2. Ideal House/Home

Back to: The study of ‘home’: a brief literary review

Mallet identified a second major body of research which focuses on the analysis of the relationship between house and home within the examination of the notion of ideal home or house. Research in this field concentrates on physical structures. Typically, these works were seen to both reflect and perpetuate common ideas about the ideal home in Anglo-American and Australian contexts.  Certain studies problematised the  issue of ideal home but most privileged the relationship between house and home, de-emphasising other idealised meanings of home.


  • Porteus, J.D. (1976), ‘Home: The Territorial Core’ in Geographical Review 66(4)

Porteus’ study found that people from diverse backgrounds living in Australia, Britain and the United States prefer free-standing houses with a yard and occupied by a single family.

  • Chapman, T. and Hockey, J. (1999) ‘Ideal homes? Social Change and Domestic Life’, London: Routledge

The book looks at  the some of possible reasons behind certain notions of ideal homes within  social, historical and political contexts.

Another study by Chapman and Hockey (1999), looks at the manipulative marketing techniques used by exhibition designers,during the 1995 British Ideal Home Exhibition. Their main interest of the study was on the forces that influence people’s perception of and desire for the ideal home. They noted that people’s personal and familial experiences along with significant social change played an important role in their perceived needs and desires in relation to house design.

  • Saunders and Williams (1988), ‘The Constitution of the Home: Towards a Research Agenda’ in Housing Studies, 3(2)

Saunders and Williams study endeavoured to distinguish between ‘house’, ‘home’ and ‘household’. They defined ‘home’ as a locale which is defined as ‘simultaneously and indivisibly, a spatial and a social unit of interaction’. The authors described it as the physical setting through, which basic forms of social relations and social institutions are constituted and reproduced.  In other words, the ‘home’ is the ‘socio-spatial system’ that represents the fusion of the physical unit or ‘house’ and the social unit of the ‘household’. By distinguishing between ‘home’, ‘house’ or family, they develop a complex view of ‘home’ that takes into account the interactions between place and social relationships.

Source: Mallet, S. (2004) ‘Understanding Home: a critical review of the literature’ in Sociological Review, 52 (1)