When we imagine someone having a home of their own what do we generally see? A single family house, a condo, an apartment? Generally, I think, regardless of the structure of the building, we tend to imagine a certain autonomy to home. We picture a person or couple or nuclear family living in a self contained environment. There is a distinct separation between that which is home and that which is not. The line of public and private is drawn starkly at the door.
We also imagine a level of stability in a home, a distinct and immobile location. Home is a specific place to which one returns, a place that exists as a monument to the individual who owns it. Home holds our stuff and only our stuff. It is distinctly the domain of the individual.
Of course, there are other understandings of homes and some are even rather prevalent, but they remain on the fringes of our conceptualization of home. Communal living is marginalized by it’s “hippy” past and cult associations, but there are successful co-housing models that incorporate the ideas communes have championed. Multi-generational family homes exist throughout the country but we seem to have the concept that someone in that situation is living in someone else’s home rather than sharing one (He lives with his parents. They live with their kids). Assisted living allows many people to have a semblance of home rather than a hospital and yet these places are still an institution rather than a home in many ways.
I am wondering if we need to work to redefine home for a variety of reasons. In my mind these include:
A more mobile lifestyle – Mobility might need ideas of home that are more temporal. Homes that pop up in various cities for limited amounts of time. Transportable homes attached to something other than a physical structure.
Economic hardship – Shared housing and multi-generational homes can provide more support and a safety net in volatile economic conditions. Traditional home-ownership has shown some of it’s dangerous weaknesses over the past few years. Perhaps another idea of home could provide a better solution than the 30 year mortgaged, single family, American dream.
An aging population – Our concept of home needs to adjust to better serve those who have greater need for physical and medical support. The huge population of aging individuals is going to demand something better as they move beyond the confines of our limited definition of home. Regardless of the fact that they contain the word in their title, most Old Folks Homes aren’t really “homes” as we tend to imagine them.
Environmental concern – Smaller homes are greener homes. We may need to think of a type of home that loses some of the weight its gained. That returns some of the functionality to the public realm. We may need the idea of the “city as your living room” to spread beyond the city.
And this is just brushing the surface. Over the next few weeks I intend to talk about different types of homes and how they might find a foothold in our current social environment. I would love to hear about other reasons our idea of home might be due for a significant change. What other types of living deserve the status of home? How can we introduce other types of home? What are the challenges in adopting some of the different ideas for home? I have thoughts on all this, but I would like to start by hearing from you.
Let’s start the conversation in the comments.