The designation between House and Home

The designation between house and home – is it semantics or is there a difference. Can I as “the architect” influence the difference one way or another?

According to Merriam Webster:

house (n): a building that serves as living quarters for one or a few families

home (n):a : one’s place of residence : domicile

: a familiar or usual setting : congenial environment; also :the focus of one’s domestic attention

So no help there – but the definitions aren’t really the same are they? A house is a type of building where you put your stuff, and home is where you live your life. You don’t measure your kids growth progress in a house, you do it in your home. Or is just me?

As an architect who designs houses, modern houses in particular, I don’t think that I can make your house be a home but I do think I can make it a lot harder for your house to become a home. So I have talked about some of the rules that define modern architecture;

• adoption of the machine aesthetic
• materials and functional requirements determine the final product
• emphasis of horizontal lines
• express the structure of the building
• rejection of ornamentation – the simplification of form + elimination of “unnecessary detail”

and the most enduring, and most quoted rule of all:

Form follows function

So if you fall into the camp that thinks that there is a difference between a house and a home, does the style of house figure into it? For me, it’s about creating memories and shared experiences with your family. These things can happen in a house, a car, a tent – under a bridge – wherever you happen to be. I don’t think it has to do with your “stuff” even though your belongings do contribute to a space being yours. This may be an extreme example but it is what popped into my head;

If a homeless person has all of their worldly possessions in a shopping cart, can the cart be considered their home? What happens when they unload all those belongings and lay claim to some space. I think at least it suggests that your home has to have some sort of permanence, a physical marker to an area that is “yours”. But houses are fairly permanent structures (relatively speaking), so I don’t think that’s it. Maybe it’s that the stuff has meaning and that’s why someone cares enough to move it around with them from space to space – the “stuff” has value to the owner which means there is some sort of emotional connection to keeping, maintaining, even relocating the belongings from “house” to “house”.

Where is all the stuff in a modern house? So does this mean you have to have stuff in order to have a home? Is the cart the house and once it’s spread out, it becomes a home?

There are some things that are noticeably missing from this list; things that can be included in modern architecture. What I am looking for is the evidence of human beings living in the space (the woman above is a cardboard cutout) While it is rarely the intent of architectural photography to capture how a space is used (rather opting for ideal conditions, perfect placement, and staged imagery), for the life of me I can’t imagine how this space would look with  a jacket on the chair, crayon drawings on the fridge, a briefcase or books stacked up on the table.

The work I do is rarely pure enough to capture the interests of architectural purists and it probably doesn’t push the edge far enough to catch the interest of magazines. I know that people who have things going on don’t maintain a perfect photo ready home. Too often modern houses appear sterile, inhuman – certainly not child friendly – and devoid of personality despite the fact that modern homes were originally supposed to make life easier to live.

Charles and Ray Eames House – Interior with “stuff

I think I have convinced myself that an architect can’t create a home, that is a job is for the occupants to take on and complete. As for the consideration that a modern house is more difficult to be a modern home, I will need to think on that a little longer … but where can I go to have some quality time and do some serious architectural thinking? …

I do some of my best creative thinking while riding a camel. I wonder if this will be a memory brick in the home I am building with my family?

At this point, I would like to hear what other people think … chime in and leave a comment. What makes a house a home?


Bob signature FAIA


This is the 24th entry into a series titled “ArchiTalks” and the topic was “House or Home?”

When I started #ArchiTalks, I wanted people to discover that architects have different experiences, backgrounds, and objectives. Despite architects all getting lumped together with a handful of broad stereotypes, we are all onions … we have many layers and not all of them smell good.

If you would like to see how other architects from around the globe responded to today’s topic of “House or Home” just follow the links below.

Keith Palma – Architect’s Trace (@cogitatedesign)
I don’t design homes

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
House or Home? It’s in the story.

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
“house” or “home”?

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
ArchiTalks: House or Home?

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
House or Home? The Answer to Everything

Mark R. LePage – EntreArchitect (@EntreArchitect)
Emotional Marketing for Architects: House or Home?

Collier Ward – One More Story (@BuildingContent)
House or Home? A Choice of Terms

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
house or home: #architalks

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
House or Home — Discover the Difference

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
“house” or “home”?

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Architalks #24 : House or Home

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
House or Home? – Depends

Michael LaValley – Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
House or Home? Train for One, Design for Another

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
A Rose by Any Other Name…

Greg Croft – Sage Leaf Group (@croft_gregory)
House or Home

Kyu Young Kim – J&K Atelier (@sokokyu)
Making a House a Home

Nisha Kandiah – ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
Dwelling on a Macro scale

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
House or Home: One’s a Place, the Other a Feeling.

Tim Ung – Journey of an Architect (@timothy_ung)
Architalks – A House is not a home

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Designing a House into a Home

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
#ArchiTalks #24 House or Home? #RefugeeCrisis @GrainneHassett mentioned

Source: Life of an Architect