A house just isn't a home unless it is warm and welcoming. It’s the stuff that fairytales are made of — living in your dream home. A home that speaks to you and draws you in. As Goldilocks would say, a home that feels “just right.”
But how do you create such a space? What warm and welcoming qualities do such dwellings possess? Although everyone has different qualities that make them feel at home, experts say there are common, universal design characteristics that seem to reach out and speak to people.
Here are five design elements that add a warm and welcoming presence to a home.
In a home with a strong gable roof, the gable seems to come out and greet you.
“It creates a strong, protective, almost human-like presence,” says Michaela Mahady, architect and author of the book Welcoming Home. “You understand in its symmetry and the protective way it envelops the roof that it’s a good place to be. It will reach out to you as if to say ‘Hello. How are you? Come on in.’
A large roof declares that the house is a safe haven, shelter from the elements as well as from the rigorous pace of everyday life.
"You instinctively know that you can stand under the eaves, close to the house, and it will protect you,” explains Mahady. It also protects the walls of the house from weather, and shades the windows from the heat and glare of direct sun exposure.
A covered porch is the preface of the welcoming spaces within the house itself — a transition area between the inside and outside.
“It’s that magical space that sits right between public and private space. When you’re on your porch, you know more about what’s happening around you, in your neighborhood. You can engage with people as they walk by. It’s kind of special because of that.”
It’s no secret that many people are drawn to the charm of older homes, and it stands to reason — these homes were built with a careful sense of scale to the human form. They were also planned and zoned to separate distinct spaces and rooms within the home.
Today’s homes are much more casual, but you can still define the interior spaces with things like varying ceiling heights, surface treatments and carefully placed architectural elements, says Mahady. Arched ceilings, eating nooks, alcoves and window seats are all examples of these types of “sheltered spaces.”
The last “welcoming” characteristics that Mahady addresses are elements that, as she puts it, invite the touch.
“When we interpret our environment through the sense of touch, we gain a tactile sense of the space we inhabit,” she explains. And this, she says, is especially important in wood homes.
“If you look at an actual timber beam, you understand so much about the tree and also about the person who shaped the tree,” she says. “It invites your touch, and you understand that the buildings that we enjoy in the present were built by skilled people in the past and you can see their work around you. You have a more intimate understanding and you value those things when living in a handcrafted home.”
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