Home has always been important

I have always felt that ‘Home’ is an important concept. So much so that I have chosen to focus Maike Design Studio on creating and investigating residential design. Now that we are spending more time than ever inside, the importance of finding or creating a place to retreat to that makes us feel at home should not be underestimated.

There is a beautiful phrase in The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard that for me perfectly sums up what a home is:

“…the house shelters day dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.”

Architecturally, a space is a house – a container. It is the act of living in the space that creates a home. A dwelling (noun) collects us together with our loved ones but is nothing without the act of dwelling (verb) within it to animate and fill its spaces.

A home is not a transformative tool, but rather provides the space and stability to just be ourselves. It is without outside expectations and is a base that provides us with stillness and rejuvenation. It represents what is secure and familiar, in contrast to the potentially unknown world outside.

A home is mentally quieter, even when we are physically closer to the noise and demands of members of our household.  We allow people into our homes on our terms and control (or rely on social etiquette to dictate) the line between public and private. The ability to control and layer the graduated relationship between us and the rest of the world defends the intimacy of our home.

Within a home we’ve also got to think about the dynamic between all members of the household. One characteristic of 21st century housing is the importance placed on separated, private spaces. The provision of individual spaces for every family member can be seen now in Australia across all socio-economic groups.  Interestingly this contrasts with the parallel development of open plan living.

An ill-conceived large space that combines all the home’s living activities does not allow for retreat or differing activities. The only retreat option is to absolute privacy – individual bedrooms and separate studies. There is no middle ground. Not allowing for a range of functionality and spatial qualities has led to the replication of spaces. Kitchens sit alongside a fully equipped butler’s pantries, theatre rooms or retreats counter the open plan lounge.

It is not the size of the house but the spatial quality, adjacency and function of shared family spaces, considered both individually and as part of the whole that create a delightful home.  Finding the balance of zoning, screening and visual connection between spaces provides unique areas, each suited to their function but in constant dialogue with those adjacent.  This allows for differing functions to co-habit the same space.

The opportunity to create this sense of home for other people is a huge privilege and one I enjoy immensely.  During this period of social distancing, I hope that the safety and familiarity of your home is bringing some calm to your days.