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House or Home? A Choice of Terms

This is my contribution to this month’s ArchiTalks topic, “House or Home?”

The other posts are linked below; you can also find them on twitter by following the hashtag, #ArchiTalks.



In a sense the topic of “House or Home?” is out of my league. I’ve been practicing architecture for over twenty-five years but have done very little single-family residential design. I admire my colleagues who have focused on creating homes for their clients and I invite you to read their ideas on this subject – they’re all linked at the bottom of this post.

When I thought about this title I was drawn to the two words. “House” and “home” have three letters in common, they have overlapping contexts, and are loosely interchangeable (when defined loosely or used inattentively). They are similar, but different. They are elementary proof that communicating about buildings can involve all sorts of verbal mishaps.

When we look at a set of building plans, the face of a building is called an “elevation,” yet it may have a set of vertical targets indicating “elevations” above grade. If there’s a common meaning there, it escapes me.

The parts of a door frame could be “head” and “jambs” ~ or “bucks” if you find yourself talking to an older carpenter. And that’s before you get into industry terms and regulatory language. That takes special training. Some of us need a trade expert to correctly identify door hardware.

I have a notion than much of the confusion in our construction terminology and design jargon can be traced back (metaphorically if not theologically) to the Tower of Babel.

Confusion of Tongues by G. Dore

Remember when the powers that be chose to confound the builders’ language rather than let them forge a central city and tower? People were supposed to fill the earth, not over-build in one part of it. They broke off into fractured language groups and built their similar but different ziggurats and pyramids and temples and towers around the globe.

Okay, that’s probably enough Sunday School for this post.

My point is that as architects we have a the opportunity – and the responsibility – to select the right terms and to tell the right stories in order to engage our clients and the culture at large. Remember the quote often attributed to Plato; “Those who tell the stories rule society.”

Plato Storytelling Quote

Now, please read what these fine architectural bloggers have to say about “House or Home?”

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
The Designation between House and Home

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
ArchiTalks: House or Home?

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
House or Home? The Answer to Everything

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
our house is home

Mark R. LePage – EntreArchitect (@EntreArchitect)
Emotional Marketing for Architects: House or Home?

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
House or Home? It’s in the story.

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
House or Home — Discover the Difference

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
“house” or “home”?

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Architalks #24 : House or Home

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
House or Home? – Depends

Michael LaValley – Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
House or Home? Train for One, Design for Another

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
A Rose by Any Other Name…

Greg Croft – Sage Leaf Group (@croft_gregory)
House or Home

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Designing a House into a Home

Samantha R. Markham – The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
6 Ways to Make your Architecture Studio feel like Home

Kyu Young Kim – J&K Atelier (@sokokyu)
Making a House a Home

Nisha Kandiah – ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
Dwelling on a Macro scale

Rusty Long – Rusty Long, Architect (@rustylong)
House or Home

Keith Palma – Architect’s Trace (@cogitatedesign)
I don’t design homes

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
House or Home: One’s a Place, the Other a Feeling.

Tim Ung – Journey of an Architect (@timothy_ung)
Architalks – A House is not a home

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
#ArchiTalks #24 House or Home? #RefugeeCrisis @GrainneHassett mentioned

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)

house or home: #architalks


  1. Jim Mehaffey /Reply

    Always extremely impressed by the breadth of the subject matter by our group. Tower of Babel – that is an angel I did not see coming!

  2. Steve Ramos /Reply


    Great story! A very creative spin on House or Home. You are on to something about storytellers. Or I guess Plato was on to something. Cheers! – Steve

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