What Makes a House a Home?

After a four-month stay in temporary housing after our move across the country last summer, my family has purchased a delightful house where we hope to reside for many years.

Most of us don’t view our houses simply as shelters. We view them as our homes. What exactly is the difference? What makes a residence into a home?

Through all the house hunting, negotiating, inspecting, repairing, and moving, I’ve realized that many of us invest significant amounts of time and money to obtain structures that are relatively feeble—they could easily be destroyed by something as simple as a strong storm or flame from an unattended candle. Given this, why do we feel it is so important to find the “right” house?

I believe it is because most of us don’t view our houses (or apartments, condos, etc.) simply as shelters. We view them as our homes. They are the settings where we raise our children, grow old with our spouses, and make memories.

What specific characteristics transform our physical domiciles into homes?

The characteristics of a home

  • The presence of family. Back when my husband and I were engaged, he learned that his employer was transferring him to a project on the other side of the country. He asked me how I felt about this. Though I was deeply disappointed to have to move, I told him that I was marrying him, not a geographic location. Likewise, our homes should be tied to our families, not to physical buildings or particular cities. God places us in families to meet several of our needs, including our needs for companionship (Genesis 2:18-22, Psalm 68:6a). Subsequently, when we are with our families, we are home.
  • A restful atmosphere. We are often surrounded by pressure, hurriedness, and chaos when we go out into our communities and workplaces. The home, on the other hand, should be a place of rest and refreshment (Isaiah 32:18). By keeping clutter to a minimum and communicating respectfully, we can foster a peaceful, restful environment.
  • The practice of hospitality. The home shouldn’t just be a place of rest for our families—it should be a place of comfort and rest for strangers, refugees, and friends. Over and over throughout the Bible we see examples of hospitality in the home (Genesis 24:23-31, Genesis 19:2-3, Luke 5:27-31). We were once strangers and aliens who were taken in by God (Ephesians 2:19), so offering hospitality to others is the least we can do to share His love with others!
  • A cultivation of learning. Our homes are the chief settings where we should impart practical and spiritual knowledge to our children. In Deuteronomy 6:6-9, the Word of God explicitly instructs us to teach God’s commands as we go about everyday activities in and outside of the home: “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” It’s wise for us to teach practical knowledge and skills (manners, cooking, budgeting, etc.) in this same fashion.
  • A pursuit of holiness. The home should be a place where we are sheltered from temptation to sin. We’re human, of course, so there will always be some temptation, but we can make concerted efforts to protect our families against the negative influences of things like inappropriate movies, books, and TV shows (Joshua 24:15b). We can also go on the offensive against sin by praying for our families, having family devotions, and making our homes places where thankfulness dwells.
  • Noise. Most homes are anything but quiet. Sometimes they are filled with laughter and sometimes they are filled with crying. I can’t image any setting more appropriate for both than the home.
  • The presence of special knickknacks, furniture, and heirlooms. Though our possessions are unimportant in the big picture (Luke 12:15), it’s impossible for me to think of my home without thinking of the items that fill it: my beloved mismatched furniture, the serving dishes that were my grandmother’s before her death, the coffee table that got scratched during our recent move, the curtain I sewed for my daughter before she was born, etc. Though they lack eternal significance, these are important because they help create a comfortable environment for our families today.
  • Dings and flaws. Many of the possessions I just mentioned are dinged or scratched. Many of our families are dinged and scratched, too. Things like hurtful words, untrustworthy actions, and divorce cause these flaws in our families. The home should be a place where we—dings and all—can be comfortable, heal, and grow to be better than we are currently.

Whether you rent or own your home, it is a temporary dwelling that can merely reflect the eternal home we will one day enter (2 Corinthians 5:1). Let’s enjoy our homes, but not fill them with the treasures we should be storing up in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21). When we celebrate in them, let’s remember the celebration that is to come at the end of the age. When we welcome strangers and friends, let’s make sure they feel the love of the Lord.

This is a lot to take in, but it sure inspires me to be faithful in my approach to maintaining my home! What do you think? What makes a house a home?

Shared at the following link parties:

Living Proverbs 31, Motivation Monday, Making Your Home Sing, Weekend Wind Down, Shine Blog Hop, Think Tank Thursday, Coffee and Conversation and Faith Filled Wednesday.


  1. I love the noise and dings and flaws. My mom loves looking at all those decorating magazines but I try to tell her they are just houses, we have a home. It’s not perfect, but it’s ours and we share love, laughter, and tears here. Thanks so much for writing this.

    • Hi Lexie,
      There’s nothing that could make me want to trade the love, laughter, and tears for the “perfect” house in the magazines. As you’ve indicated, home is just too special.

  2. I love this! Especially how you put it as for “the pursuit of holiness”-having a place where a family can together cultivate holiness away from some of the culture’s more negative influence is super important! I think along with having the pursuit of holiness, bringing sacred art into a home is beneficial-that way, there are physical reminders of a family’s goal (Heaven) through a common area for prayer, crosses or crucifixes, wall hangings, etc.

    I think it’s also really neat how you mentioned marrying your husband, not the geographic location-when I first got married over 2 years ago, my husband and I were college students in Ohio-hundreds of miles away from our parents and siblings. A common remark I got from friends was, “I’m excited you’re married, but that’s going to be so hard, being so far from home.” But, I would think (and sometimes explain), my home is with my husband, ’cause he’s my primary family right now. Yes, it’s nice to live by extended family, but if I’m with my husband, I’m home. Oh, and I think that a characteristic of “home” is if it just feels comfortable. I feel so comfortable and at ease when I walk into a person’s house and I can see a pile of junk in the corner or on the counter. Yes, it’s good to be tidy, but I feel awkward in “museum homes” where everything is always pristine and I have to step on my tip-toes everywhere. But if there’s that pile of junk, or some shoes flung by the door, I sigh and think, “Ah, this feels like a home.”

    • Hi AnneMarie,
      I definitely agree about homes feeling more comfortable when they are “lived in.” Clean and tidy is nice, but things don’t have to be Pinterest perfect!

  3. This was such a beautiful, edifying post.

    My daughter and son-in-law are in the process of buying their first home. There does seem to be this pressure to find the “perfect home”.

    Your reminders are so edifying as to what makes a home and what brings glory to God.
    Thanks so much for sharing. 🙂


    • I’m so pleased to share it, Karen. That pressure is there, and I think most of us (especially women) desire a lovely space to call home. It’s so important, though, that we keep things in proper perspective.

  4. I was tickled that you said noise!

    Please drop by and say hello!

  5. I love your list of characteristics of a home and this incredibly important reminder: “The home should be a place where we—dings and all—can be comfortable, heal, and grow to be better than we are currently.” Dings and all, we all have so many of them. I totally agree with you about home being more about the people in it than its location. My focus this year is my precious people. They really are everything :).

    • They are everything, Candace. It’s great when we can keep them as our focus when we do things with our homes.

  6. This is something I’m always thinking about and constantly thriving to keep. Our house will never be magazine worthy, as it’s not perfect. But it’s lived in, and we love it.

  7. I agree, a house is simply a house, the walls, the materials used to build it. But a home, it’s the essence of family I believe. The home is meant to be a safe haven for those who enter and leave.

    Thank you for this wonderful reminder!

  8. Such a thoughtful post, Shannon. These all perfectly describe the characteristic of what turns a house into a home. I love your mention of dings and flaws. It made think of all the social media posts and shares I come across on a daily basis and how it portrays this idea of perfection–all the time. And your post is a great reminder that not all homes are pristine in reality. And that’s totally ok! As long as it provides comfort and love, it’s a home nonetheless. Thanks so much for sharing this on #SHINEbloghop. It’s so great for you to join us this week!

    • Hi Maria,
      Social media (especially Pinterest) can certainly encourage us to put our focus on the wrong things. Comfort and love are so much more important than sparkling floors or perfectly decorated coffee tables!

  9. These are truly the things that really make a house a home! Love it

  10. Where ever my family is, that is home 🙂


  11. Yay for a new house! Congratulations. I hope the move and settling in goes well. I agree that knickknacks and family pictures on the wall really help the house feel like a home. That is one of my top priorities when we move. It makes the new place feel like ours. We’re renters so we’ve moved a lot! 😉 Still working on the hospitality. We’ve always had a place that was too small to have people over a lot but now that we are in a house I need to do it more often.

    • Hi Ana,
      I’ve never been particularly skilled or confident at hospitality. However, we’ve already had several guests since our move, so perhaps this will change!

  12. Thank you for this!
    It’s so true. We are living in temporary housing right now(our belongings are all in storage) waiting for our home to be built. I think about where my son and his friends will congregate, my husband and I sitting on our porch, and how I will prepare a room for our guests to sleep. I want our home to reflect our lives. Safe, comfortable and inviting. There are a few “things” I think about, but mostly it’s experiences I am excited to have and share with family and friends.

    • Hi Rebecca,
      I think having a home that reflects your life is a great approach. It really summarizes a lot of what I was trying to say here. Have a wonderful time in your new home!

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