If Walls Could Talk

As we think, and talk, about moving a few people have said, “Oh, it will be fine. I know you love your house, but where ever you go you will make it great.”

But it doesn’t work like that. Some houses are just great. The architecture is beautiful and the scale is just right and everything has been beautifully calibrated. Houses like that are not within my reach.

But the houses I will see, far less grand, will either have soul or they won’t. Houses have soul. I’ve yet to see someone inject it; it’s there or it’s not regardless the wallpaper or paint or linoleum.

As I came up the walk of my current house, toddler in one hand, baby carrier in the other, I thought, “This isn’t it. Darn. A waste of time.” A sort-of Tudor, seemingly smallish from the street, sure to be full of awkward rooms and nooks and crannies that a symmetry-and-space-loving woman like me could never appreciate.

And then I stood on the threshold of the front door, and, as it turned out my next ten years, and its energy washed over me in a way that the scent of baking cookies could have never conveyed.
Images courtesy of Vendome Press from Lars Bolander’s Scandinavian Design by Heather Smith MacIsaac, photography, these images, by Staffan Johansson. The book is beautiful and brings to life the philosophy that country does not mean kitsch. The rooms delight and while distinctively Scandinavian, provide inspiration for anyone interested in using that soothing mix of formal pieces, informal fabrics and wonderful color.
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35 thoughts on “If Walls Could Talk

  1. I've never thought of it as soul, but I think you're right. It's the house that makes you feel your future more than see it's present.

    I know so many people who've found themselves facing this same decision, I hate that you and Mr. B are facing it now.

  2. You are so incredibly right. Our original Georgian house in the English countryside was pretty as a picture in the details, but I felt that it was too small for our growing family. However after my husband convinced me to take a look, we finally entered Hill House after a three hour drive from London and 'BANG' I knew we'd arrived 'HOME'. I knew from the moment I stepped foot inside that it would be our 'forever' home. Still don't understand how it works this 'soul' thing – but glad it does! x

  3. Each of us could write our own stories of our perfect home search and the rude awakening of means and ways~
    I found the one piece of paper "deed" blowing in the front lawn – which was holding up our closing, so I always took it as one of those "meant to be" signs.
    Every house has a soul beneath that shag and linoleum.

  4. I am on the path to a souless box for my family and I to live in and it would take another 500K to buy soul in the town that I am searching. Hoping for a miracle house.

  5. Beautiful images. You can live in a certain house knowing logically that it works and can be personalized without it ever really touching your heart. I'm sure you're right, however…that one of life's cycles and challenges. I know you will be furiously inventive if you land else where!

  6. i feel the exact same way about our little charming house. the other day a kitchen designer came in and fully disclosed all of teh quirks and idiosynchrasies of my house that had to be fixed in order to create an efficient kitchen- I was greatly offended and did not hire her….this house maybe quirky but it is my home- I am raising three children here and I love it….not many would but I do!

  7. I so understand, for as you know it happened this way for me also. And it can, really can, happen for you again. Keep your eyes and heart open.

  8. You have touched on two of the many reasons why we look, passively, gawking at real estate search sites, and reject venturing to buy another house. For one, the house I want is grander than the house I can afford. But mostly, they have little soul. The rare house, the ones with soul, have an even grander price tag.
    Good luck with your choice.
    Paula ~ Mise en scène

  9. You can decorate a house but you're right — you can't give it soul! Have you noticed in some houses that rarely used rooms lack that soul? No matter how nicely done. Rooms are meant to be used and lived in.

  10. Beautifully written, Patricia!

    I just met Lars Bolander and got his latest book signed by him the other weekend in Southampton's Nancy Corzine store! He's so nice and I love the book.

    Best of luck on your quest for Drean HouseII!

  11. Yes, houses have their individual souls. But each caretaker family leaves their imprint on the soul of a house and the house receives and relishes the presence of those that love it. It is rather like paintings–add a gorgeous soul-filled painting to a room and the house smiles with new life. Happy house hunting. Mary

  12. I am relatively new to the site and remember a vague reference to your decision to move. Can you explain? You seem to love your current home so much, why make a change?

  13. I do think we have a "a home within us" that resonates and plays our personal song in the perfect key. And then life happens, economy happens, loss—financial, physical, emotional happens and we have to move on. I have come to realize what is fairly obvious to many others and that is we are our own shelter. We carry our home within us. To do less is to force ourselves in living forever in the world of regrets and what ifs. Not such a pleasant address. You will be fine, Mrs. B because your lively soul will always make a beautiful home.

  14. This really resonated. Your prose is so beautiful. But, I've experienced this myself. My current house was a bit weary looking when we found it, with a vastly overgrown garden, that you could tell had once been beautiful. The layout had flow but lacked personality. It's still not the perfect house, however with a lot of love, a lot of elbow grease and a bit of acceptance, it has given us the warmth that we could tell was there. I've always said it had good karma….and I believe that to be true.
    xo Elizabeth

  15. I agree with home before dark. I am sad that you have to think about selling your house, it is very hard when you add your heart to a place, trust your children to its shelter to think of leaving it. But ultimately if we are with those we love a house is just a house. I have faith it will all work out for you. I feel badly for you that you have found yourself in a place that you have to make such a choice though. Best of Luck!

  16. I totally agree! I bought 4 houses that I knew were right the minute I walked into the front door!

    One of those; my good friend from high school bought from me without even seeing the upstairs!

    The house I live in now; we built, but copied much of the floor plan from a house I had wanted to live in since I was 13; and did for 12 years! In the case of this house; the land spoke to me.

    I do agree that some houses do NOT have a soul. And you can feel it fast if you listen with your heart.

  17. I forgot to say; wonderful pictures. Great book. I think I am having a book signing at my house for him next month!!

  18. The Hawaiians have a term "mana" that is sometimes used to reflect that "soul" that a home can have. I've learned never to discount that feeling when you walk in the door. If a home doesn't have it, you can still manage to live there successfully — but it will never live in your heart. Wait for it, you'll find it.

  19. When we put our hearts and soul into our homes it is very hard to leave them. We just put our wonderful beach house on the market this week and every time I see the sign in the yard I get that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. But this was a well thought out plan. Moving on to another chapter. It still doesn't make it any easier to leave a loved old friend. We are leaving the coast for the mountains.

    You will be fine because when all is said and done, it really isn't our homes that have the soul, but our families in them that add the soul. And where ever our families are is Home.

  20. Once again. You nailed it. All of my homes are
    Now relatives of mine. And when I gotheir hometowns
    I drive by and we always have a little conversation.
    I know that those who find this silly, have yet
    To experience the soul of house, warts and all.

    I believe it comes from the human experience
    Each one has wrapped in its walls. Not the added
    Extension or walk in closet- but the small toys
    I've found behind radiator covers, or drawings
    Found under turn of the century wall paper.

    I hear ya, loud and clear my friend.

    Mrs. Arquette

  21. I love that you have let yourself grieve this loss. Keep at it, let the whole grieving process of Loss and Moving Away be felt. Let your children see you suffer, entice them to join you in articulating what it means to pack up and move away from home. It is VERY tough, especially on you, the provider of family heart and soul to the Blandings men and boys. This time, take care of yourself first. Thank you for your openness.

  22. I think all houses have "soul," even, gasp, those big boxes out in the suburbs. Finding the right house is finding the house whose "soul" or sense of place best fits the sense of place one carries within themselves. It's tempting to condescend to those suburban homes we wouldn't be caught dead in, but then I am reminded that for an awful lot of people, owning a house with a bedroom for every kid, without rats and roaches and the smells of the neighbors' bacon and onion dinner coming through the walls is a dream realized in those houses, and in my perspective there's a lot of soul in that. Not for me, but for someone. Different souls have different dreams that inhabit different spaces.
    Maybe you won't find a dream house this next go round, but that's okay. You'll still have your dreams, and eventually they will find the house in which to take shelter. All shall be well.

  23. I totally agree. I've lived in several houses, some good & some not so. The difference is the soul in them, whether it feels right for you or not. We love our house & need more room but I think we'll stay. We couldn't replace the soul of this place for anything. Exciting though that you might be moving on. Hope you are well.

  24. You are so right Patricia. Very poignant thoughts….homes do indeed have a soul. Then we imprint our own warmth and feeling into the life of our families abode.

    Art by Karena

  25. I came across 58 acres with 2 pre Civil War log cabins. Abandoned for 65 years, I had to fight through the weeds, vines and bushes to see what the cabins looked like. Trees had grown up through the foundation and destroyed the chimney of the summer kitchen which, in all its large stoned glory, was in a heap on the ground. Until then I was ready to drive away but when I saw that stone and what was left of the logs I said "I want this". I identified with the abandonment and had that single minded focus to want to restore those cabins. I bought the place and am in the process now of clearing the brush and bringing in utilities. When I am there I know that I'm where I'm supposed to be.

    I wish you the same. Ann

  26. …mmm…i don't know about the house either has soul or does not…i think maybe people build houses…but families bring the soul…

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