How to Make Your House Have a Soul


These points are my reflection on what it takes to create a house with character, – a place that has a soul of its own. If you are a designer or a self-builder, or just someone who wants to make their house a home, applying this guide will help create a special place.

Invest Yourself

The most important soul your house can have is yours. Whether that’s yours as an individual, a couple, or a family, for your home to have a personality you need to put your energy and your heart into it, and into the process of designing and building it. If you do that a house with a soul will be the inevitable result.

Share the Vision

Having design team members – especially your architect and builder, with whom you are on the same page and who share your vision is central to the creating process. In order to realise the vision you’ll need to be able to communicate well with them – not just in terms of practical information, but to ‘get’ each other and have common values.

Keep Talking

Conversation helps flesh out your vision into specifics, so take every opportunity to talk to your partner, your designer, and others in order that you’ll understand it in detail from different angles and viewpoints.

Identify What’s Important to You

What Motivates Your Build? This may be the atmosphere or ‘feel’ that you want the house to have, or the values of ethics or environment with which it is built, or it may be some design details or features. Ask the question ‘Why are you building your own home?’ Your answer to that question will show you where your priorities lie.

Have a Fractal Understanding of it

Take time to design your house and know it deeply, in three dimensions and in four seasons as it responds to light and weather; but most importantly know it in detail: Fractal means ‘on multiple scales’. It means to know it in fine detail as well as the big picture vision. The deeper and more multi-faceted your understanding of the house is, the more of you will be put into the house, and the more it will match up to what you want to achieve.


Don’t overlook the feel of materials – inside and out. It can be easy to pick finishes from catalogues that only give you a photographic representation of what your flooring or cladding will be like. Nothing beats getting a real sample of the wood that you’ll use or the brick: touch it, look closely at it in different lights.

Plan Your Decisions

When your house is on site and the build process gets busy decisions need to be made. Try to avoid making quick decisions on things just to get them out of the way. Plan ahead so that you can take time over your choices of finish or design. Know yourself and how you work best: if you’re the kind of person who likes to ‘sleep on it’ or compare lots of options when making a decision then plan in time so that you can do that rather than being forced to rush it with last-minute decisions that may compromise your vision for the house.

Enjoy Yourself

Self-building can be a very fulfilling experience. Make the most of all it can bring and enjoy your new home – in the making of it as much as once it’s complete.