Michaela Mahady suggests in her book, Welcoming Home, that inviting houses are ones that speak to us with forms we can relate to, and what we are seeking are spaces that make us feel protected and safe. “When we see a reflection of our human form, whether in a house, a care or a chair, we have a visceral understanding of it.”
You might say the houses are offering an appealing metaphor.
Consider how often we identify parts of objects around us by the names of our various body parts. Needles have eyes, clocks have faces and hands, tables have heads, feet and legs, pitchers have necks, shoulders and feet. Nor do we stop at man-made objects: mountain ranges have spines and beaches have heads, as does cabbage. Corn has ears and valleys have bosoms! We turn to that which we know best—our own bodies—to capture some essence of an object and our experience of it.
“Certain houses that imitate our body form, they draw us in and make us feel more friendly,” Mahady says.
That’s certainly true for my house. A U-shaped rancher, its short ends, like a pair of arms, embrace part of the back yard. Along with a fence and landscaping, they create a sheltered and private feel. Include the water element of a pool, and perhaps it’s not surprising that visitors often choose the same metaphor to describe it– it’s an oasis. An inviting place of nurturing, relief, even rescue.
As you drive around this spring noticing the For Sale signs, you might play at asking which houses seem homey and inviting to you… and ask yourself why they feel that way. Is there a metaphor for sale? I’d love to hear what you discover.
And if you think of other examples of objects whose parts we identify with body parts—share them here!