March 16, 2017

"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?" Is it all up to the people who move into the structure? Is modern-style architecture impairing their progress from house to 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.
Ah! But why is the architect (Bob Borson) assuming that ease of living is what makes the place feel like a home? Maybe complexity and difficulty is more human.

Me, I love the modern style and wish we lived in a much more pared down, visually uncluttered, sleek space. I think the people who live in the space are the containers of the warmth and life that feels like home. I don't need the structure to do that to me. I'd like the structure to back off. Give me space.


Beloved Commenter AReasonableMan said...

I agree with Althouse. I would like to tear down our house and build a minimalist version. Unfortunately I am not the only one that gets a vote on this.

traditionalguy said...

There are two goals competing here.

A House is a social-political assertion of the power of the Patriarch who rules it as his castle, and is designed to show off the size of his power. It must be as large as possible to show off the number of the servants serving The House that can hold furniture the size of small ships. If it is outside of town ,it must overlook gardens the size of a National Park.

A Home is 2 or 3 small cozy rooms designed for meals and sleep needed by a loving family.

Mixing the two goals is a never ending game.

tcrosse said...

There isn't a Realtor in America who sells houses. They all sell homes.

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...

I used to live at home, now I stay at the house. The Mats, I think.

Henry said...

I live in a California Ranch outside of Boston. It's a unique house, built by one of the post-war developers of our town for his own family. A second owner opened up the entire first floor (sans bedrooms and bathrooms) into one room. The living room kitchen, dining area, office area, art studio are all open. What makes it a home are different seating and working clusters that organize the activity.

Interestingly, a house that inspired us to buy this one was built by an architect friend. He designed an open floor plan that was very child-friendly. In an open floor plan you can cook or work and keep an eye on your kids wherever they are. What makes modern unfriendly to children isn't space. It's hard edges and glass.

But the question of house vs. home reminds me of the classic work A Pattern Language which is very invested in the idea that traditional structures reflect a pattern of human need. It's the kind of book that will uncompromisingly assert that roofs should have sheltering eaves and houses need window seats.

(My modern house has both.)

ceowens said...

Of course, a house can be a home. But I have thought that home is the place, that when you go there, they have to take you in. My kids (in their 40s) have a home. I'm not sure I do.

Bob Boyd said...

Home is the place you feel most comfortable taking a dump.
If you're proud and pleased with the way it looks, that's just icing on the cake.

Beloved Commenter AReasonableMan said...

Henry said...
I live in a California Ranch outside of Boston.

Nice house, looks like the renovation was inspired by Eichler.

Expat(ish) said...

@Bob - ha!

My only requirement for our new house is that it have a comfortable place for me to have some private reading time twice a day.

Everything else was icing.


PS - Moved from a 50's modern California ranch to a 2004 modern FL home. Really different, both lovely to live in. But maybe that's just how we roll?

Ron Winkleheimer said...

I love the modern style and wish we lived in a much more pared down, visually uncluttered, sleek space.

My theory on this modern tendency towards a "not cluttered" living space is that it is an artifact of our prosperity.

There is a passage in one of the "Little House On The Prairie" books were it is mentioned that one of the sisters is given a cup for her birthday. Before that, they had to share a single cup. Buying a cup was a major expense.

I think of that and the Victorian Era penchant for filling every square inch with what are now called tchotchkes. The Victorian Era coincided with the Industrial Revolution, which was the first time in human history were it was possible to cheaply produce massive amounts of clutter. So having a cluttered house was a sign of prosperity. Now however, we swim in a sea of material goods which we take as a natural state of affairs, like cheap readily available food, clean and potable water, plumbing in general, central air and heat, and antibiotics.

I sometimes think about this as I empty the dishwasher. Absent company my wife and I only need two plates, two glasses, two forks, etc. We could, after all, just wash them after every use. Instead, we have sets of twelve which we put into the dish washer until it is filled up, then we run it.

If you think about it, that is an insane luxury which we take for granted.

sean said...

Modernism explained and critiqued:

Jamie said...

We made a rule when we first got married (mostly me because I had given the subject some thought, but ratified readily by the husband) that we would try to make everything in our house functional, beautiful, easy to clean, and meant to be used, with no off-limits-to-children things. We are not 100% successful (we do have some sort of random plastic dishes for use when small children visit if their parents say they are nervous about their kids' using real dishes and glasses, for instance) but we still work hard to maintain this group of standards.

And Ron W, too right.

Henry said...

@ARM -- That's Eichler style is deja-vue.

I know that Cliff May was an inspiration for the original builder. He passed on some Cliff May folios to the second owners who left them for us.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

My understanding is that HVAC really changed the way architects designed houses.

Before central heat and air became standard, airflow and other factors had to be accommodated. High ceilings and lots of open space would have been expensive if not impossible to keep cool/heated.

I was reminded of that when we visited some friends at their newly purchased loft condo in a renovated warehouse. Twenty foot ceilings (at least) and no walls except for privacy around the bath and bedrooms, none of which came anywhere near to reaching the ceiling. My first thought was that I thought it looked great, but wouldn't want to pay the utilities.

And I can look at a Frank Loyd Wright house and see that it is visually appealing, but I also think about the fact that flat roofs are a more prone to leaks than those with a pitch.

Earnest Prole said...

House and home are class distinctions. From Paul Fussell’s Class: A Guide Through the American Status System:

All classes except sometimes upper-middle are implicated in the scandal of saying home when they mean house. But the middle class seems to take a special pleasure in saying things like "They live in a lovely five-hundred-thousand-dollar home," or, after an earthquake, "The man noticed that his home was shaking violently." We can trace, I think, the stages by which house disappeared as a word favored by the middle class. First, home was offered by the real-estate business as a way of warming the product, that is, making the prospect imagine that in laying out money for a house he was purchasing not a passel of bricks, Formica, and wallboard but snuggly warmth, comfort, and love. The word home was then fervently embraced by the customers for several reasons: (1) the middle class loves to use words which have achieved cliché status in advertising; (2) the middle class, like the real-estate con men, also enjoys the comforting fantasy that you can purchase love, comfort, warmth, etc., with cold cash, or at least achieve them by some formula or other; (3) the middle class, by nature both puritanical and terrified of public opinion, welcomed home because, to its dirty mind, house carried bad associations. One spoke of a rest home, but of a bawdy, whore-, fancy, or sporting house. No one ever heard of a home of ill fame, or, for that matter, a cat home. So out went house for the same reason that madam has never really caught on in middle-class America. But curiously, users of home to describe domestic shelters make one exception. A beach house is so called, never a beach home. Because of the word's associations with current real-estate scams, a home, or something appropriately so designated, does tend to suggest something pretty specific: namely, a small, pretentious, jerry-built developer's rip-off positioned in some unfortunate part of the country without history, depth, or allusiveness. You don't speak of a "two-hundred-year-old white clapboard frame farmhome" in Maine, New Hampshire, or Vermont. Homes are what the middle class lives in. As it grows progressively poorer, it sells its homes and moves into mobile homes (formerly, trailers) or motor homes.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

we have sets of twelve

And we have more than one set! We have two, count them two sets of dishes for use only during the Christmas season. To be fair, we inherited one of the sets, but still one of the reasons we chose the end tables we have was because they can functions as extra storage.

We have been trying to get rid of a lot of the extraneous stuff for a couple of years, but both of us come from, if not poverty stricken, less than financially secure backgrounds which makes discarding things impossible. We try to give some of it away to friends or family, but they don't want it either. So a lot of it goes to charity.

mockturtle said...

Growing up an architect's daughter, I lived in an open, modern, rather sterile, product of my father's design. I have craved cozy ever since.

Beloved Commenter AReasonableMan said...

Blogger Henry said...
I know that Cliff May was an inspiration for the original builder.

May and Eichler produced very similar designs in their overlapping careers and both were at least somewhat influenced by FLW. I don't know enough to easily distinguish the two styles. I like all of them.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Speaking of architects, worst architect ever?

Mike Brady.

One bathroom shared between 3 boys and 3 girls, and those shared bedrooms! But he has a huge space dedicated to his use. And they have a maid who has her own suite. I think we can assume she is not sharing the Brady's bathroom.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Also, if you put something in the attic, as my brother-in-law says, you might as well take it to the dump. You are not going to use it again. Its just something that will have to be hauled out when they sell your house after you die.

Anonymous said...

Apropos of which, don't know if the old Unhappy Hipsters site has been linked here.

cacimbo said...

I find modern open design visually appealing, especially the massive windows but would not chose that as my permanent abode. Currently Americans do seem to want more and more stuff. Even today's permanent homeless have loads of stuff. In NYC some have six+ shopping carts full of stuff they move from location to location.

exiledonmainstreet, green-eyed devil said...

Ron's insights are spot on. My mom loved tchotchkes and knick-knacks. After a Spartan, Depression-era childhood, they made her feel prosperous. One of my assigned childhood chores was dusting, so I was not nearly as fond of them. She and my dad lived in the same house for 40 years, so she accumulated a lot of crap.

In contrast, I've moved many times, and if anything makes you lose sentimental feelings for your belongings, it's having to pack them up and cart them to a new place. I became very ruthless about discarding or giving away possessions and although I've been in my current home for almost a decade now, I always end up with at least one box to haul to Goodwill after I'm done with spring cleaning.

The one great exception is books. I have a difficult time letting go of books, although I'm running out of places to put them. They're as much of a pain in ass to dust as mom's Hummel figurines, and certainly a pain to pack up and move. But I feel uneasy in a home without books, or with very few books.

JOB said...

from House of Haddock

Wisdom builds her house,
But folly with her own hands tears it down.
- Proverbs 14:1

First Mansion
You enter the house to see the house, four walls
And foundation under constant hazard
Of time and crumbling emotions in time.
You enter the house to see what the house
Is not: the four walls that see not the weariness
Of history, nor keepers of the shades
Now gone down to sacred rest and left restless,
Unburied. Enter the house and senses detect
A quiet genius undisturbed as attic air,
Locked in a tomb, no part of the fixtures
But like a fiction, finding the locus
Where object and memory meet, escape
Time, and maintain vigilance over what
From the root cellar grows in Haddock House
Expressed in elegant elegiacs,
In the dust and mold, the fingers of bone
Trace the moistened tracks a snail will make,
Moving toward inevitable lessons of the salt-lick.

Eleanor said...

I moved from an old Victorian with lots of nooks and crannies to a sleek modern house with a view of a lake from all of the glass. We ditched most of our belongings when we moved. The new house is easier to keep clean. The robot vacuum doesn't get stuck anywhere. On the other hand, there aren't many doors to close so it has to be spotless all the time. My husband and I each have a private space, which is what makes the new house work for us. Otherwise, I'd feel like I was living in an aquarium. We went from 3500 sq ft on 3 floors to about 1800 on one. We could have gone smaller, but the lake attracts the grandkids for most of the summer. Both houses are "home", but the new house lacks warmth so we have to work harder to create it. I don't mind being retired here, but it's not where I would have wanted to raise my family.

mockturtle said...

JOB, what a lovely passage!

Beloved Commenter AReasonableMan said...

Angel-Dyne said...
old Unhappy Hipsters site

I can imagine this guy living in an old ranch house, sitting on his faux leather Eames lounge chair with Hans Wegner knock-offs in the dining room bitterly scouring the internet for these photos.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

The one great exception is books. I have a difficult time letting go of books, although I'm running out of places to put them. They're as much of a pain in ass to dust as mom's Hummel figurines, and certainly a pain to pack up and move. But I feel uneasy in a home without books, or with very few books.

I am the same way. I think it is because I learned to read early and books were an escape from an often difficult childhood.

exiledonmainstreet, green-eyed devil said...

" Currently Americans do seem to want more and more stuff."

And we discard our old stuff quite readily. When I was in my 20's and forced by circumstances to be thrifty, I picked up all my kitchen appliances at estate and rummage sales. I got a Waring blender which had never been out of the box for $3. and I still have and use it. I still stop at rummage sales from time to time, and inevitably see breadmakers, ricemakers, a trillion glasses and coffee mugs, exercise equipment, and the silly impulse buys we all have made.

I once saw used sex toys at a rummage sale on the East Side of Milwaukee. Yuck!

Ron Winkleheimer said...


Thanks for the link, I am finding it very interesting.

exiledonmainstreet, green-eyed devil said...

"I think it is because I learned to read early and books were an escape from an often difficult childhood."

Same here.

BN said...

In my neighborhood, it's "trailer home" or "mobile home". Never "trailer house".

It's usually pretty cluttered both inside and out, but we get to live in a park so it all evens out.

Hope this helps.

Bill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amexpat said...

Dylan thinks there's a distinction:
Well, Frankie Lee, he panicked
He dropped ev’rything and ran
Until he came up to the spot
Where Judas Priest did stand
“What kind of house is this,” he said
“Where I have come to roam?”
“It’s not a house,” said Judas Priest
“It’s not a house . . . it’s a home”

Anonymous said...

ARM: I can imagine this guy living in an old ranch house, sitting on his faux leather Eames lounge chair with Hans Wegner knock-offs in the dining room bitterly scouring the internet for these photos.

Feeling mocked, ARM? I think it's a chick, not a guy. Iirc a lot of the photos come from Dwell magazine, which is hard not to satirize.

Beloved Commenter AReasonableMan said...

I like Dwell. Not very happy with where this thread is going.

Have you noticed what is happening with the Shiller PE Ratio recently?

southcentralpa said...

Love makes a house a home. Until they can figure out how to sell love (your asinine joke about prostitution here), they're designing and selling houses and that's all.

Milton Crackers said...

A house is an object that you buy or sell, or otherwise act upon: "I painted my house," "My house needs a new roof." A home is a domicile to which a person, when gone from it, intends to return. It is made so by the sentiment or intentions of a person, and as such expresses that relationship. "This is my home" = I live here; I return here; when here, I am only away from places where I do not reside, but when not here, I am away from home. This is my house = I own this structure. It may also be my home, and that fact may be implied in context, but it may not. It need not be anyone's home. I may own several houses. As Paul Fussel once observed, this is why we have retirement homes and whorehouses, but not the other way around.

JOB said...

MT: Thanks! I’m trying to wean myself from Eliot, but. It. Is. Difficult. To. Do.

But I’ll keep trying...

Best - and thanks for reading!