Making your house a home

House Thinking will have you rearranging the furniture, thoughtfully

By Stephanie Kinnear


ere’s a quick quiz. Is the entryway of your home A) where you kick off your shoes, B) the place where you pile the junk mail, or C) a welcoming segue between the out of doors and your home — a space that prepares guests to enter your own personal space?

If you answered A or B, don’t dismay; you’re definitely among the majority. However, Winifred Gallagher, author of House Thinking: A Room-by-Room Look at How We Live, thinks more of us should consider option C — because, as she goes into great detail to explain, your house is a reflection of who you are, and it doesn’t simply provide shelter, it provides psychic nourishment.

In House Thinking, Gallagher takes a long hard look at interior design and architecture of the average American home through the lens of environmental-behavioral research. But, really, it isn’t nearly as dry as it sounds. What Gallagher is talking about is something we all know intuitively — where we are affects how we feel. A comfortable chair in front of a warm fire puts us at ease; a plastic chair in a low ceilinged room with fluorescent lighting makes us feel uncomfortable.

Thinking about how our homes make us feel, and improving upon their design so that we feel better, makes such obvious sense, it’s hard to imagine Gallagher is breaking any new ground. But she is. Very little has been written in the realm of environmental-behavioral research in regards to the family home. In taking a room-by-room approach (Gallagher’s chapters: The Entry and Plan, The Living Room, The Kitchen, The Dining Room, etc.), the book offers practical advice — making an entryway more appealing sometimes only takes a little organizing and tidying; putting a wicker chair near a window may be all you need to do to make your living room remind you of the place where you used to spend your summers as a child. And all these little changes add up to a significant improvement in our quality of life.

Gallagher quotes architect Jeremiah Eck frequently in House Thinking, but one quote in particular seems to neatly sum up her thesis: “If one fundamental part of life, such as food, can affect our well-being, so can shelter … Think of how a set of clothes that’s three sizes too large, in colors you hate and fabric that scratches would make you feel? The home is somehow like the envelope of clothes. You wrap its skin around you.”


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