The House as Mirror of Self

Lately I have been reading two books in tandem.  They seem to be so related that it has become a little difficult to remember which author has made which statement.

These books, Some Place like Home: Using Design Psychology to Create Ideal Places by Toby Israel, and House as a Mirror of Self: Exploring the Deeper Meaning of Home by Clare Cooper Marcus, both deal with the psychology of design which is a subject of fascination for me.

Ms. Israel practically begins her preface with a statement by the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard as he wrote of the “Poetics of Space”:

“ An entire past comes to dwell in a new home….Thus the house is not experienced from day to day only, on the thread of a narrative or in the telling of our own story. Through dreams, the various dwelling-places in our lives co-penetrate and retain the treasure of former days.”

The author contends that our sense of self and sense of the environment are intimately and profoundly entwined; the seeds of this connection are planted in childhood; if we are aware of these meanings we can create more satisfying places/homes.    She illustrates these contentions thru extended interviews with three men significant in architecture, architectural criticism, and urban planning and thru reflections on her own experience with finding and creating a suitable place for herself and her family….a real home.

In the other book, the House as Mirror of Self, Ms. Marcus leans heavily on some Jungian theorizing about the role of home and our early experiences which inevitably have impacted our adult choices.  She contends that “It may be that what a home symbolizes for each person is more critical than almost any other issue.”

Ms. Marcus explores the importance of the location of a home, its context within the community and the compelling strains of two people finding a way to reconcile both their deepest needs relating to their concepts of what constitutes a fulfilling domicile.  It is never easy to come to a perfect accord…actually I now think it is pretty amazing that so many couples can create a mutually acceptable, even successful amalgam of a house.

Now I am searching my own housing history to determine what has shaped my own preferences.


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