Love the House You’re In

Love the House You're In

I actually wrote this post (below) in 2008, but here’s an update! I’ve moved twice since this was written, but I still feel the same about my home today in 2016. I want to love the home I have, even if it isn’t the house of my dreams! Eight years later, I am still sharing this message and enjoying the journey of creating a home. The blog has grown to attract so many kindred spirits, I love sharing here every day. I even wrote a book called Love the Home You Have, which became a New York Times bestseller (released in March 2015) and The Inspired Room (November 2015).

Both books are about stepping away from designer portfolio-sized expectations and looking at your own home with a new perspective. It’s the little things we choose to do right where we are, with what we have, that make any house a home.

Love the House You're In

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Love the House You're In

January 2008

I have been trying to put together my virtual dream house, just for fun (inspired by my friend at Things That Inspire. I don’t know if this is just my schizophrenia coming out, my ADD, or plain indecisiveness, but images of my dream house can swing wildly from an English Cottage, to a French Chateau in the countryside to a Farmhouse with big square rooms and wide hallways. Big houses. Small houses. Winter Houses, Summer houses. White painted wood, dark wood. I can’t decide! What do I like best? I could be happy in so many different styles! So many options, so little time and money to try them all out. That is the problem, I like so many styles and ways of life. I can find a piece of my heart in all of them.

Love the House You're In

I am never faced with this sort of dilemma, having to choose one favorite. My dream house isn’t something I have ever created from scratch. In my life, you work with what you have and create your dreams under your own roof. You may not be living your one and only perfect life dream, but you’ve got to make everyday life an adventure! Explore new horizons!

Love the House You're In

My house right now has its own mood — a “cozy” Old World mood. There was no sense in making this house into something is isn’t — no happy-go-lucky relaxed summer look for this place. It has that “old house full of antiques and treasures from traveling the world look.” At least I imagine it does! It is big and rambling with lots of stairways and hallways. It feels kind of like an old European hotel. Fortunately for us we love that mood so we go with it rather than fight it or try to change it. But we should never be limited in our options by the style of house we already have. It really helps to work with it if it has a clearly defined style, but it isn’t always necessary. Sometimes mixing things up a bit makes a style more fun. And more unique and personal! We know our house isn’t exactly the house in our dreams. We just picture that we are in a castle somewhere in England. It probably doesn’t hurt that we have a vivid imagination.

Love the House You're In

What does your dream life look like? The one you would live if you could dial up design-a-life? Answering that question often helps us create the home of our dreams.

Our dream life includes romance, charm, adventure, travel and a sense of living in another time and place. Creating the right ambience is one of the keys to our sense of living our dream under our own roof.

One way we create ambience is with lighting. We love lamps and light fixtures to create the right mood.

That is one of the things we loved at first sight about our house — the antique light fixtures. Lantern style lights hang from the ceilings and many walls have antique sconces. In our house, the light fixtures themselves become a part of the fairytale life we imagine we are living. I know, we’re hopeless romantics!

Love the House You're In

We even choose our lightbulbs carefully. They must give off a warm glow and not be too bright (no use illuminating all our house’s flaws!). Our brightest bulbs are 60 watts and we don’t have too many of those. Most are 20-40 watts, often shaped with candle tips, and many small lamps have just nightlight wattage in them. We have warm yellow or reddish colored lampshades on the lamps to make everything glow like candlelight when the lights are on. All of our overhead fixtures have dimmers and most lamps have three way switches so we can light the house at night with wild abandon if we want to without doing much damage to our energy bill! And of course, we use lots of candles.

Houses can look too dark and dreary in the winter if we don’t pay careful attention to lighting. Especially for those of us living in climates that have lots of cloudy days. Dreary is not the mood we are after under any circumstances! Proper lighting can illuminate dark corners to make the whole room feel inviting. Because we choose warm, low wattage lights and charming lamps, the house has the romantic feel of another time and place. I like a house to glow and beckon you in to every corner. Warm lighting will summon you down long hallways and invite you to explore stairways. Proper lighting can define special places to sit with a cup of tea, to get lost in a book, invite you to a table to eat and encourages you to explore. Lighting welcomes you in and invites you to stay. Our house would take on a whole different feeling if the lighting was different. Lighting is very significant to the ambience of a home no matter what your dream house looks like.

Love the House You're In

Our dream could just as easily include a sun-filled house with Caribbean striped rugs and breezy sheers on open french doors. We’d still use light fixtures at night and in the winter to even out the light and define the spaces, but the style and mood would be entirely different. Life in that house would take on a new exciting chapter, where we would imagine waking up to the fresh air of the sea, dining every day in a sun-filled courtyard overlooking tropical flowers, and always having little paper umbrellas in our drinks.

Our life in a new house would still be adventurous, still romantic — taking us away to another time and place. A different house just brings a new chapter of our story. Dreams take on different hues at different times, reflecting what is all around us. Even if I never truly own my dream home (or never figure out what it would look like!) I am content right where we are now. In an Old English Castle. Yeah.

Stay tuned for future installments of Love the House You’re In and My Dream Home: The Series. Coming soon to The Inspired Room blog.

House drawings are all from, except for the first one which is from Excellent resources for exploring dream styles and floorplans!

Love the House You're In


  1. What a fun-filled adventure! So many choices, never enough time. Thank you for indulging us in the fantasy.


  2. Esther Sunday says:

    My dream house would be one at the coast, a small older cottage, kinda craftsman style with lots of neat nooks and crannies, single story. I would love one with a kitchen that was open to the living room, but older homes don’t tend to be set up that way. And, enough of a driveway to park the only vehicle that I have ever dreamed of owning – an original, with chippy paint, 1954 to 1956 Dodge pickup. With curtains on the back windows that I have hung up. White pickup that I could paint in pink “Sweetpea Farms” on the side, for no other reason then I like that name. Yeah, I’m dreaming now! Love, Esther

  3. Hi Melissa, what a dilemma? I have been playing on the House Plan website and like you, well something like this or maybe this, or what about that . . . but at the end I still have a hankering for . . . TARA!!!!

  4. Sometimes I would like an English Country Cottage but other times I want a huge Victorian or a lil Mansion on an old Plantation…it depends on my mood….
    How are YOU??

  5. Melissa,
    What a fun post. My style always leans toward the romantic too and through the years it has finally landed on the rococco style of the late Georgians. One of the defining discoveries in my journey was to realize that straight lines are not for me. Give me the sweeping s curves on an ogee moulding, the carved out shell shape of a curvy gold guilded frame, a swirrly twirrly chandilier, ruffles and bows in refined forms like a classical molding trim by Adams.
    Hum, fun to think about. Thanks for the morning brain kick start~~~~~~

  6. Hi Mellissa, I’m with you, my dream house could take any number of forms. My ultimate dream house is always old though and usually a farm house or Victorian on a few acres with some barns for studio space for me and a workshop for my sweetie:>)

  7. Hi Melissa,

    oh it’s unanimous in our Nest, our dream home is white, with huge verandas, an attic with an old rocking horse, a sweeping green lawn and huge trees, a red barn, a couple of Westies and a Border Colllie, a huge hearth, a unkissed patio like Darren and Samantha’s in Bewitched! In fact picture number three is just perfect! Now that is the home of our dreams :) Lovely post Melissa, nice to dream for a while isn’t it ? Now back to the ironing!

    Jenn and Jacqui

  8. vintagedelights says:

    My dream home changes with the season as fickle as I am :) However presently I’m wishing for something with a moroccan courtyard adorned with bold coloured tiles and a water fountain of some sort…:)

    Melissa as they say dreams are free so dream as much as you can , you never know when it might come true.


  9. Hi Melissa, rather then one dream house…I would reather have a couple of cottages here and there, in some of my favorite places, that I could go to whenever we have a little vacation time. Pile the dogs in the car and go for a long weekend. I like the cottage idea or even townhouse condo idea as I wouldn’t have as much maintenace to worry about. Just a really easy, uncomplicated place to go to whenever we want to get away. Rather then the house being extra special to us, I would rather have the special local….a place we love and could go to whenever we wanted.

  10. I think stylewise, that first pic you posted would come pretty close. I love English & French inspired architecture & adore old homes (although I’ve never owned one). I think the best of both worlds would be a new home built to look old with lots of older details & features. I don’t really sit around dreaming of another home. I admire pretty homes all the time when I am visiting in one or see them on TV or in magazines, but like you said, I am content in the home I’m currently in & even though it’s not completely my dream home, I’ll make it as liveable, cozy, pretty & calm as I possibly can! We have a pretty open floorplan & one of the things I enjoy the most is the morning sun streaming in the front windows & flooding the house with light. Some rooms at the back of the house are darker, but I really love light coming in those windows & lighting up our space. That’s gets me going in the morning!

    As I’ve gotten older, I’ve decided that where homes are concerned, bigger might not necessarily be better. Use of space is so much more important to me than square footage. Our current house is fairly large, but it’s also liveable, without a lot of wasted space. Not that we use every room, every day, but it’s nice to have those extra bedrooms for when guests arrive.

    I would love to see a pic of your home exterior, if you could share it with us!? Your house sounds so neat! Looking forward to more about all of this.


  11. I love small quaint cottages. Now that I’m getting older “small” with lots of storage sounds good to me. I live in a small town but, an even smaller one would be great, close enough to shopping and dining that my husband and I could walk.

  12. You have given me so much to think about. I don’t know what my perfect house is, but I will be pondering this question for a while today. I always look at our house as a teenager wanting to grow up. It is a happy house, that we work on from time to time, but it always needs something more. The kitchen is done, and wonderful, as are the living and dining rooms. The entire upstairs needs to be morphed into three bedrooms instead of two and the bathrooms need to be gutted. I wonder if when all is done, will me house be an adult? Will it be grownup? Thanks for such an interesting post. Susan

  13. I’m backkkkkk. .-)

    Thank you so much for the links, the suggestions, the wonderful ideas, etc. here.

    I do try to use my imagination… To make believe that the 6 rooms we still make use of, in our family size home… make believe that we only have these 6 rooms now and that they are in the form of a cottage. I love the idea of a cottage. We won’t be changing homes. So, like you, imagination is a wonderful tool! :-))))


  14. Remember when you did the post of the details of your house? I think I commented then that your house would be my dream house. It can be somewhat smaller or even much smaller, but the structure and the ambiance are what I am looking for. I might then transport it to a small beach town ( I am partial to the Pacific) where I can walk to the friendly, almost gourmet ( not too pretentious) market, the local antiques shops and the library, oh yeah, and also a wonderful coffee shop where they make fresh croissants hourly, no calories of course. Thanks for inspiring the dream.

  15. I can honestly say I love my house and wouldn’t even give another a thought.

    We bought a little solid square box on a corner lot and have since built out on both sides with renovations and a double garage. It is our 20 year renovation project, much of which we have done ourselves….. (just finished the main bathroom last night after a year and a half working on it!!) no way would I leave it now. This is it …. until a very tiny box. like…a coffin.

    Definitely no big house or castle for me. I am too private a person for that…. and any bigger would mean maids or help to clean…. thanks but no thanks in that department. I know the hassles of dealing with that … I was a dental assistant for many years… they all had huge homes and had to deal with “help” … hahhaha…it always made us laugh to hear the ongoing woes of being rich ……

  16. A lovely post, Melissa! Like you, I’m drawn to many different styles but I’m perfectly content with the home I have right now. Wishing you a wonderful 2008! I won’t be such a stranger to your blog this year. :) ~ Lynda xo

  17. So many lovely – and big! – houses. Guess we could have 2 or 3 of ours in one of those LOL. It’s great to have dreams anyway and as I’ve never thought about my real dream house it’s difficult to know what kind you would like. Gave me something to think about, really.
    Hope you have a good day.
    Love Elzie

  18. I’ve noticed that the older I get, the smaller my dream house becomes. And it also becomes more detailed. I also like to redesign houses I know – like my parent’s house – into my own style, going along with the type of house it is. Good mind exercises, if nothing else!

  19. When my daughter was little she would tell us that she was going to have houses somewhere in each time zone so she could accomodate all the friends and family she would have as an adult! Wouldn’t that be wonderful?! My dream house would have to come with a housekeeper so I could enjoy it to the max! : )


  20. At times, my dream home is a small stone cottage near a woodland stream; at others, it’s a big white center hall colonial (old, of course) surounded by rolling hills as far as the eye can see. In reality, I feel as though I belong to the house I’m in — my childhood home, built by my parents. It’s nice to dream, though!

  21. Caption for Picture #2:

    “Oh, that’s where I parked my sports car!”

    Since we rent a home (and it is cozy), I’m open to house sitting!


  22. I totally agree It is so many beautiful styles, it is really difficult to make a desicion on style if you can choose whatever you want…..

  23. Wow, we have the same taste, girl. I could easily live in any of those houses!

  24. Thank you, Melissa, for reminding us to love the home we’ve been blessed with. It’s fun to dream, but sometimes I think if I could choose my dream home it would look a lot like the one I’m in. I guess that’s what makes it ‘home’.

  25. Like you, my dream home swings from one end of the scale to the other. I’d love to have some old world, tuscan style. But then I’d also love a cottage by the sea. For now, my old farm house is my favorite. Blessings… Polly

  26. I love looking at houses and house plans. I think I love cottage or coastal southern homes best. Nothing too huge for me. Porches, dormers. window seats, brick and stone, nooks and crannies.
    Thanks for sharing.

  27. Wonderful inspiration for the ‘Dead of Winter’ Blahs! Here at our home…

  28. I am like you– too indecisive!!! But I think a little cottage is all I need (just like Penny’s above!! Red siding and all). I just like to be able to travel and stay in different kinds of places to satisfy the urge for a different surrounding. I loved all your information about lighting– I will definately be reconsidering how we light our home now!! Thanks!

  29. kari & kijsa says:

    Mmmmm- Loved this, as kari is planning a home right at this moment with construction to begin soon! So much fun to follow long. She started with one direction, then had to weave in and amongst the many decisions, and after analyzing the dizzying options…came up with one just perfect for her and her family..which we guessed was a dream home in and of itself!! Looking forward to more

    kari & kijsa

  30. Penny, Mosaic Artist says:

    My dream home is an old farmhouse. Sitting on rolling hills with gorgeous views of pasture land in every direction…Except, WAIT! I just sold that house 3 years ago…really. The problem with the old farmhouse, was a bad foundation, tilted floors and stairways. The problem with the views of the pasture lands is that it came with cows, which means cow poopie and cow poopie smell! AND FLIES! So, no dinners outside on that lovely wrap around porch. :-)

    This year, I received a Christmas card with a lovely red sided cottage, with dormers, nestled at the edge of the woods. Pretty evergreen trees in the front yard sparkled with snow and smoke was curling out of the stone chimney. That is my dream home. I saved the card. I am now looking for that home.

    Thanks for the fun post Melissa!

  31. todayscreativeblog says:

    I love the 3rd and 5th! I’ll take two!
    Happy Birthday.

  32. Melody from ~Pennies In My Pocket~ says:

    I am SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO excited that I just found your site! I will be here often!

    We’re building a custom home right now and I found that being indecisive about exterior elevations can get the best of you. I love a variety of styles…thankfully, we have a residential designer with fabulous listening skills and patience! lol


  33. queste case sono meraviglioseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!baci Mary

  34. i love my house now.
    my dream home is
    1. out in the country…on beautiful land…with farms near by to watch the tractors…big white OLD house…huge flower gardens…fresh vegetable garden (not that i know how to do this…i would learn)…a big barn (that my husband could convert to a full size gymnasium – his dream)…some animals?? kids running around…grandkids running around….someday. a tire swing…doesn’t it sound lovely? i might even hang clothes on the line if i was out there. or not.
    2. and the impossible never gonna happen dream home….
    on the beach of St. John. no screens on the windows..billowy curtains blowing in the breeze…sand everywhere…hearing the ocean out the door…seeing the ocean from every window…palm trees…sea shells.
    oh my goodness. i have been to this place. but we didn’t stay there…we just looked and dreamed and snuck through their yard to get to the beach in the dark…and laid in their hammock!
    thanks for getting my mind thinking of this. great idea.
    (and where is the tiny heart muffin pan from?)

  35. It is far from perfect but I can honestly say that for the past two years I’ve been living in my “dream house” – it is soooo wonderful to be “in love” with your home. Quirks and all! ;-)

  36. AscenderRisesAbove says:

    not just amazing houses; but lovely rendering techniques!

  37. OOOhhh , i like the 3rd one down- definately my dream home. I guess I’m a New England girl at heart for all my griping about wanting to move somwhere warmer! Of course anything with a bedroom for each of our girls and a few more bathrooms would be a true dream.

  38. I have had a crazy week, sorry I am so late to post!

    I love this post so much. Your houses are beautiful, but the thought behind the contemplations are what really spoke to me. What a great quote – “you work with what you have and create your dreams under your own roof”. So true! Part of the fun of the dream house is the dream part. It is really fun for me to dream, but ultimately, it is what is under my own roof that is important – my family!

    The lighting part was also very interesting. I have recently clued into the importance of appropriate lighting, and mood lighting. My husband wrapped up a dimmer as one of my Christmas presents – our front hall chandelier never had a dimmer on it, and it was SO bright! One of his gifts was the installation of the dimmer, and it was one of my favorite gifts.

    Have a wonderful weekend!

  39. Just catching up on blogs. Got swamped with sickness over the holidays. Just wanted to say how much I liked this post. This is totally me. I waffle back and forth all the time. I was dead set Hacienda with old spanish lighting, but then I love an English cottage or tudor look. Then again…something so cozy about a large country wrap around porch. Who knows…i still have a few years!

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