. 

Yet one thing is absent from all of those images, regardless of how perfect they are on the pages of a glossy magazine.  Those images, those spaces, and those houses are just not home.   A house is just four walls and a roof, but a home is made up of everything else inside. 

A house may be decorated from floor to ceiling with the finest furnishings money can buy.  But that will never ever make it a home.  A home is a sanctuary.  Home is comfort.  Home is inviting.  Home is a refuge from the world. 


pb sweater throw Home is cozy.  Home is lived In.  Home is a pair of shoes in the corner, a blanket on the sofa, books and magazines strewn about, and jackets and scarves on the hooks. 

Home is coffee cups left on the table and beds left unmade.  

Home is where you wear your coziest clothing with only comfort and never fashion in mind. 



cute dog with chew toy


Home is where there are kids’ fingerprints on the windows.

And pet chew toys under the couch.

And pets who sneak up on the couch. 

Home is where there is a junk drawer that needs organizing. 

And laundry piling up. 

Home is where you celebrate that there are messy piles everywhere.

Because those messy piles mean you have loved ones among you. 




country living cookies


Home is filled with your favorite smells.

Be it soaps.

Or candles.

Your husband’s cologne.

Or freshly baked cookies.   

Your momma’s banana bread.

Or your dad’s BBQ. 




laundry drying outside


Home is a little corner of God’s green earth to call your own. 

A place where you might steal a Sunday afternoon nap. 

Laundry on a line or kids playing in the yard. 

A tomato garden or a lettuce patch. 

Roses that need pruning and a lawn that needs mowed. 

Or maybe just a patch of weeds.  But it’s yours. 




Home is where you are surrounded by the simple possessions that make you smile and decorated with your favorite things.   Home is filled with your personal touches and your sentimental collections.     

country living display shelves Source


Home is time spent slowing down.  Sitting down.  Lying down.  Home is filled with the most tender touches.

 baby grip Source

Home is where you begin your morning, and where you meet your loved ones at day’s end.

Hands holding a coffee mug


Most importantly.

Unlike the gorgeous houses in glossy magazines.

Home never ever looks perfect.  


imperfection Source


What is it that makes your house your home ?




  1. I loved that. It made me tear. What beautiful Perfect words to describe a Home.
    Ditto to what you wrote :)

  2. Perfect…absolutely perfect! You summed it all up just right. If home had to be “perfect” then it wouldn’t be a comfort, a haven of rest, a place of love and commitment. Thanks for the great encouragement today.

  3. I love the photos and descriptions – they are beautiful! I have to add, for me, that part of relaxing is having the piles done. Having three kids above age 10 at home means lots of piles. It also means one of my favorite phrases “many hands make light work.” A quick 45 minutes for everyone gets most things put away and wiped off, leaving us with a decently put together house for entertaining ourselves, or others.

  4. I couldn’t agree more! Home is having all your favourite things inside your well designed house. I do love designer spaces as you say, but they never look ‘lived in’!

  5. Wow. I think I need to print off your post and place it in front of me at all times. I run around the house striving to pick up the toys, socks, blankets, etc in an effort to make my space match a magazine image…WHY?

    My kids, my dog, the STUFF that aurrounds me….that makes my home whether I like it or not.

    Great post.

  6. children’s finger prints on the glass….and dog nose smudges on my glass front door….the blanket on the couch that doens’t match the room, but is super cozy…a roaring fire in the fireplace and board game pieces scattered around….


  7. Alexandra Stoddard once said ” Home is where we house (pronounced “houze:) our souls”.
    Your post put it all in such beautiful and simple perspective. Thank you for the reminder!

  8. It wouldn’t be home here if there weren’t Fisher Price Loving Family dolls and furniture scattered about as if they are trying to colonize various spots in the house. :)

    Really, really good post today! I loved all the images and the food for thought. I’m going to carry that with me today. Thanks, Kate! :)

  9. Beautiful post, you said it all. Home is where so many memories are made. I will carry this with me today, and remember how BLESSED I am!

  10. Kate, this post is beautiful–beautiful to read, beautiful to look at, and most of all beautiful to ponder. It’s so easy for us to get caught up in trying to make our houses lovely to look at, and to get discouraged by the fact that they’re not quite as lovely-to-look-at as we wish. And in the January flurry of getting things organized, it’s easy for us to get discouraged that they’re not quite as tidy as we wish. But how our hearts would ache if all we had were beautiful, organized houses. Thank God we have homes full of messy, disorganized love.

  11. Kate..we have been married 34 yrs. we recently have packed up our home of 24 yrs to move into a 40ft rv.I have struggled with the objects that I put into boxes, garage saled and gave to family and friends.It was like getting rid of ME.Yet as time as gone on I’m realizing ME is still here. HOME is where I am with my HUSBAND.This economy has hit a lot of us HARD.Reading your blog..you said what I feel whether I’m in my home on property or in my home on wheels.Enjoy reading your blog.

    Cindy from Texas

  12. That was truly beautiful and just what I needed. Sometimes I need to be reminded that it is ok that my home isn’t perfect because perfect isn’t normal, at least not in my home. A house is just 4 walls but what makes my house a home is what you find when you go inside….and that is a lot of laughter, a little yelling, lots of barking, some crying (from me), a lot of tripping over shoes, always stepping in water, a stubbed toe followed by a 4 letter word, a lost lizard, a sick dog and an exhausted mother, but I wouldn’t trade any of it. Thank you for making me remember all the good things!


  13. Great Post. I have spent the past 4 years living to other’s expectations of my home should look like and since I could never afford the things I saw in the magazines or in my “rich” friends homes, my home was left undone. Once I discovered that it was MY HOME and had to reflect MY FAMILY, it’s beginning to feel like home not just a house. I love all the imperfection and I love that my sink is full of dishes because it means my children and husband had a healthy dinner last night and breakfast this morning. I love that my beds are unmade cause it means my family had somewhere warm and dry to sleep last night. Thanks for reminding me of the blessings in my life and in my home.

  14. Every word you said, it’s correct. My home doesn’t look like magazines, but it’s the home where I’m happy.

  15. Thanks, Kate- I needed to hear that this morning!
    BTW- I just realized that for some reason your page isn’t updating itself in my “My Blog List” on the side of my blog page. Since I frequently use that list to peruse new offerings from my favorite bloggers, I’ve been missing your new posts. It currently says that you last posted 6 days ago, but obviously you’ve posted a bunch in the last 6 days. Not sure what would cause that?

  16. Home is wherever my family is. Period. That being said, I do wish it were just the tiniest bit neater. There, I said it.

  17. Home is the refrigerator gallery of finger paintings, doodles, noodle art and ambiguous masterpieces. A dog snoozing on the chair always adds an element of comfort. Oh, yeah, and lots of hair on the bathroom floor!

  18. What a beautiful post! Thanks for reminding me the true meaning of home. Sometime I get lost in the mess, and try to spend all my time cleaning and organizing. Then I realize I missed out on lots of quiet and sweet moments with my family. I always felt unrespected when DH messes up the perfectly folded cloth pile, or leaves his shoes right by the door instead of in the boot tray. BUT after reading your post and these wonderful comments, I guess I can try to look at things from a different angel. I just have to accept that I cannot make the house perfect all the time, and all those imperfection actually make the house unique, make it mine, and most importantly make it the HOME for my family. Thanks!

  19. Great post…thanks, I needed that! There must be something in the air, because my post today is also about remembering what is really important at home, and so is Kimba’s.
    I’m off to see if anyone did too!

  20. Lovely post. You put in words what most of your readers believe and feel. We might not remember this simple truth every day, but it comes back to us once in a while through reminders like this one. Thank you.

  21. What makes my house a home is actually not the house itself, rather the neighborhood. I and my family have been looking for what we found here for years, a strong sense of community with wonderful friends to enjoy, endless activities and people to call on when you need a hand. I could actually live in another house within the hood and be just fine…it sounds silly, but moving here as truly been life changing. It Takes A Village.

  22. You’ve just crystallized the jumble if thoughts that have been running rampant in my brain … and the clarity makes me cry tears of sadness and relief. I live in a house that does not and never will feel like my “home”. I am not comforted to be here, I do not long to return at day end, I do not dream or plan or relax within these walls. I simply exist, waiting to be set free. This house, this museum of marital failure, is my husbands house, a house he shared with another wife, and the pain and regret imprinted on and in this house is haunting. I long for the day when I will know, soul deep, the richness of the feelings you’ve described. Until then, I wait to exhale.

  23. This is one of my favorite posts. You hit the nail on the head about the difference between a house and a home. I always “see” my homes imperfections, yet nobody else does. I need to get over that.

  24. I actually went to a party here at the home of someone very successful, very wealthy and with a design background. The house was perfect. I walked through it with my mouth hanging open, the design, layout, kitchen, baths, furniture…amazing. There were photos on the wall with very important people, but none of family. I loved the house…but, it was so cold.

    I can’t get past an unmade bed, mine is always made. But, my shoes may be at the patio door for easy dog take out…my cup or cups will be sitting in some room, somewhere…and there is always a book or magazine next to the last place I was sitting.

  25. WOW…this posting is beautiful. Thank you so much for this entry – it’s lovely!

  26. Well said, very well said.

    I cruise through a lot of decor blogs and such and quite often the ones that get a lot of comments are those that look almost from a magazine but if you look closely, so many are without character. At first I feel “bad” about my quirky sense of style but then I think on it and it’s my “home” dangit. My things are things that make me happy and not what Joan or Kim or John down the street might think is high style and who cares, I live in it.

    Thanks for posting that. It cements the idea that what looks good to me is not wrong or not stylish, just what makes me feel good and that is as it should be!

  27. I loved this! Wonderful way to say it! What makes our house our home, is being able to watch our boys grow in this home…seeing the marks of their growth on the wall…Our sweat and tears in making it the most enjoyable and comfortable place we would all rather be!

  28. I love it that you have the home never ever loks perfect!!! Its nice to know mine is not the only one with (many) imperfections, phewwww!!! Its like the guilty, but secretly enjoyable feeling you get when you see celebrities with cellulite… (shame on me!!) lol

  29. Ah, my eyes are misty.

    I love that. For a perfectionist like me, “home” is kind of hard to accept. Wanting the throw pillows perfectly fluffed and arranged on the couch. Wanting the kitchen sink dry and spotless instead of filled with dishes and remnants of dinner.

    Home to me is my husband’s nightstand being piled up with crumpled receipts from him emptying his pockets. It is fluff and stuffing strewn about from my puppy ripping her toys to shreds. It is me making my dining room table into a laundry room- even though I have a laundry room. :o)

    I think I’m going to link your post up on my blog. I want everyone I know to see it.

  30. Love it, home isn’t perfect. Right now home is the Christmas tree still up in all it’s glory and whose lights we turn on every night. Home is the cat climbing the same Christmas tree and the star is now leaning sideways as a result. Home is the functional, but not magazine worthy laundry room. Home is stepping over cat toys and wishing that in addition to learning how to get his toys from the box that he would put those toys back.

  31. Well said! I often look at photos of beautiful homes in magazines and think they look gorgeous, but can never actually picture myself living there. Yes, the swanky minimalist monochromatic ultra-modern homes are very cool, but where would I put my collection of ridiculous little animal figurines that I’ve been collecting since I was a kid and where would I lazily throw my coat when I walk in the door? Gorgeous, but not for me!

  32. Absolutely perfect!! I love for my space to be clean, however, I want to live in it too. Growing up, our house was “sterile”. My mother was always concerned about what “they” might think, do or say if they dropped by. :-( It was an absolutely miserable way to live and I never wanted my kids to experience that. A home is a refuge, a sanctuary, a warm, lively, loving space where kids & pets play, delicious food is prepared (however one chooses to do that) and there is laughter and love and comfort and a respite from the world.

  33. That’s the best post I have ever read. You are amazing. Thanks for keeping it real and making my day better. All I can say is, “WOW – Well said”. Also great comments by my fellow CG friends.

  34. Great thing to remember! My house isn’t a home unless my cat is there following me around and meowing to get attention!

  35. Deep sigh of relief…our family really lives here and it if never picture perfect. Your post really puts it all in perspective. Thanks.

  36. Kate, this post is beautiful, it is beautifully written and the pictures are so fitting. I absolutely loved reading it and pondering over it. I hope you don’t mind I linked your post to my post today. I hope everyone visit’s and enjoys this post as much as I did. Blessings, Marla

  37. I love my home, it is a place where I can walk in and immediately feel calmer after a long day. A home with where my furry kids are leaving hair on the couch and paw prints on the floor. I <3 my home and we just finished renovations this past weekend which makes me love it even more!!

  38. I felt home today at work reading your post. And all your blog posts from the last week update on my blog roll today! It fixed itself! Thank you for your encouragement on my blog, too :)

  39. Kate, that is the most beautiful, poignant, eloquent post I have read in quite some time. I am bookmarking this one for sure, as I KNOW I will need the reminder…probably sooner than later. Thank you for sharing your heart on this today. As you can see from the comments, your words were a blessing to many.

  40. An AMEN to your post as well. It is easy to get caught up in the decorating and forget the tender moments we are creating in those spaces. Love the sentiment and the truths. Holly

  41. I loved this!! So sweet, and soooo true! I have to show this to my husband when he starts complaining about the laundry piles. hahahaha…

  42. I love this post! I definitely agree with you! I’ve always thought the same about this matter. Again, LOVE this post:) Have a wonderful weekend:)

  43. How right you are. This is what I try to keep in mind when I throw my hands up in despair over the unfinished corners and dirty dishes that never seem to be all the way taken care of.

  44. I loved this post! It rings so true. It’s easy to get just as caught up in the magazines (which I love) version of what our homes should look like as it is the magazines version of what WE should look like. It’s just not reality. I’m learning to love the little things that make my house a home and accept that it’s never going to look perfect. People (and pets) live here. People that I love more than anything. And, that is what makes my house a home.

  45. Lovely images and beautiful words, Kate. My house is a home because it is filled with giggles, love and fun, Hubby and two little princesses!

  46. Beautiful thoughts. Things that make my house a home: books in the middle of being read strewn about; toys tucked into unexpected places (like the wood box, the shoe basket, the snack cupboard); warm patches on the furniture where a dog or cat has been curled up for a few hours. I’m cozier just thinking about it.

  47. I love this post, Kate. I was just reading a blog where they featured some photos of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Tribeca loft and thought “wow, that place is gorgeous, but it’s…tooo…perfect.”

    I agree that home is a cup of tea on the table and your latest knitting project on the arm of your comfy chair. It’s a pile of books on the bedside table. It’s your husbands shoes by the back door bc he was nice enough not to slog into the house and bring mud in.

    It is cozy and tidy, but lived in.

  48. Lovely post. I couldn’t agree more with all of your examples of “home”. One thing that makes me really happy is seeing my cat and dog curled up or stretched out somewhere, in the house or out in the yard, completely comfortable and safe and content.

  49. Ours certainly fits your definition of home. Thank you for helping me see it with new eyes.

  50. What a beautiful article! And so appropriate for everyone! Home is exactly as described – I don’t think you missed a detail. Home to me is dolls on pillows on the floor covered in just cleaned towels; chairs pushed together with sheets over them to create a fort; my dog’s bones on the floor half chewed and chew toys waiting to be thrown; books on the couch next to the homemade blankets, coffe cups on the table and my sewing sitting ready to be picked up again! Add in the plants and I am a very happy, happy person! Thanks so much for sharing this- we all need this reminder daily.

  51. This is a beautiful post. You said it all. I’m in the process of decorating my townhouse fixer-upper. I finished the living room and my dear friend (Gil) who has shown great patience in trucking furniture, moving sofas, and nailing trim gave me one of the greatest compliments. He sat down in one of my Goodwill finds, two deep-blue velvet tufted wingback chairs, by the fireplace and said, “I like this, it’s cozy. It feels like home.”

  52. I came here through Hooked on Houses and what a treat! Sometimes I come down on myself for not keeping my home in Show Home perfection – especially with a 2.5 year old, a six month old and a 9 week old puppy – but your post definitely brings perspective! Home is the pitter patter of little feet trotting down the hall, a page full of first scribbles hung on the fridge, too many shoes cluttering up the front entrance and a collection of house plants that are verrrrry thirsty (better go water them now, while I’m remembering).

  53. Thank you for such a beautiful message – just what I needed to hear!

    I’m visited from Hooked on Houses and am very grateful for that I found this. Thank you for your wisdom.

  54. You expressed this so beautifully!

    This is why I get so sad when people tell me that they are not proud of their home. That it’s only temporary and not worth making it “home”. That they avoid having friends over because they are embarassed.

    I have discovered that I am passionate about helping people make their house (even temporary or rental houses/apartments) a home. A place that nurtures you and helps you recharge. A place that reflects who you are. A place you happily invite others to share. A welcome home.

  55. I couldn’t agree more. This makes me think of George Bailey in “It’s a wonderful Life. ” He hates that newel post that always comes off in his hand, then at the end he kisses it! Home is like no place else on earth, even the finest hotel. I love my happy home! Thank you.

  56. Oh, love your site!! White, white and more white!!! Love it!! so beautiful … yes, leave your door open!! thank you for letting me “dream” a few minutes!!
    Pink Hugs,

  57. you are right….
    my sister has the most amaizing house but no one goes cuz she is alwas saing do not thouch the walls or dont use the table or the nice livingroom. i have a home its still under construccion. i still dont have a finished kitchen but i have familiy over all the time and they love it. when my home is all finished it will be a very worm home.
    from ensenada MEXICO .thanks deanna

Leave a comment!

Keep the conversation going! Your email address will not be published.*


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Lately on Instagram (@centsationalstyle)