You can’t see the door to Simone’s house in the picture, but it’s immediately to the left. It’s seafoam green, it’s heavy as hell and it opens to the bottom of a wooden stair case. The stairs are nestled between two tall, windowless white walls that stretch far above the head. Though there’s light coming from upstairs, it’s dim down here and I’m not sure what to expect. All I know is I hear lo-fi hip hop beats, which means I feel right at home. I also see neon light and some sort of grassy patch up there but can’t quite make it out. I follow Simone. We climb the stairs past the white walls until they open up to a cool grey hideaway.
I’m overwhelmed by elegance. That grassy patch is actually a full grass wall. The neon light belongs to a delicate little flamingo who lives in the grass. I see big plush gray couches, a giant furry rug to match, an easel stacked with partial paintings, a lab coat, a bike on the wall and a sea of plants: peace lilies, pothos, philodendron, lucky bamboo, aloe, flowers. The plants aren’t merely decoration. They feel like members of the household. They stand tall and make their presence known. Two little dogs make their presence known as well, though their greeting is less formal. Actually, they barely acknowledge me. Instead they carry on playing tug of war on the furry rug, bouncing around in bliss. The wood floors are finished, but not too glossy; the ridges beneath my feet still tell the story of the wood. The music is an atmospheric massage, underscored by subtly animated illustrations on the tv.
The Grand Tour
A beautiful home doesn’t merely happen by buying nice decor and neatly arranging it. What makes a home special is the feeling it evokes, what it communicates, what it suggests. The objects we choose are only vehicles used to come to this feeling. Simone’s house suggests excitement, vitality, expression, peace. I can feel it. I feel it in myself and I see it in Simone. She’s excited about the space. She’s excited to be sharing it. She’s proud of it.
I set my things down. She takes her shoes off. We’re both beaming. The grand tour begins. Simone does more than point out where the office is, which door is the bathroom and the place I’ll be sleeping. She tells a story. I hear about how the rooms have transformed over time, future plans, what makes each object special, which country it came from, which family member gifted it. Together Simone’s belongings tell a symphony of stories.
From the looks of the house, one might think Simone is all peace, all joy, all the time. And while that’s not entirely false, it’s not entirely true either. No one is all peace, all the time. The irony is that the beauty of this space developed in congruency with some scary life changes. The house became an envelop of safety where Simone felt otherwise helpless.
That’s the agreement between the human and the home. The home follows close behind you. It walks right beside you. It upholds peace and joy on your behalf when you just can’t seem to. It can soften the sting of sorrow and on the other hand rejoice with you when it’s time. It morphs to support you in whatever stage you’re in. The canvas of the home becomes the commentary of your life.
It Dwells Within
You know when you see the inside of someone’s house for the first time and you instantly feel like you know them more deeply? That’s what I’m feeling now. Though we’ve been friends for years, this is the first time I’m seeing Simone’s house. It could be because in the last five years, Simone and I combined have lived in 5 different cities and 6 different apartments. Simone is a traveler. I’m a bit of a wanderer. So while this is the first time I’m seeing her house, it also may be the last.
We develop special connections with the places we live and when it’s time to go it can be a challenge to walk away. We end up remembering these places forever. We carry the feeling in our hearts forever. They become a part of our definition of home.
It’s not merely a place. It’s a feeling. It can be physically expressed, but the essence of home is a feeling. And this physical expression is something we personally create. It’s made from our own essence. And that means it’s always accessible. No matter where in the world we go, we always have access to the feeling of home because it dwells within. And that also means no one can take it away. With that understanding, we’re forever fortified.