What Gives a House Soul?

“Surround yourself with what you love, so that your house has soul. Collect, don’t decorate.” – Christy Ford

Houses are one of my love languages. And while I love a beautifully decorated house as well as the next person, my favorite houses are those with a lot of soul. Houses that give you a sense of the people who live there. Houses that feel like they’ve evolved over time.

In my experience, houses with soul aren’t often trendy. They happily break decorating rules. They’re comfortable and imperfect.

What gives a house soul is hard to describe, but I know it when I see it. Usually, I find that a house with soul has most, if not all, of the following elements.



One Kings Lane

Plants and Flowers

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The everyday on display

Here are some more spaces that feel soulful to me.

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  1. I loved this. Please do more. I wonder … can you find “real” houses, like your friend’s, family’s or acquaintances – you don’t have to identify them of course, and share rooms you feel are soulful? I see very few places that speak to me like this.

    1. I’m so glad this resonated with you, Linda. I’ll do my best to keep finding houses with soul to share.

    2. Kathi Bonney says:

      This house has so much warmth and “soul” to it, absolutely love it!!! As was stated perfectly imperfect..does not look like a model house but a real home❤️

      1. Mary Jane says:

        Very refreshing to see beautiful rooms that are inviting and real unlike the popular staged interiors. Your version of homes with soul hit the mark. Love the art, books, plants and personal photos throughout. All create a sense of calm and happy to be home.

  2. I loved this post. I think you hit it right with all the elements. Art, books, greenery, photos, and the everyday. They all represent life, or some aspect of it. I think also that houses with soul are careful in how they reveal these characteristics, not willy-nilly, but in a thoughtful way so observers can enjoy them.
    BTW, we have such similar IG feeds. Maura Endres, River Road Farm, Nell Hills (have you read Mary CArol’s books?).

    1. Janet, I love your observations. And yes, those are all great IG feeds. I have several of Mary Carol’s books. Her homes are some of my favorites!

  3. Karen Graham says:

    Hi Julie, I too loved this post. And I agree with all the elements you chose to represent soul in a house. I believe these are what make a house, a home. And I see them all in the pictures of your very, lovely home! Thanks for sharing.

  4. You have summed it up nicely. In one glance you get an impression of who lives there. So glad I stumbled on your post on Pinterest.

  5. “Collect don’t decorate”. Love that saying and love all these homes!
    So refreshing to see homes that tell a story..the story of those whom call these house’s their homes.

  6. Nancy Green says:

    I love your posts. The rooms draw me in to explore and savor not only the overall impression, but details . I’m renovating (no major reconstruction) my 1959 brick ranch house expressing my love of art, books, the outdoors, dogs and horses. Such a fun project.

    1. What a great project, Nancy! Sounds like a very soulful house.

  7. I totally loved your selections of soulful homes. They are so homey and well thought out…. yet not “staged.” Please share more liek this!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Carol. I will definitely look for more soulful homes and spaces to share.

  8. Barbara Heaton says:

    What a find your site is Julie…. People ask me to describe how my house is and I just say it’s very eclectic but your turn of phrase, in that a “house has a soul” is wonderful. People who visit, always ask how do you create your style? I feel embarrassed sometimes, as it certainly isn’t” on trend” as some prefer, so I usually say “I live on Planet Zog which helps and I love stuff.” You are right…you layer without knowing it and you need to enjoy the love you have for your “stuff”. Thank you….

  9. Once when selling our house, after a showing, a realtor leave a note that said “So nice to see a home with a soul. And books.” It made my day. Obviously – still remember it 15 years later

    1. Paige, I understand why you still remember it. What a lovely compliment!

  10. Christine Simpson says:

    I am a realtor and see hundreds of homes a year. It seems that almost everyone is decorating according to a schematic with trendy mass-produced signs and mass produced decorative items. Most home interiors look cookie cutter to me without personality or a “soul”. There is nothing quirky or personal that reveals who the person is that lives there. You summed it up perfectly when you say “collect rather than decorate”. Loved your post 🙂

    1. Love this reply. When we sold our home we were told to put 3/4 of our “stuff” in storage. I was annoyed to say the least. I also have a very eclectic, curated, collected home very much like these. The minimalist trend is helping me find wonderful treasures though.

  11. Julie,
    Thank you for defining my home’s style. A home with soul. I have gathered items that speak to me over the years rather than purchased them in retail stores. Old books, loved vintage pieces with a story to tell and soft lighting to reflect seasonal plants, artwork and smalls. Folks always have always felt comfortable and cozy.
    I look forward to following.

  12. Thank you for your insight. We just moved into our forever home and it’s been extremely hard for me to decorate. Prior to this home I followed trends. Coastal, farmhouse, and the minimalist Studio McGee type of look. This home I want to feel loved in, comfortable, and display my books, art, and add pops of color. With that said, I’m having a very hard time pulling it all together. I think I’ll take your advice and just continue to collect things that bring me joy and eventually it will all come together to create the look you described above. Thanks again!

  13. Marsha Johnson says:

    Comfort and beauty. All interior views so pleasant to my eyes and soul. Thank you.

  14. Just found this blog and post via Pinterest. All of the photos were wonderful. This is exactly the kind of house that speaks to me. Can’t wait to read more.

  15. Lovely, warm, inviting.

  16. I am loving all the suggestions from the survey! Yes, to everything, especially the more KC stuff. Being a native, doesn’t mean you know where all the spots are!
    I think a home with soul, yes, has all the elements you mentioned, but I also enjoy when a home showcases (maybe not the right word) but places value on the family’s hobbies or crafts, for example, much of my “art”/pictures in my home are my hard-worked but treasured needlepoint. And I love, love to see photos! They tell such a story of life. And the books the family reads are interesting to see on the shelves or bookcases. I love your blog and hope to see more of it. Best.

  17. You spoke directly to my heart. There are some things I love here at home that I hope give this house soul. I think real plants give a home soul, and high quality fakes are fine alternatives if you don’t want to take care of real plants. I like dried eucalyptus and dried botannicals, too. Real but needs no care at all nor water. Comfortable, pretty furniture I think gives it soul, whether you match all your tones or do a mishmash of woods and fabrics. I mishmash, but I think a home can have a very coordinated look and have soul, too, as long as your style is not unapproachable or ALL your furniture stiff or cold or uncomfortable. When we couch shopped, I wanted “Sunday nap comfortable.”. I like family heirlooms and vintage items that nod to the past, things my grandmother had or that I think she would have loved. I think also expensive does not necessarily always equate to soulful, though it can. I have a handmade clock an artist made, and I paid 53 cents tax and all at a thrift store. I think how expensive the house was and how big it is does not necessarily equate to soulful. I think how welcoming the impression the home gives is something that gives a home soul, no matter its size or whether you have a fixer upper or an apartment or a big home or a small one.

  18. This post made me feel validated. My 1917 home is not “trendy” & is filled with treasures from our life & travels. Things gifted to us from our family mean a great deal. I always returned home from trips to France with small vintage paintings representing my favorite places and each of them now represent wonderful memories. When my children travel they always gift me with a rock so my garden has stones from Colorado to Cambodia. “Soul” feels my heart each day. I call my home my nest. Things gathered to create a sense of safety, comfort, beauty. Thank you for letting me understand that I am not alone.

  19. I love your thoughts and wonderful examples of Soul. I share your feelings, i just love old and well used. I find it hard to buy brand new,

  20. Katherine Young says:

    I am a retired designer/hypnotherapist. My family and I live in a group home with each of us having their own space. Their space is their space, but the common space; entry, great room, and kitchen have bookcases galore. Naturally, the “library” is eclectic. Since we have artists in the family, prints, watercolors, oil paintings and sculpture abound. Each suite has the flavor of its occupants. Southern American, French, Boho, and Rustic Contemporary. There are six adults, four dogs and one kitty, Sam. We laugh because our home has Beaucoup style, but obviously a mishmash of personal loves. People are astounded we did this by committee. It’s a remodel.

    1. That’s amazing, Katherine! Thanks so much for sharing.

  21. I just read your article on “Houses with soul.” It’s very true. The house does not have to be perfect but have soul. It sounds like my home- it’s not perfect, but it speaks of us. It reflects our beliefs, our interests and what we value. It has taken 42 years for us to develop a home with soul. I am so very thankful for our home which is beautiful to me.

  22. Julie, I just finished an online course from Create Academy in England. The instructor is a highly regarded London designer who is so well known that he goes by his first name only, Alidad. He has even done work at Buckingham Palace! While his style is not something that would fit our homes and lives, it was a wonderful course. He encourages his clients to create layered, timeless interiors that look like generations have left their mark on the house…no matchy-matchy looks for him! Your comments remind me so much of what I learned in that course, Thank you so much for showing us a version of this philosophy that we can relate to!

    1. Gail, thanks so much for your comment. I will look up Alidad. How great that you took that class…I’ve looked at Create Academy and am glad to know you enjoyed it.

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