What Makes a House Magical (and how to infuse magic into your own home!)

The following post is written by my friend, Leah. Leah lives and works as an artist in a tiny house she built with her own hands! She has a really interesting take on the things that make a house magical and how to infuse more magic into your own home. Take it away, Leah! 

After a recent and embarrassingly-long Pinterest session looking for interior inspiration for my tiny studio, I looked up from my computer, and instead of being filled with Pinterest jealousy, my eyes were filled with deep contentment with the tiny house that I was actually sitting in. I built my tiny house, and although it is still a work in progress, it is definitely livable. Nothing in the Pinterest rabbit hole had satisfied me in quite the same way. This house that I was sitting in had MAGIC in it. It is definitely flawed, but absolutely gorgeous.

After building this tiny house for over two years now, I’ve only recently begun to see the magic. And when I say magical I do mean, like Harry Potter magical. Hogwarts and The Burrow kind of magical. Fairy tale magical. The kind of magical where everywhere you look there is something interesting, imbued with a sense of story and time. Where a pile of dirty dishes, gleaming in the light, can transform into something beautiful. I’ve been thinking about why this is, how it’s possible that the mess in the kitchen can become more of a sculpture and less of a scar.

I think it mostly has to do with a closely related trinity: time, love, and energy. Arguably these three things make everything in life good. Certainly “time, love and energy” can sound cliche, but hear me out. I think time, love and energy are the keys to a home filled with magic. Let’s explore this idea a bit.

Homes take time to build and to decorate. It takes a lot of time to design a home, especially one that is specific to a particular person or family, not just a cookie cutter suburban McMansion. I have no idea how many hours I have poured into this tiny house of ours, but when I look around, I know that my kitchen cupboard took a whole weekend, the walls took hours over the course of several months, the ceiling, well… it’s not even finished. The house layout took two years of actually living in it to get to where it is.

I believe that older homes have inherent magic. An old home’s magic has to do with it’s personable architecture, stories are embedded in the old floor boards and wood molding, in a way that can’t be faked with stain that comes in a can. Older homes tend to be smaller as well. There’s magic in small spaces. Our tiny house is only 200 sq feet, plus a 200 sq feet porch, so there’s not a whole lot of square footage. But per square foot, there is more time invested in this house than if it had been a 1,600 sq ft house. Smaller rooms also hold a person better and are cozier which–poof!–adds instant magic.

Maybe you are looking for a way to add magic to your home through time. One way to do this, other than buying a old house, is to buy buy your decor from thrift and antique stores. The objects then have a story, even if the story is hidden under a bronze patina, or a chip in the table edge, or in sun-bleached embroidery stitches.  

Similar, but different to time, love has more to do with your personal memory than a house’s history. Every object in a house tells a some kind of story, whether that story is that “I bought it at Hobby Lobby one day” or “This is from that little craft stand when we went to that natural pool in Nicaragua.” I hope that the objects in your home surround you with stories of love stories of “this is a gift from my grandmother.”

It’s difficult to balance a personal aesthetic with decorations you receive as gifts that you may or may not like aesthetically. (I’m totally guilty of this!) I don’t have an answer, but I think that gifts can add to the eclectic hominess of a home. And that kind of magic can’t be bought at West Elm

Love also takes time. It takes time to acquire books your truly love, to curate the artwork you’ve collected and it takes time to find all of those mugs that you so enjoy collecting.

With time and love comes acceptance. Just like a relationship, there are certain things in a home that are going to drive you crazy, and you can try to fix them, but it might not end up the way you intended. Maybe those “faults” will end up teaching you lessons in patience or kindness. We humans are good at adjusting to our surroundings. It takes a while to warm up to certain aspects of a house, to learn to love things like a creaky floor, or the uneven heating of a wood stove, but eventually you may grow to love it. And these things all add to the magic, because faults make a home more real and more yours.

Energy is a synthesis of both time and love because to build something that feels true and real and magical you must put in a lot of time, love, and energy.

Energy is the effort, the care, the blood, sweat, and tears. (If you’ve built your own house you definitely have a story that involves all three bodily fluids!) Energy is spreading compost in your garden, energy is doing the dishes instead of buying disposable plates, energy is slowly building a solar electricity system that will power your home. Energy is all of those hours sketching and dreaming and planning. Energy is the hidden life force behind everything, it’s what makes a home function. Everything you do creates energy in your home. I’ve learned this as a painter: even if you ultimately end up covering something up, there will always be that time and energy that cannot be erased. It will be there in the build up of paint, and the subtlety of the colors.

Only time, love, and energy will put magic in your own home. One day you’ll see the way the light dances on your floors or the way your cat snoozes gracefully on the bed and in that fleeting glimpse, you’ll catch the magic. You just have to be grateful and quiet enough to spot it.

How do you infuse magic into your home? Talk to us in the comments!

2 thoughts on “What Makes a House Magical (and how to infuse magic into your own home!)

  1. amontereyblair

    Oh! I absolutely love this post. I also think that that small surprises and discoveries in a space add magic. I adore miniatures and so I intend to add a fairy door/window or two to our tiny house.

  2. Sally

    This is a wonderful post and good timing for me, as I still feel our home that I recently moved into with my boyfriend 5 months ago(for the first time!) doesn’t feel homely enough to me yet. But I think it’s exactly as you say it needs time, energy and love spent on it! Slowly getting there especially with buying second pieces and creating my own artwork for it, like you suggest. 🙂

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