What makes a home inviting?

makeithomeMay 30, 2012

Hey all,

I have been thinking about our little home and so far we have been making updates as needed, usually when something breaks. We don't have a lot of money right now (just bought the house about a year and a half ago) and after talking with the Gardenweb Kitchen crowd, they have pretty much convinced me that the infrastructure updates and upgrades should come first, but I should do what I can with paint for now and plan for the bigger design scheme down the line when we can afford it. So, I am tossing around the idea of creating a future whole-house decorating plan, complete with bathrooms and kitchen. Just enjoy what is here now and spend the next few years just saving as much as we possibly can. Right now the house design looks jumbled because we redecorate in bursts. Eventually, I want the whole house to have a more cohesive look.

So I want to know... what makes a home inviting to you? I know there have been houses where I have walked through the door and I don't feel much of anything, and then others where I am instantly hit with this feeling of being "home." What is that?? What is that X factor?

Maybe it's different for everyone... but I would love to know. Do you have a friend who has the coziest place you know? Is it your Grandmother's old house? What details make the home feel welcoming to you? Is it fresh flowers? The smell of cookies? The colors on the walls? The people who live there? And if it's the people who live there... what is it about their personality that makes you feel that way?

A couple years ago, if someone would have asked me what I wanted my home to feel like, I would have said "beautiful" and "fasionable." But now after having lived in this house for a while, I realize that what I really want is a house where people feel welcomed, loved, comfortable, and safe. I want a house that is both aesthetically beautiful, but also warm and inviting and very non-stuffy. I want people to instantly feel like it's okay for them to sit on my couch and put their feet up. I want people to feel like they can leave their troubles at my front steps. I want people to know how much I care about them and how happy I am to have them in my home and that they can come back any time!

Please tell me about your favorite, inviting homes! Design, details and the people who live there! :)

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The people who live there make it the most inviting, especially if there's food cooking. Lol, but true. I come from a large family, and grew up with seven days a week of home cooked meals. There were always relatives popping in and out all the time, and still do. Shelter, food and love...three basic needs we all want, if a home provides that, it is inviting no matter what it looks like.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 7:43AM
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Great question!

This is probably a more taste-specific answer than you are looking for,
but I always feel like plopping down, putting my feet up, and staying awhile in any house that has an English roll-arm sofa, sometimes called the William Birch sofa.
A classic, well made sofa is a great investment.

You can have fun watching/listening to the editors at Canadian House and Home
discuss sofa styles at this link:


An example from Houzz:

traditional living room design by toronto general contractor HARDROCK CONSTRUCTION

Here is a link that might be useful: Canadian House and Home video on the roll arm sofa

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 7:58AM
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In my view, what makes a home inviting visually is that it is clean, that it is easy to move through and settle in, that it is well and thoughtfully lit, that it combines simple, unadorned basics with things that have history and personality for its owners, and above all, that the host/hostess is/are relaxed and welcoming themselves.

Your house should give you that "Ahhhhh" feeling when you come home. The three things I think most important there are:
- colors that relax or invigorate you, whichever is best for you,
- a natural place to put things like coats and shoes and mail and groceries and briefcases down or away, and
- the level of orderliness and cleanliness you need, so that the house doesn't hit you with something you've neglected or ought to be doing.

All of those things begin with a master plan based on function of and good circulation through the spaces. Once that's clear to you, you can apply color, style, and decoration. You ask questions like, where do I need to keep the china, and how much of it must I store? Where is the cleaning closet? How many coats have to be hung up, and do I want to see them? How can I establish comfortable, cozy seating areas and still be able to walk easily around and through the room? How much stuff do I like to keep next to the bed? Where do I need to put task lighting, general lighting, and mood lighting? How much storage space do we need in the bathrooms? How much time do I want to spend cleaning? What's the easiest place to put all the bed and bath linens? How much wall space do we need for pictures? How many running feet of bookshelves, and in what room? Where do I want to use computers? How do I want the sound system and tv to work?
Things like that.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 8:34AM
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anitamo - I agree, food cooking is always inviting. However, while I agree about the people when it comes to family... I spent a year and a half as a real estate agent and I saw many empty houses during that time. Without anyone being there, I could still get a sense of which houses made me feel welcome and which ones felt cold and uninviting. While real estate didn't suit me as a career, I definitely enjoyed seeing other people's homes and seeing how different people live.

bronwynsmom- I really like your list. I think flow and storage are both very critical to that... definitely something I will have to think about with our house. While we have gotten better with the storage situation, we have small, older home and there is not a lot of closet space. Also the rooms are small, so I have to make sure that any furniture I buy is on the slimmer side to ensure there is enough room to flow freely through the house.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 8:44AM
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Where does that comment come from?

I'm sure it is different for different tastes, but something that is inviting doesn't have to be in your taste. I do think a home should reflect the taste and personality of the one living in it, so I'd say something that reflects you and is comfortable to you will likely be inviting to your friends.

Spend some time looking at Houzz -- a site I think someone else may have already suggested. Look at HGTV, search magazines, other websites, check out a couple of books from the library and see what kind of things appeal to you over and over. Look and color and textures, furniture types and basic styles, furniture arrangements, the types and amount of accessories in a room, color flow from room to room. Pulling rooms together might be as simple as taking some elements from one room and pulling them into the other -- literally swapping some items or duplicating the style or colors in the next room. Rooms don't need to match. You just don't want the transitions to be jarring.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 8:44AM
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Makeithome, I think you are right that it is different for every person. What's important is what makes you feel the most comfortable. If you are comfortable and relaxed in your home, it is likely that anyone visiting will also feel that way.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 9:52AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Excellent question! And there are so many ways to answer it.

Of course the people count and are the most important...nothing makes guests feel more comfortable than a host and hostess who are also comfortable...they set the tone for the household and guest behavior....think silver tea set vs. coffee mugs. But space too can be as welcoming or off putting.... and isn't the point of designing beautiful spaces to have a place to share with others?

When I first sat down with my architect, he asked me what kind of house I wanted. Instead of saying colonial or cape as he expected, I told him I want a house that is adorable. I want a house that, when people saw the outside said, gee I wonder what it looks like on the inside. I think we got what we wanted as I've actually had strangers stop and tell me how much they like the house and actually ask if they can see the inside!

(The pic was during landscaping...it's finished now.)

Part of what makes a home welcoming is its scale. When we were designing our new home ... we spent 7 years at it... we looked at hundreds of homes, new homes, showhouses, furnished model homes... and for us it was all about cozy. Many of these new homes had huge spaces in them....3 story high foyers...tremendous vaults on their ceilings, giant bedrooms and bathrooms. Grand, impressive spaces. But then how do you decorate them? Decorating them suddenly becomes about bringing the room back into human scale. And even at that, many well decorated rooms continued to feel like public spaces...like hotel lobbies, not homes.

Of course, you have the space you have so perhaps this answer isn't the most helpful, except for try for cozy. If your space isn't cozy, use decorating to make it so. (Interestingly the picture francoise posted does not look inviting to me at all, but cold and uninviting....I'd be afraid to mess up that white sofa!)

Cozy and warm to me are about colors. Natural wood is warm. Gold and yellow tones are warm. Balance and scale are comforting. Balance doesn't necessarily mean symmetrical, but equal massing.

Our library isn't symmetrical, but has balance of weight with focal point of the fireplace. Focal points make rooms feel better...they give the eye a place to go. The room is full of gold tones plus plums and greens for a very rich color palette which adds to the warmth. The art work reflects the warm tones in the room. Painting ceilings adds warmth to a space...don't leave that white blanket above everything, unless it's intentional.

Lighting is also essential to warming up a space. We have multiple points of light throughout the room. Highlighting the drapes, the bookcases, the art...

Where we do have volume in the room, we have intentionally softened it. So, for example, the dining room has a vaulted ceiling, but it is a barrel vault which feels much cozier. (Future plan is to paint it like a sunset sky....but haven't gotten there yet...)

We also shared color palettes between the library and the dining room as they are open to each other. The wall color in the DR is used on the library ceiling. The ceiling color in the library is used on the walls in the foyer. The berry tones in the DR are deepened to a plum in the library.

We used lighting in the DR to highlight the historic William Morris wallpaper panels which set the color palette for the room, but echo the tones in the library.

Here is another example of using decorating to soften and make the space cozier. This is DH's study with a very high vault to accommodate the large window on the front of the house. To visually bring the ceiling down, we painted it a dark taupe color.

So I'd say, cozy, warmth, balance, space to welcome people into, color, light, focal points, massing and scale all work together to make a space that brings people in and makes them want to stay.

But of course, an empty house, no matter how lovely, is still an empty house...it's people who make the house a home.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 9:56AM
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I agree with everything bronwynsmom stated. in addition to tidy organization and space planning I do believe that homes have either positive or negative energy, and that is why some homes are inviting when empty and other's are not. This energy could be a result of window placement and thus natural light, or it could be a matter of room size and spacial planning or it could be the karma left over from previous owners, who knows, but it is true that some houses have better vibes than others and it is hard to over come a house's natural energy no matter how hard we try to make it a home.

I am usually more at ease and prefer older homes over newer. I account this to both the details and quality of the building materials and the feeling that older homes have more soul. This personal preference might also stem from the fact that my favorite, most inviting home, was my aunts old stately house in Reading, Pa. It was large square ft wise, but the rooms were not too large there where just a lot of them. There were lots of nook areas and small seating arrangements. My aunt loves to host and is very comfortable doing so and this added to the appeal. Her home also had bits of whimsy and her character was very present thru out.

Inorder for a home to be inviting I think it should reflect the house's bones too. Cottage decor in a MCM would feel off and very unsettling to me.So although I love the roll arm english style sofa pictured above in the room it is in, I am not sure it would be as inviting in a different setting.

Just as a home needs to reflect its bones it must also reflect its owners as well. If you have children it should not look like a page out of shelter rag, although neat and tidy it should also shows signs of life.

Allow your home to evolve and grow and just like a child it will develop a spirit all its own and this individuality will be welcoming and the changes will add interest and freshness along the way as well

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 10:10AM
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Sophie Wheeler

Proportion, balance, and scaling things to the human in the room will make a home seem "cozier" rather than "grander". Using materials that are perceived as more casual than formal, and that have textures creates a space that engages the senses on all levels. And, really good quality lighting does wonders for almost any room, even huge caverns. It can take that 14 foot ceilinged drawing room and create pools of warm light that highlight the soft furnishings and create areas of interest that intrigue.

If you want a unified, cohesive look, the easiest way to achieve this is to choose the same color paint throughout the space and then use the furnishings to add the personality and color. It's a "gallery" type look that can come off well to highlight special pieces or high quality furnishings. Even thrift store decor can look like art in a low key neutral bacground of a space. However, the individual lines and colors of the pieces will assume a lot of importance in this type of decorating, so all should be chosen with that in mind. If you don't have the "eye" to pull that type of decor off, then you are better off at using color to disguise the inevitable mishmash of furnishings that young marrieds tend to have.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 10:15AM
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Annie, your house is amazing! The exterior design has so much curb appeal. It is indeed, adorable! Your interiors do look very warm and cozy. You must be so pleased with the results after all those years of planning. Enjoy!

I do like the pic Francois posted. While it is not warm and cozy, what makes it feel welcoming and comfortable to me is how uncluttered and simple it is, and yet, it exudes so much elegance, and is obviously a well-cared for space. In a word, it's tranquil, and that tranquility offers another sort of welcoming atmosphere!

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 10:16AM
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it is true that some houses have better vibes than others and it is hard to over come a house's natural energy no matter how hard we try to make it a home.

I completely agree with this. When I was renting I moved from one townhouse to another identical one in the same complex (owner of first one wanted to cash in on the frenzy). They both had the exact same orientation, so there was no difference in the light, and I had the same furniture in the same placement in both.

But while the kindest thing anyone ever said about the first one was, "Well, it has potential", everyone mentioned what a delightful place the second one was. It just enjoyed visitors much more than the first place did, for some reason.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 10:53AM
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I thought it best not to read what others have written first so as not to influence my original reaction to the OP's question....
By what I'm getting you want, my answer would be to have a clean/neat/tidy home that looks lived in. Which is exactly what I'm striving for in our home. Though I want our home to have some sort of personal style, I still feel a home must be neat and for the most part tidy, but still have the lived in look of not being "perfect". Perfect as in magazine picture like. Yes those homes are beautiful but certainly not practical, and in my opinion, not welcoming. Not in the way you describe.
I want to see coasters on the coffee or end tables in the living spaces. To me that says you are welcome to relax and have a drink in this room. Ottomans say you're welcome to get comfy and put your feet up. Simple stuff like that.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 2:37PM
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Oh gosh what a tough question and there are some great responses. For me it would be having a front entrance where you know immediately where to put your coat and shoes. (I live in a no-shoes-in-the-house city).

Having either lots of natural light or lots of warm light.

Having your paint flow from one room to the next. It doesn't have to be the same colour but just flow without being jarring. This is for public spaces, bedrooms for me are a free-for-all look.

Taking a favourite colour and including it in some way in each room. I don't mean the latest trend colour but your own favourite colour and have it in a painting, a bowl, a pillow, a planter. It makes you feel comfortable in your own rooms, it tells your friends something about you, and it adds a story to your home as well. I bet if you looked at your favourite things and your current accessories you will already have inadvertently started a colour theme. Build on it as it adds warmth.
I love the mix of copper and blue. I have a mosaic copper backsplash and hammered copper bowl for fruit in the kitchen and the valance has stripes of copper-colour and blues in it. The eating area/sitting area has paintings with blues in the background and a vase with blue and copper on it on the sideboard. The LR and DR follow the same idea with the same colours using a large vase, pillows and artwork. Except for the artwork and a couple of pieces that i have had for years most of the stuff comes from places like Home Sense.

And one thing, never make excuses for the look of your home. Don't say "I'm sorry that the place doesn't look nice but in a few years we're going to do this or that", "The furniture is so ratty, sorry". Never say that sort of thing. Be proud of your home at all stages of it's growth and of your decorating style as it changes.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 3:05PM
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Annie, my son and his wife are getting ready to build a house next door to us (Yay!), and they're looking at plans similar to your home. You can email me if you want, but what is the sq. footage and is that a 2 story home? That's what they want.

I personally think it's how one decorates that makes a home inviting. Before we added-on my LR was just a plain ole rectangle room. Nice windows w/shutters, but that's it. I was constantly told how homey my house was, even when I was decorating with a low budget.

When we remodeled and added-on, we also icluded a lot of really neat architectural detail...but...I used the exact same colors as my old LR, which are jewel tones.

My coffee table isn't of the shiny kind with one thing decorating it, but it has several things and the table itself says, "go ahead and put your feet on me!" lol. I find myself sitting on it quite a bit.

I also like a lot of stuff in a room. Not junky or cluttered, but just lots of stuff. Different woods, material, etc.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 3:19PM
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I have to agree with others who have said neat, tidy, and clutter free~~walking into a house that isn't causes me to become anxious and uncomfortable, and I don't want to be in the space.

Beautiful isn't a necessary option, and neither is fashionable or expensive furnishings~~comfy is the look and feel necessary. Pillows on a sofa/chairs are very iviting, and say, come sit and relax. Showroom perfect is *not* inviting.

If I would have to choose one element in a room, it would be fabric, from an area rug to window treatments. Fabric just adds a special warmth to a room and without it, feels naked.

In this case, size does not matter either! Cozy can be a very large space or a teeny, tiny one, but it's still based on the right 'conditions'.

Cozy is an emotion, a feeling that reads, inviting. ;o)

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 3:22PM
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"Don't say "I'm sorry that the place doesn't look nice but in a few years we're going to do this or that", "The furniture is so ratty, sorry". Never say that sort of thing. Be proud of your home at all stages of it's growth and of your decorating style as it changes." Sage advice, BLF!

Yes, bless your house with love! My sis moved into her newly renovated 1950 house in November and had an open house May 6. 100 people stopped over and there was much laughter, celebration, food, fun. It was a wonderful way to bless her house with love!

Of course, this is an ongoing process, not a one-time event, but such rituals celebrate, as her invitation read, that "We have put down new roots..."

As others have noted, there is an "energy" present in a house. Make an effort to regard all things about your home lovingly to enhance its energy. As BLF says, regard your house and the things in it with respect and appreciation. In turn, you will experience warmth and comfort and a sense of being "home."

Btw, BLF, your kitchen with the blue and copper sounds beautiful! Any pics?

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 4:02PM
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It's my belief that the reason an unkempt house makes visitors uncomfortable is that it appears that you aren't ready for them, that you don't have the time or energy to entertain them, and that you don't really care much.

That said, there are always exceptions - I have one very messy friend whose house is so full of her personality, and who is so warm and full of the joy of life, that being in her quarters is very happy-making. You just pour yourself a glass of wine, move a cat over, plump yourself down beside the stacks of books and interesting stuff on the side tables, and feel so content to be there, just knowing she is soooo glad to see you, and aren't we having the best time!

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 4:09PM
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"Your house should give you that "Ahhhhh" feeling when you come home."

I agree with this more than anything said here. Your home should be your refuge.

I agree with Patty about fabric. Fabric! Pillows, good smells, pleasing colors (I like soothing), objects that mean something, that relate to those living in the home. As someone else said, I want items in our home that reflect our personality. Windows with blinds, shutters, shades (whatever) open and lots of natural light flooding the rooms. Plants. Needs to be clean, not perfect, but clean and uncluttered. Comfortable furniture that makes one want to sit and stay awhile.


    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 4:11PM
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Tina, yes, yes, YES, said in my best Meg Ryan voice! Ya gotta LOVE comin' home to your home...first!! ;o)

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 4:36PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

I agree about fabric too. A lot of modern design leaves windows bare, but fabric softens the sounds and warms up a place. I need to have my windows dressed. (I have the fabric for the DR window, but haven't sewn it yet.) One time I had to go to a colleagues home to finish up some work and we were upstairs in a room with no window treatments...even though I had him turn up the heat, I still had my coat on as I was freezing...it felt cold even though the temp was not.

Thank you, stinky-gardener. Glad you like the place.

Oakleyok, the house is about 2100 sq ft on the main level. Upstairs is only attic space. The house is built into a southern facing slope (it's a green home so it has solar panels on the roof and is passive solar design...few windows on the north face, lots on the southern face) so we finished off a little over half the basement. So yes it is 2 story, but not in the conventional sense.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 4:51PM
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Wow, Annie, your house looks so much bigger than that!!! My guess would have been between 3,500 and 4,000 square feet. Your house sounds very managable & functional (it's obviously beautiful!) Nice that all your living space is on one floor, and you have ample storage in what must be a very spacious attic! Fabulous!

I agree with you about curtains adding visual warmth and absorbing sound. I had treatments made for my living room and they make a huge difference on both counts. They also create a "cocoon-like" feel in the space, which is a plus, imo.

I like light, open and airy looks too, but sometimes, in some rooms, only real, honest-to-goodness curtains will do!

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 5:44PM
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Just beautiful Annie!

Patty - do you have a cooking blog? I somehow happened upon one today and it was Pattycakes cooking or kitchen or something or other. LOL

Yes on drapes. We have drapes - panels that are always open - pulled to each side with wood blinds.


    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 9:34PM
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Well, while cruising this thread, I got a very specific idea from Annie's library. Look at that lamplit couch in a mostly shadowy room. THAT is extremely inviting. It says, "I've been waiting for you." So, don't just use light to showcase art, use it to draw people to spots in your home where you want them to settle in.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2012 at 6:58PM
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I'm no decorating maven but I know what makes a home inviting to me when I go to one. It looks like someone lives there and not like a museum or a perfectly decorated hotel. The furnishings look comfortable and like I could use them without fear of mussing up "the look". It should be clean, organized and free of clutter but not too "perfect". There are details that add character and break up big expanses of nothingness. The Not So Big House says a lot about what I think makes a home inviting - details and character vs. size.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2012 at 7:17PM
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If you are trying to *design* warm & inviting, it won't happen. A home being warm and inviting is not the result of a design team, but a way of life and how the homeowner's live. Trying too hard to be inviting often ends up being wrong. I've been in more than a few homes that are not fashionable, and I wonder what decade the person decorated in. But they felt inviting.

Grandma lived in a double wide with vinyl floors and nothing special. But it was inviting. The kitchen was lived in, every piece of furniture or decorations were something that she loved or she found value in...that is inviting. When people hang things up or put things somewhere to make it seem inviting, that's when things get messed up.

The most inviting homes I've been in are very organic places, and sometimes take years to get there.

Another facet of a place seeming inviting to me is cleanliness. Homes that are immaculate or extremely organized and uncluttered do not seem inviting to me...I feel like anything I touch, anywhere I go, I will be a burden that merely must be cleaned up after. Certainly a dirty house is a no no, but a lived in house helps that to create that "inviting" feeling. After all, we do not live in museums, we live in homes.

I also personally think that warm rich colours lend themselves to an inviting atmosphere....neutrals, which are all the rage lately (everyone seems gaga over grays and cool beiges), seem to be not so inviting. People are often too afraid to use bold, rich, and warm colors, and they lose out on the feeling those colors portray. People are too fast to use white molding and trim when a nice dark wood would be more inviting, as the pictures above show.

I find that first picture to be anything but inviting.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2012 at 9:07PM
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I'll echo Gibby that a 'lived in' quality is important. The space should be welcoming and accepting, but also flexible and resilient. Too poofed the cushions, too precise the object placement, too perfect the finishes, too artfull the draped throw - and I feel like a clumsy rube who might just wreck the whole look by touching or moving an object.

I do see beauty in a wonderfully decorated formal room, or a stunningly spare contemporary room, but those rooms aren't always the most comfortable for me to visit personally. I think a room that telegraphs it can easily absorb newspapers, books, pets, kids and coffee cups is more inviting. Many of the warmest most welcoming spaces I've known were hardly magazine photo ready. But they shared a wonderful sense of place that reflected their occupants. Their personal space was uniquely theirs, and felt so warm and easy and safe and delightful to be in.

Folks have spoken to other basics. Good lighting, comfortable seating placed for conversation, and textures are key. A calm clean backdrop spiked with a few really interesting and unique personal items helps make a space comfortable and memorable for me.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2012 at 9:09PM
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"Inviting" to me is not the same as beautiful--many beautiful rooms don't look inviting.

Inviting, to me, is:

Sunlight in the daytime and lamplight (not overhead lighting) at night. Although I am a clutter-phobe, I have often felt that sunlight canceled out a lot of clutter--a sunny room with stacks of books and a pile of shoes by the door reads very differently to me than the same room with curtains blocking the light.

Textures and finishes that don't say "hands off."

Books and houseplants.

Clean but not laboratory clean.

Hospitality. My friend had a woebegone couch and an IKEA college-era dining table, but every time I walked in she had a tea tray ready. Settling down for a nice chat, how the sofa looked didn't matter a whit.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2012 at 10:00PM
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Comfortable chairs with places to put your feet up, a table and light next to the chair.... Good places to read, everywhere, in every room!

    Bookmark   June 1, 2012 at 12:43AM
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Annie, that's just stunning. The picture of the back of the house, which floor do you live on? Is the upper floor with all the windows the attic?

    Bookmark   June 1, 2012 at 8:33AM
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I just skimmed the responses but agree with pretty much everything I read.

However, a few months back we went to visit our friends in their new house. I very much enjoyed being in their house and was extremely comfortable but it was nothing like we're talking about above. I left very perplexed by this because it's the first time it's ever happened to me and I don't believe my reaction to their house has anything to do with their great personalities.

It's an old house but nothing fancy. The colors weren't colors I'd ever use or ever use together. The crown moulding was installed upside down. There was LOTS of stuff and quite a hodge podge of it. Different styles of accessories all thrown into the same house - everything from Boyds Bears, to Pier One, to things her father made for them. Not a lot of small trinkets, but still, a lot of stuff. Lots of family and friends photos displayed. Nothing was really 'correct' from a decorating stand point but the whole time I was there I was trying to figure out what was so welcoming and captivating about the house. Normally what I just described wouldn't leave me feeling that way. I'm not sure I'll ever figure it out.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2012 at 4:57PM
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I also enjoy looking at beautiful rooms with everything planned and thought-out. I don't enjoy BEING in those rooms, and would not enjoy living in one. For me to feel comfortable and enveloped in a home, I have to see a little bit of "schmutz": a bit of wear on the arms of the furniture, a few scratches on the furniture, a pile of books, a few unplanned objects setting around - things that indicate life. Rooms with too much "posing" often look like the owners live for the things rather than the things existing for the owners. JMHO.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2012 at 5:46PM
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My first thought when I read this post was how inviting my sister's home is, and I'm glad to say it moved me to tell her so and she was touched to hear it. I've felt that way about the 3 places she's lived in as an adult - a small 3rd story apartment, a ranch, and now a 100 yr. old New Englander. So, it's not just about the size or style of the space.

My sister's homes have always included many of the suggested elements mentioned above. They've been neat and clean, but not too. They've been well-lit. Most of all they've all been an expression of her welcoming nature and fun-loving personality. She easily mixes high & low end with pieces inherited from her DH's family. She's not afraid to (sometime) break the decorating rules.

Funny story along these lines...Recently we had our home appraised for refinancing. I keep a neat home, but I was on a cleaning frenzy for 2 days before the appointment. When the guy walked through the door he took a look around and commented, "Wow, this place looks like a furniture showroom!" For a split second I thought, "Yes!" But then I thought..."Hey, my home has more soul than that!"

Clearly, it was an unusual circumstance. Everything was set "just so" because I felt that not only my home, but my housekeeping, was being judged by a stranger. We don't actually live that way. But I thought it was an interesting observation and I have to admit that in that state it did give off the impersonal vibe of a house that was staged for sale, instead of a home we share with 2 dogs and where our granddaughter's stuffed "sleepover" bear is often on the bed of the guestroom.

A inviting home should convey the feeling that someone actually lives a real life in it.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2012 at 10:27PM
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I hate it when people make you remove your shoes to come in their house. Good grief.... That does NOT feel inviting, welcome or cozy. It's defensive and stupid. I welcome people into my home fully clothed. I can always clean if I feel the need afterwards. WELCOME ALL as you are. THAT makes me feel cozy.

After that, I would say I love houses you can see through such as when you come in there are big windows that you can see all the way through to the back yard. It's my favorite thing. When people come in their eye immediately goes from the foyer to the trees in the back yard.

Can I also indulge that friendly, sweet and happy pets always make me know this is a good place to be : )

I would say also that of course it is the people but I have seen warm and loving people who look so out of place in their stilted interior. So what makes a "house" look inviting is somehow the scale and balance, windows in the right places, function and spaces that somehow just feel right, non frightening furnishings and furniture and yes, cleanliness and lack of overwhelming clutter.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2012 at 8:43AM
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Dee, I also love a bit of "wear" on furniture. I proudly display my coffee table with three corners that's been chewed on by my dog when she was a puppy! I'll never get rid of it. And I think that's part of the charm to my room and makes people feel comfy.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2012 at 9:05AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Oakleyok, thank you. The house is built into a southern facing slope to capture the sun and to protect the lower level from the northwest winds.

In the bottom picture posted above, going from left to right, the lower level is my craft room, then the walk out through the exercise room...it also contains a music nook, and then the guest room. The 2nd floor in the back of the house, is the main floor (1st floor in the front) . From left to right is bedroom, dining room, kitchen window and then breakfast nook.

Perhaps this side view will give you a better sense of what's going on. The left side is the north, front of the house...the right side is the south, rear and we're looking at the west wall.

BTW, that french door on the side is not a french door at all, but a regular lift garage door which is access to DH's workshop and a garage for our vintage jeep.

The deck is off of the breakfast nook. It was purposely put in the southeast corner of the house to capture the sun and protect it from the winds. Below is a view of a pond, so we used glass instead of railing and pickets to surround the deck. We are so glad we did. Had we not done so, we would not enjoy the view half as much.

On the deck, looking through the glass railing...

Pond down below:

Perhaps this is an element of making a home comforting and welcoming...maximize its assets whatever they are....

    Bookmark   June 2, 2012 at 9:10AM
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Annie, we have the same garage doors, but ours is a double garage. Don't you love them? I do. Now, I wish I had the same pond! Also, do you find that birds fly into the glass railing? We are in need of a redo for our deck and I love the look of glass, but am also considering a cable railing since both really open the view and that is what I like.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2012 at 9:47AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

cyn, yes the french porte doors are fabulous. I'm so glad we did that. I first saw them many many years ago on Christopher Lowell and thought they were great then and always remembered them.

For the deck, we considered the cables, but went with the glass. We were concerned that the cables wouldn't pass building inspection because they are usually strung horizontally which children can climb on. And both options were expensive. The glass is tempered and very strong. It seems to help block the wind on windy days. I've found I never need to wash them....only mop up an occasional bird doop. Mother nature takes care of the rest. We haven't had the birds flying into them at all.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2012 at 10:04AM
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My MIL had the most inviting house I've been in, and as beautiful as it was, it was her as hostess that made it that way. She was always welcoming, happy to be joined. She was a natural entertainer and hostess. She always offered a drink, had a simple snack to keep your hands busy. She allowed you to help in the kitchen, but nothing too labor intensive:) Her house was lovely - bright and light with lots of interesting things to look at. Wonderful artwork and interesting books. Sometimes she had magazine articles or newspaper clippings of funny stories to talk about. The house was full of lots of different fabrics that made everything look cozy, and it was always a great temperature. Warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Always comfortable. I miss her!
We do a lot of entertaining now and join friends at their homes a good bit. I think neat, but not afraid to make a mess in neat, is very important. If you entertain kids, space and activities for them that you are comfortable with them using. A kitchen where people can hang out and help themselves after you've started them down the right path. And comfortable seating. If you want people to stay, they need to have somewhere to sit that is conducive to conversations and lingering.
From your post you have the the most important part already - you want people to visit!

    Bookmark   June 2, 2012 at 2:23PM
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A home is of course the people, the love, the sensation of ease after a long day, blah blah blah... (those are not dismissive blahs but, i believe, givens) we all know that first and for most a home is a repository for the things we love most.

But to spin that into design, I think is much more difficult. What are the tangible ways that we manifest happiness and comfort? I think to do this we have to reference the senses one by one. First sight. We need the right lighting. We need to consider the aspect of the home, the windows, and then the artificial lighting and all the layers that entails, to truly delight the eye and not just allow the basic function, seeing. The most stunning and comforting things are the colours of our lives illuminated by the right fixture. Or our mood mirrored in the dim lamp light of a living room in the evening. Or a favourite art piece dramatically down lit. Colour is light.

Then we need to have tactile things, soft, warm, comfortable. Maybe that might manifest in a plush rug or shaggy flokati, or as francoise47 said a rolled arm sofa. I personally like a pillow top mattress and piles and piles of pillows on my bed (even if they take a bit more time to remove and then replace just so). Euro style, king sized, decorative.

Personally the sounds of human voices are my favourite sign of home. And not just the obvious (those of my family and friends) but also the chatter of the television or radio (and lots o' them) say home to me. I know so many people that have banished TV from their lives for various reasons. Not me, not ever. And what about the sound when the guests go home and the kids are in bed, that to me is also uniquely the silence of home.

Smell of home: cut flowers, baking, the faint odour of a popular brand of lemon cleaner, mingling with vinegar. Even though I wouldn't want to wear that as perfume, I do have a sense of accomplishment/relaxation when that smell is in the air. It means clean, and I agree with PP a clean home is awesome. But this goes hand in with that other sense taste which of course is good food, but from a design perspective what about all the places we perch to eat it, long tables, island stools, cosy kitchen nooks... so homey. Think sliding into a comfy colourful banquet or eating at a harvest table, or just standing round the island with a bowl of cereal.

Just my $20 (a bit more then 2cents)

    Bookmark   June 3, 2012 at 12:09AM
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I agree taht being able to see straight through the house from the entry to the back is exciting. I also agree that leaving a guest alone regarding their footwear is welcoming. (I do draw the line on 4" heels).
The main welcoming for me is if the hosts has prepared for my visit--if only a pitcher of water with glasses.
The visual for me is the light--both natural and artificial. If the light is good I am relaxed. It amazes me how few homes get this. I hate overhead lights in general. Just spent the night with my brother and we talked with NO lights on but by the light of the 62" TV.
Went to read in bed and there was nothing but the overhead light. I ahve 5 lamps in my main room and it is not too much.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2012 at 4:48AM
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Funny about the shoe thing. My mom always taught me to take off my shoes when I entered someone's home. Now I don't feel comfortable walking around in shoes in anyone's home (unless it's a more formal party where everyone is dressed up)...I don't feel like I can relax.

That being said, I don't ask anyone to remove their shoes (unless they're a contractor/etc) and if they ask if they should, I tell them they don't need to. I figure they must feel more comfortable with them on or they wouldn't have asked. But I wish more people would habitually remove their shoes ...feels more comfortable...like they want to spend some time getting to know you better and aren't looking for a quick getaway :)

As for the original question...for me, it's uncluttered walkways, personal touches/photos, few "staged" knickknacks, color, texture, fabrics, comfy sofa, and plants/flowers.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 6:22PM
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Noodles, I hear ya! Even though I have beautiful ceiling fixtures, I very rarely turn them on. I love the golden glow the lamps seem to cast off the walls in the evening, and 'blame' it on the warm tan of the walls as well as low wattage bulbs, never glaring *bright* light here! I have 5 lamps in the great room and 3 in the kitchen.

hlove, no shoes here either and I also take them off when visiting. I think i'm just more comfortable w/o them. ;o)

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 6:46PM
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I stopped at a neighbor's home about a year ago, and fell in love with her place. I had never been there, but didn't want to leave. Her house was a restored farm house and they had totally gutted it. I just kept saying "Oh my gosh, this is awesome". It was so welcoming. I wasn't there long, but it has such a drawing feeling. The TV was on, and the fireplace at the end of the room had a round rug in front of it with two rocking chairs and a small table in between. The fireplace was decorated for the holidays and the fire was lit. The overhead lights were off, but the lamps glowing just made you want to sit and stay a while. She invited me in to look at her house that they had worked so hard on. I was mesmerized. She has unique accent and photos and souvenirs, and things that made up her personality. She had throw blankets on the couch, and places to prop your feet up. I don't know exactly what it was about her home, but I definitely sensed it, and was aware that I wanted a home like that. I talked about that feeling I had in that house for weeks. Sure hope to build that kind of atmosphere in my house one day. Neat place.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2012 at 12:27AM
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