What Makes a House a Home?

House or home? It’s easy to tell the difference.

Just flip through any interior design magazine and you can spot a residence that, while beautifully designed, feels sterile and lifeless. And then there are those special spaces that welcome and embrace its residents, rooms that express the owners’ passions, meet their needs and achieve design perfection through imperfection.

We asked local experts for their thoughts on what makes a house a true home. Here’s what they had to say:

Julia Buckingham Edelmann, Buckingham Interiors, Chicago

“What makes a house a home is in the manner that you use design to heighten the function of each piece. It’s finding that perfect balance between aesthetics and functionality, achieving elegance and approachability.

“For example, I love to use two different fabrics on sectionals and other upholstery pieces. I will use a durable but beautiful fabric on the seat and then a more decorative and luxurious fabric for the exterior areas that don’t get as much use. That way you can still have a gorgeous upholstered piece of furniture, but it will also last for years and years!”

Photo courtesy of Julia Buckingham Edelmann (also pictured above)

Jeannie Balsam, Jeannie Balsam LLC, Winnetka

“A house becomes a home when it is opened up and enjoyed by your family and friends. The experiences and emotions shared create the feelings and memories that we all cherish and attribute to our home (childhood, young adult, single, newly married, etc.). Highly functional, beautiful, layered and inviting interiors encourage these gatherings and thus the process of creating a home.”

Amy Courage, Principal Architect, COURAGE, Wilmette

“A home is a space that’s lived in and loved. It’s design that has evolved over time, personalized by the accessories, books, art and even furniture that a homeowner assembles when traveling or expressing a passion.

Photo courtesy of Julia Buckingham Edelmann

“I tell my clients to follow their hearts and choose what’s important to them. Find colors that make you feel good. Make public, multi-purpose rooms useful, active and comfortable. Be honest about how you really live today. Balance that with spaces that invite rest and rejuvenation—throws and pillows, ottomans and footstools, a quiet corner for reading or napping.

“Most importantly, spend time in your home and share it. The more happiness and laughter that enters your house, the more it is going to feel like a home.”

Tim Archibald, Architect, Midwest Architecture Studio, Lake Forest

“For most of my clients, the idea of ‘house’ is very important and tied to physical symbols (shelter, comfort, ego). ‘Home’ has a whole separate layer of personal meaning that is tied to more emotional triggers from our past and our hopes for the future. Home is about family, privacy, a space where memories are created.

“What truly makes a house a home is the emotional investment in the physical place—opening up to powerful feelings that stay with you long after you no longer live at the house; feelings that become part of the fabric of our lives.”