Home seems to be the word of the moment. Dulux referenced it when it announced its colour of the year recently and creative director Marianne Shillingford spoke at length about how, in times of uncertainty, all we want is to come home. To be home. To metaphorically hide under the duvet in a place where we can feel safe.
Now the writer, historian and broadcaster, known to many of you as presenter of The Great Interior Design Challenge, Tom Dyckhoff, has also taken up the theme.
He is currently writing his third book, which has the working title of Home: An Intimate History. In it, he revisits all the previous places he has lived – turns out there were 17 of them from where he was born, via student flats to his current abode – and explores the concept of what makes a home.
And even the word is a strange one. It doesn’t translate easily. Look it up in Google Translate and you often end up with the word “house”. The French have Chez Moi – loosely translated as At Mine. But most of the other European languages use a variation on house which doesn’t have the same resonance at all.
So is a home actually a feeling or an emotion rather than a noun? Tom suggests that to create a true home you need three things: comfort, warmth and shelter.
“In recent years we have been encouraged to think of our homes as a financial investment,” says Tom. “But home is actually an intimate place. I wanted to explore how much of home is the physical infrastructure and how much is about the details and the objects.
“It needs to be comfortable, but it also needs to provide warmth and security. Ideas of comfort will vary from house to house but the big hygge concept that has been around for the last couple of years is definitely part of that.”
In times of economic difficulty then the concept of home becomes ever more important and everyone builds on those three basic concepts. Tom has explored this in a collaboration with DFS to make your home the most comfortable place to be. Or, given the time of year, a room that is too good to go out.”
“It has to be enveloping and warm and a fire or a wood-burning stove is central to that centuries old idea of warmth and shelter. It has to be light, but you need a contrast between natural light – which is proven to be good for you – and electric light, perhaps in the corner so you can create a hygge nook or a private snug.
“Because there must be a different between the public spaces for entertaining and the private space for family. These days we need flexibility. It’s not open plan, it’s broken plan, which means creating zones within a more open space.”
Open plan living was a reaction to Victorian houses with their small spaces and sense of life lived behind closed doors. But, says Tom, we need to be clever about open plan to make it work. Changes of level, different zones and, ideally, moveable walls, are all modern ways to live in an open plan space.
“Our needs change through out the day as we do different things in the rooms and as the light changes. We need our homes to be both bright and enclosed.”
The next key to creating comfort, says Tom is layering and tactility. “We layer our clothes for warmth and texture and softness and it’s the same with our homes.” Sadly as the father of a two-year-old and a five-year-old, Tom says cushions and throws won’t stay on his furniture and are usually hurled to the floor but he’s looking forward to the time when he can reintroduce them to his living room.
His own home is a 1950s flat with floor to ceiling windows and, yes, a fireplace. “Home is the place you go for comfort and to that end I am neither a minimalist nor a maximalist. I believe in stuff,” he says.
“You need stuff to remind you who you are, you don’t have to hide everything away. Comfort is being able to touch ornaments and photos and stones brought back from the beach.
“Plants are also key both for our well-being and to keep that connection with the outside.
Tom has also noticed the disappearance of technology. “We all have it now so there’s no need to have it on display and show it off. These days it’s an accepted part of our homes and it’s much more embedded. Having said that I’m not afraid of having the television on show. It’s part of our lives why hide it?
And with that he is off to investigate the next chapter of his research into what makes a home. And I’d love to hear your opinions on what makes a home for you?
To create the look with DFS Tom has used the newly-launched Serengetti range – the four seater sofa is £999 and the patterned armchair (or cuddler as they have named it) is £749. This monochrome range also comes with cushions. I should tell you that this was not a sponsored post but that I was keen to interview Tom and I do rather like this range.