Building your first family home will possibly be one of the most exciting adventures you’ll ever go on.

While there’s no doubt that you’re going to want a house that lasts, that looks stylish and is in a great location, that in itself doesn’t necessarily equate to providing a sense of home that is what you’re actually building for.

In Australia, and in mid-northern NSW – from Sydney through the sunny Central Coast, to the ever-trending Newcastle – the dream of owning a home is more alive than ever. One of the biggest complaints you hear millennials complain of now is how it’s so hard to afford a home, and that’s because it’s something that the majority of Aussies still really want!

It’s probably for good reason: the home has a long and varied history and is common to all cultures, even if it looks slightly different from country to country and city to city. Whether it’s portable, like a houseboat or a camper van, a yurt in a Mongolian desert, or a humble house in the middle of suburbia, this word home strikes a chord deep in the hearts of human beings the world over.

So what is this thing called home?

How is it that one house can have the feeling of home, and another seems to lack it? There’s no real easy answer to this, and it will probably depend on your definition of what home is.

For example, there are those (such as cultures in South Asia) that understand the idea of home as very little to do with where and how you live and much more to do with how you internalize your sense of home. In other words, it is as much to with your sense of identity as it is the house that you live in.

In cultures such as Europe, renting laws makes it much more secure to rent for long periods of time, so owning a place does not hold as much importance as in Australia. Creating a sense of home, then, becomes all about what you do with your house or apartment, and those you live with.

There’s a story that writer Johann Hari in his popular book Lost Connections tells of an eclectic community in Berlin who fought to keep their homes after rental prices became exorbitant after the Berlin Wall came down. An elderly lady who had grown up in a foreign land reflected that she had always felt disconnected from the idea of home stopping at the walls of her house. To her, a home was always deeply connected to the community of houses and people that made up the village.

Here in Australia, home is more connected to owning a house, growing up with family, and having a place to belong. This is portrayed better nowhere else than in the iconic and hilarious film The Castle, where the Kerrigan family fought the state successfully to keep their humble abode.

Turning your house into a home

Okay great, we hear you say, but how does one go about actually turning this esoteric idea into a reality? Here are a few ideas to get you inspired and thinking:

First and foremost, take some time to think about what it is that’s really important to you. In other words, what are your values?

Is it the aesthetic form of the exterior? the way the floor plan flows? a luscious garden to relax in? Is it the people you live with or the location you’re in? 

What is important to you is less important than knowing what it is. 

Once your values are more clearly defined, then you can think about what it is you actually need. For example, let’s say a value is playtime with the kids: in that case, making sure you have ample space (like a big backyard for example) to play in will be critical to implement. If the structure of your house follows your values, you’ll have a much better chance of creating that often elusive sense of home.

After the structure feels right, it’s time to decorate. 

It can be tempting to fill your house with IKEA products, but more than likely your place will feel like a catalogue rather than a place of comfort. Don’t be afraid to add your own (or your family’s own) personality here. Choosing colours that speak to you, or displaying personal treasures such as kid’s art, or pieces of family memorabilia, will add a charm that only your personality can bring. 

Remember, it’s an opportunity and a privilege to create your own home, so above all make sure to find as much joy in the process as you can, and make sure you take time to choose the right builder to make this dream a reality.