If you know me (even on Facebook), then you know much about the antics of my little pug mix "children," Aiko and Sumiko. Though I try to manage myself and post only one out of every 100 pics I take of them, what does make it to my social media channels tends to be the top 1 percent of their funniest, most humanlike follies, like Aiko’s meditation poses and Sumiko’s disdain for me taking pictures of Aiko’s meditation poses.
In fact, I felt validated when, last time I posted a pic, a friend mentioned how humanlike one of my dog’s facial expressions was. Can you say "preaching to the choir"?
This (mostly) harmless habit we have of attributing human qualities to animals is something word buffs and Jeopardy fans know is called "anthropomorphism." And the reality is that we do this with loads of other nonhuman things and even inanimate objects, including our homes.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say that homeowners who treat their homes almost like they’re human are some of the best homeowners around. Here are a just a few of the ways I’ve seen that great homeowners anthropomorphize their homes:
1. We name them. Some homeowners or builders actually name their homes human names, in the same way B.B. King named his legendary guitar "Lucille." It’s quite common for homes to be assigned the family’s actual surname, creating even closer ties between the family’s identity and the home that serves as the site for their precious moments over the years, decades or even generations. Think: Spelling Manor or many of Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous designs.
Other homes are given names quite literally descriptive of the property itself or its surroundings, like the infamous Grey Gardens mansion in the Hamptons (where the true story depicted in the popular HBO film took place), Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago or Le Beau Château, the 22-room Connecticut manor that was owned but never even visited, much less occupied, by reclusive billionairess Huguette Clark in the five decades she owned the property before she passed away.
(Le Beau Château can be yours, by the by, for just a smidge under $16 million.)
And it’s not only the wealthy and famous who name their homes. In my family, we tend to reference our homes in conversation by their street names, and I have friends and clients that name their homes from a variety of angles, calling their places "The Barn," "The Country House," "Casa de (family surname)" and even "The Ponderosa."
2. We listen to them. In a healthy human relationship, we listen to the folks we care about, sometimes intently, to keep things functional and address issues before they spiral beyond repair. Same goes with a health-conscious homeowner and his relationship with his property: We listen for creaks, groans, drips, squeaks, moans, squeals and all manner of other ways our homes speak to us, "vocalizing" what’s happening in their inner works and often dropping clues to needed repairs and upgrades long before things actually stop working.
3. We expect them to behave age-appropriately — and worry when they don’t. We expect children to beg for checkout-counter candy, teens to wear weird things and borrow our cars, adults to be self-sufficient, and our elderly relations to have the occasional health issue.
And along the human life cycle, we expect people to outgrow things, wear things out and even need different sorts of equipment at various phases. In fact, the need for a first work wardrobe, a first home, a first pair of reading glasses or even, later, a first set of hearing aids is something we see as a signal that the people in our lives are entering new stages of life and facing the new challenges each stage brings.
We look at our homes the same way. New homeowners expect to have little or no repair issues for years, while some people buying and living in older homes actually go so far as to track the age and health of various systems in the home, from the foundation to the furnace, and use that information to create a maintenance and replacement calendar for the entire property.
This expectation that homes will act age-appropriately also leads to outrage when they don’t — and is a huge part of the reason it behooves homebuyers to obtain inspections, so the inspector can brief them on how old everything in the house is, how functional things are (or not), and what, if anything, will need to be done to maintain functional systems in the short and long term.
4. We feed them. Anyone who says homes don’t require feeding has simply never been responsible for one. We feed our homes with water, gas, electricity and the cold hard cash that pays the mortgage and property taxes on a monthly basis. Add to that the intensive ongoing care that we invest into our homes, from routine cleaning to major design and remodeling initiatives, and it’s no wonder that many of us actually "feed" our homes more and better than we feed our human families!
Question: Do you treat your home as a person? How?