The return to home sweet home

Moyan Brenn. Tromso, Troms Fylke, Norway. Flickr. February 19, 2012.

Moyan Brenn. Tromso, Troms Fylke, Norway. Flickr. February 19, 2012.

Home, of course, is more than a dwelling.  It isn’t an award-winning architectural design or LEED certification.  Even gingerbread trim, fresh paint, window boxes, or lace curtains don’t define home.  Home is comfort, privacy, safety, and rest.  Home is cozy warmth, soft cushions, and sunny windows.  It is freedom from prying eyes, a shrine to personal treasures, and a cherished hangout.  Home permits refreshing naps, fearless, restorative sleep, and uninterrupted video games.

Home is a haven from the cares and dangers of the world.  First, urbanization and, then, globalization challenged the abilities of home to provide these qualities to its families.  The population density, crime, noise, and pollution of the industrial age changed the nature of home for many Americans.  Multiple unit buildings, narrow hallways, and small, windowless rooms begrudge comfort, privacy, and rest.  Miniature yards, alleys, and four-lane roads encourage the conflict that precedes crime.

A richly appointed house is also less likely to become a home.  Designer or antique furniture and art collections prevent informality and relaxation.  Home theaters, kitchen and bathroom televisions, and living room and bedroom web access permit the world to invade family life.  The colonization of information age communication technologies has made the residence an extension of the workplace.  Globalization has erased the end of the work day.

Household friendly architecture requires light, space, nooks, and curves.  There must be a generosity of windows.  Inhabitants require the passage of sun and shadow to mark their physiological rhythms.  Rays of sunshine through sparkling glass enable even urbanites to enjoy indoor greenery.  Hallways must be large enough for décor and conversation.  Regular consideration of children’s plaster handprints, parents’ wedding pictures, and grandparents’ portraits must accompany trips to the bathroom and races to answer the front doorbell.  Niches for reading and contemplation nourish the soul and lower blood pressure.  Smooth, round stairway banisters, flexible screen doors, and soft, beveled edges on kitchen counters and dining bars encourage fun and frolic and prevent injury.

As home schooling and work telecommuting become more common, dwellings must become less, not more utilitarian.  If we must stay in the same place all day and every day, it must be as inhabitants of a human ecosystem, not cramped, exploitive invaders. Rooftop and courtyard gardens, built-in composting bins, and floors and rooms heated geothermally are only the beginning.  More building materials will be sustainably derived from natural sources.  House paint and aluminum siding will disappear.  The sounds, touch, and smells of wind, water, and sun will refresh lobbies, patios, and living rooms through fountains, ponds, skylights, and aerodynamic hallways.  Students and office workers alike will enjoy them because secure, built-in, home wireless networks will render offices and classrooms obsolete.  Residential prestige will be conferred upon the most sustainable neighborhoods.  The conspicuous consumption of McMansions and multiple car garages will be considered crass and distasteful.  Home will not only nourish and protect the heart, but also the mind and the family. 

© Laura Rizzardini, Inc., 2013

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