There are many approaches to decorating. You may be someone who can throw seemingly unrelated things together and make it feel like a cohesive whole. Or perhaps you plan the minute details of every nook and cranny. You may like to incorporate the latest trends into your house or you may like to incorporate old, antique items that tell a story.
Whatever approach you take, to make a house feel like a home, it needs to have some heart and soul. What do I mean by that? A home reflects who we are and the life we live. It’s an outward expression of our inner selves, similar to fashion, but instead of being limited by the size of our body, we are only limited by the size of our walls.
Have you ever been to someone’s house for the first time and learned something new about that person? Perhaps something that had never come up in conversation—an interest they have, an interesting item that holds a story from their past, or how the style of their home evokes a certain feeling? If home is the most comfortable place we’ll be, it makes sense that it reflects those who live there.
When I think of a home with heart and soul, these characteristics come to mind: Authentic, unique, personal, welcoming, and adaptive.
Authentic, Unique, and Personal
It’s not about doing what everyone else is doing. It’s not about incorporating all the latest trends (unless that reflects your personality), but about incorporating things that speak to your heart and to the hearts of others who live there. It tells your story.
When you come home from a long day, or from a long vacation, the feeling should be that of “Ahh…” and not the feeling of “Agghhhh!” You want it to feel welcoming not only to those who live there, but of people who come to visit. Decorating can go long way in a place that feels hospitable, and a happy, organized, clutter-free home just feels good.
The people who live there also make a difference in how someone feels when visiting. My mom is a terrific example of someone who makes people feel welcome when visiting. If there’s a certain drink you like, you don’t have to ask, it’s there. If you have dietary restrictions, she mindful of that. She puts on welcoming music and often both of my parents greet us before we even make it to the door. And the best part—we have genuine, meaningful conversations.
A home with heart and soul evolves with the stages of life and changes in interests. Just as our lives grow and evolve, our homes do too.
When we first married, I loved the global look—I liked Asian, Parisian, and Egyptian style, among others. He loved the Coca-Cola diner style and miniature trains so we decided there was going to be a different theme for each room in the house. A Parisian dining room, an Asian living room, an Egyptian bedroom, a Coca-Cola kitchen, a miniature train study, and a naturalistic bathroom with a floor made of rocks. And we weren’t talking like a hint of these themes—we were talking like black-and-white checker tile and diner chairs, an entire brick wall with a painted faux window that made it feel like you were actually in a French café, and statues of ancient, Egyptian gods, along with King Tut and a sarcophagus (yes, I was contemplating a sarcophagus in the bedroom!). It would be like a trip around the world without ever leaving the house!
When we lived in apartments, we had touches of these styles: an Asian-inspired living room, a European dining room (if Parisian plates and a picture of the Tower of Pizza counts!), a Coca-Cola kitchen, and the beginnings of an Egyptian-styled bedroom. But we were going to wait until we bought a house before going all out.
By the time we bought our house, many of these styles were no longer important to us, and we bought a house with an open floor plan. It would be challenging to make a house feel unified with so many different styles and color schemes going on! We realized that our styles and tastes had changed as time had gone by. It wasn’t easy for me to let go of the dreams we had talked about together with these styles. It felt like I was giving up a part of our past. But there was no need for us to spend time and energy on something that we no longer felt reflected our interests.
Add More Heart to Your Home
So what does heart and soul look like and how can you incorporate it into your home? A soulful home is going to look different for everyone, but here are some tangible ways to incorporate more heart into your home:
- Frame and hang artwork made by you, friends, or members of your family. Better yet, create it together. That piece carries a story of a fun experience together.
- Create a gallery wall with pictures of friends and family. Alternatively, add pictures of vacations and other experiences with loved ones you’ve had throughout your life in a digital photo frame that cycles pictures—it’s a great way to save space.
- Use color combinations that make you feel good. Don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone, but choose something that you like.
- Be intentional about objects you keep in your home. Just because you’ve always had it, doesn’t mean you have to keep it always.
- Incorporate at least one item that makes you smile in every room.
- Incorporate something old or something that holds a special memory. It could be a family heirloom, something you found at an antique shop, or a souvenir from a vacation.
- Display sayings that speak to your values as a family or reminders that you aspire to keep.
- Play music that speaks to your heart. When you have guests, is there music that the both of you like? Consider playing it when they arrive to make them feel at home. When we hosted an exchange student from China, I learned that he loves Bob Dylan. I do too! So we played Bob Dylan as we ate. When he came over months later, he smiled when he heard Bob Dylan playing in the background. Even though far away from home, I hope that hearing a familiar sound made him feel at home, and at the same time, helped to form a connection.
- Incorporate live plants or flowers to add life to rooms. Plants improve the quality of indoor air and make everyone feel better!
- Practice gratefulness and contentment—that is true beauty from the heart!
Having a beautiful home with soul can enhance the experience of the memories you make there.
What makes a house feel meaningful or soulful to you? In what ways do you add soulful beauty to your house to make it feel like a home?