It's trite and true: home is where the heart is

For the last year and a half, this column has focused on a wide variety of home and garden stories—how to pick the best flooring for your needs, and what colors are going to be trendy next year, a behind-the-front-door glimpse into some of Baltimore's most intriguing residences.

Unlike many of my colleagues, I have gotten to tell happy stories. I hope I have been entertaining and helpful along the way.

So in this, my last column (at least for now), don't expect some tawdry expose of how people "really live" behind closed doors. No I won't be dragging anyone through the mud — stain-resistant carpet notwithstanding.

Trust me, it would be great fun to drop a few bombs as I prepare leave the Baltimore Sun Media Group to join the publications team at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The problem is, I just don't have any ammunition.

In the course of bringing you this column every week, the most shocking thing I've learned is that many of the cliches are true. Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz" was right: There's no place like home. And yes, home is where the heart is.

Sappy, I know, and such sentiment would have never held up in my graduate school creative writing workshops. Using the word "heart" in any way other than its strictest anatomical sense was grounds for public ridicule.

Still, when I think back on all the people I've interviewed, what I remember most is their passion: the care they took perfecting custom details or creating one-of-a-kind spaces and the simple love they had for the process or the end result.

So much of what gets written about houses and gardens is about stuff — expensive things, some rare this or that the neighbors won't have. Keeping up with the Joneses is definitely part of what drives us to create a beautiful home environment.

But the deeper, more fundamental motivation for making a beautiful home is to create an emotional connection to inanimate space — to provide a safe, comfortable, relaxing and inspiring place for you, your family, your friends.

So much more than wood, metal and stone, homes are repositories of memories and emotion.

Your home touches on every aspect of your life: your children, your friendships, your work, your plan for retirement. Home is where you teach your children to read and tie their shoes. It's where you invite friends for dinner and have heated discussions about religion and politics. Home is where you celebrate that big promotion at work or fall asleep watching TV by the fire. It's where you leave to go on vacation and the place you always long to return.

Ready for some more cliches? Your home is your sanctuary, your place of refuge, of solace and of peace. It's more than just a roof over your head and a place to sleep. It's where you play, make love and create.

In a time when people are obsessed with careers, it's important to remember the reason you work. For many people, their largest single expense and asset is their house.

I encourage you to love your house. Give it the same attention you would any other major investment. Care for your house. Decorate it. Fill it with things that express your interests and personality. Take a collection of your 8-year-old's art projects to the framing store and hang those wonderfully weird, surreal expressions in a place of honor. Paint only with your favorite colors — no matter what the real estate experts might say.

Even if you never thought of yourself as design-minded or interested in decorating, creating a beautiful, unique home is a way to value the hours you spend working at a job you may not even like … just to pay the mortgage.

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