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Creating a Home You Love (Use Your Words)

What’s the first thing you do when you move into a new house? Do you set up the beds? Do you line the cabinets with shelf paper? Do you make a list of the rooms you want to paint? Do you immediately go out and buy a new welcome mat? Well, I do all these things, usually within the first week, but the very first thing my family brings into a home is a new toaster. Why? Because it means we can immediately make toast by which we can “toast” to our new home. It’s an immediate way to claim our spot, bring scent into the kitchen and add comfort to our weary move-addled muscles and brains.

Whether you just moved in, or you’re coming up on a decade, creating a home takes time and intention. Here are some ways to think through how you want your home to take shape.

  1. Choose an aesthetic that suits your style and also the style of your home. Let the house talk to you. Don’t worry, I’m not going all woo-woo on you. But it’s true that each home has a style all it’s own. I’m very onboard with mixing styles in a home, but make sure your choices, particularly in more permanent finishes are in line with the architecture of your house. You likely won’t want to add Victorian gingerbread to a mid-mod home, and your modern loft may not support your love of a beachy ambiance. When we moved into this house, I chose the bright colors and clean lines of a Scandinavian sensibility. What’s your style?
  2. Come up with three words you want your family and guests to feel when they enter your home. I think my words were: comfortable, warm, and welcome. Some other good words that could fit relating to your home might be: spare, bright, quiet, cheerful, peaceful, moody, professional, family-friendly, pet-friendly, party central, eclectic, harmonious, studious, cozy, gracious, or safe. Think carefully about what your three words could be.
  3. Once you’ve chosen your aesthetic and your three feeling words, write them down and share them with your family. These words will help you drive every decorating decision from furniture to decor to paint colors and exterior choices.

Here’s how this worked for me: when we chose our current sofa, we had a toddler and soon, a baby on the way. We wanted a family-sized couch big enough to fit all four of us for movies and reading and nighttime prayers. We wanted soft upholstery over leather (or pleather) and we wanted something sturdy and endlessly comfortable. It had to withstand children who jump on furniture and it had to be a great nap couch. I saw the big blue couch in the window at Sadler’s while driving by one dark February afternoon. It has served us very well.

Now, 18 years years hence, with kids ready to fly the coop, we’re considering our next couch. Our style is still largely Scandinavian, lots of warm wood, bright colors and clean lines. Now that our kids are older, how can I use the words comfortable, warm and welcome to find the sofa of our dreams? I already know I don’t want the oversized rolled arms of the Sadler’s sofa, but I still would like it to be nice and long, welcoming for three adults (or four if we need to make space). It will still need to be a good nap couch, but maybe it’s time to find a couch that’s a little more grown up? Hmmm. I’ll keep you posted.

Other ways we’ve created comfort, warmth and welcome in our home is by making sure guests have a place to hang their coats and drop their bags once inside the door. We are serious about having plenty of dishes, tableware, linens and pillows for those who visit. We have enough cloth napkins and a wide variety of napkin rings for everyone, and long-term guests are assigned their own on the first day of their visit. We always have coffee, tea, sparkling water and decaf coffee available. We also strive to keep a clean enough house so anyone who comes feels welcome whenever they arrive.

It might be fair to say that our three words, comfortable, warm and welcome, could be combined to form one word: hospitality. Because of this, I’ll share my favorite quote from The Fellowship of the Ring. It perfectly exemplifies the kind of hospitality we like to share in our home.

“Frodo was now safe in the Last Homely House east of the Sea. That house was, as Bilbo had long ago reported, ‘a perfect house, whether you like food or sleep, or story-telling or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all.’ Merely to be there was a cure for weariness, fear and sadness.” –JRR Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring