John Naish’s article, “What makes a house a home?” in the October issue of Psychologies Magazine begins with the proclamation: ‘You and I are never going to get on’. He was referring to a grand Victorian trophy house that he bought to fulfil what turned out to be a misconceived fantasy.
Naish then swapped his Victorian nightmare for an odd shaped, ramshackle but loveable London terrace house. In so doing, he learnt that aspiration and comfort are very different creatures indeed. Comfort is complex, hard to achieve and at the very top of the list of human needs.
Naish seeks out research from social scientists and writers to find out what it is that makes a house a home. At the beginning, he quotes neuro-scientist John Zeisel: ‘our genetically developed instincts make us feel relaxed around flowers, hearth and water’. Edward Wilson, professor of comparative zoology at Harvard, expands upon this statement by explaining biophilia, which is our need for organic surroundings.
Studies by Frances Kuo at Illinois University also found that women residing in apartments are less depressed when they have views of nature, while novelist Douglas Coupland is quoted about de-narration and the damage caused by banishing all references to personal clutter.
Frank McAndrew, an environmental psychologist at Knox College, Illinois says we prefer rooms with nooks and we like to survey our spaces from a safe vantage point so we don’t feel exposed. Meanwhile, author and professor Clare Cooper Marcus from Berkeley in her book House as Mirror of Self advises us to ‘ask the house to talk’ if you feel lost in what to do.
The quest for psychologically and physically comfortable homes is what we at JG studios have been striving at for years. We have updated our concept of the unfitted kitchen with the sympathetic application of neuroscience in our spatial analysis. We get a mention at the end of John’s piece as purveyors of Sofa Geography. Pick up the latest issue of Psychologies to more to find out what that is!