I do not own a house - I have rented my entire adult life, as have my parents. Being an on-the-move pastor family meant never settling down in one place long enough to invest in a piece of earth of our own, financial limitations notwithstanding. My grandfather has a farm that could be considered "family property", but that's the closest I've come to having a place our family could say was permanent home.
However, one of these days I may well own a house, and browsing through what's out there has had me thinking long and hard about what I consider merely a house, and what I would consider a home.
I'm a bit of a Grand Designs addict - but I've started losing interest in the Australian version, as everyone is simply plonking down a big square block of walls and roof, and decorating it in the accepted current way. With very few exceptions.
In fact, any "mansion" built today will likely be squared off and modern-looking - most smaller houses too, for that matter. And yes, some of them are lovely - but in general they all look the same.
My son and I were commenting on this while driving through an upmarket vineyard estate recently. There are obvious guidelines as to what your house needs to look like when built and painted, to maintain conformity and a certain "look and feel" in the complex. But the strange thing is, any "customization" done by the residents is exactly the same as the bloke next door or down the road. You'll see house after house with the same big square planter pots, the same square outdoor wicker type furniture (we watched new residents carting it indoors), the same furniture inside - sharp edges and dark wood generally speaking, the same stonework patterns, the same type of garden layout and plant choices. Perhaps it's merely that it's a certain kind of person who is attracted to the place, and they all decorate the same. Like begets like and all that.
And perhaps the modern day dwelling is seen along the same lines. You build something that says "I've made it", you'll aspire to the Joneses' architects' standard of strong sharp edges, vast swathes of glass, infinity pool and imported tiles.
And clean lines are good, neat, tidy... but are they me? Not necessarily. They don't look like "home".
I'd much prefer to take on an older, solidly-built house with strong rafters and a good space in the ceiling (simply because I've had to crawl through so many dodgy modern ones, I know what the builders like to hide behind paint and plaster, and how some newer roofs stifle the rest of the house in summer heat or freeze it in winter cold...). One that has history and character and comfort - not one that's been Tuscanized to death with some bloke's dodgy renovations. And yes perhaps I'll knock down walls and open up window spaces to let in the light I love so much. Perhaps I'll build on and build up and rip apart and redo. I know for a fact the garden would get a ruthless green-thumb sort-out with edible landscaping in abundance, greenery all over the place. And I'd go for the tactile, the homey but well-organized and open feel over clinical echoing emptiness.
But if it came to building from scratch, I have a plan - and have had one for years. There's an image in the head that just says home - that contains all the elements I already love, and all the elements I would love to have. If I could upload my thoughts to YouTube you'd be able to walk through it in detail, from the individual personalized private spaces on one side (for those who love sun as well as for those who get geeky in the half-dark), comfortable living in the centre that caters to all our big and small needs, right down to the way the kitchen floor looks, the tree-lined path, gravel drive, kitchen garden and twin workshops out the back.
Unless you throw me out into the middle of nowhere, where this will probably apply :-)
Scratching around weeding my square foot or so of arable land in the back yard over lunchtime, trying to figure out where I'm going to put the food plants between the pavers, the stone and all the ridiculous landlord-installed randomly-planted ornamentals I'm not allowed to remove, dreams of the home I want both now and in the future are loud and clear.
I guess that's what happens when I'm not out rushing around from task to task, too busy to think! :-)