My Home is My Castle

My Home is My Castle

I write this article after nearly two years of upheaval in my city. We had a major earthquake on February 22 2011 and the people of Christchurch’s lives will never be the same again. They lost their homes, some lost family members, jobs were ended abruptly because the entire central city was closed down and most of it is now demolished and still inaccessible  People have had to find a new place to live, put up with after shocks which are now less frequent but still there. Children practice their earthquake drills on a regular basis and my daughter won’t even mention the date February 22nd as she just wants to pretend it didn’t happen.

That is the background for what I am going to write now. I have been working in a job as a project manager to reinstate people’s homes. It has been eye opening in many ways. I see people living with large cracks in their walls, windows boarded up, uneven floors, broken paths and driveways and once loved garden’s now unkempt. They carry on their daily lives, adapting to their new environment, most don’t complain as they are happy to still be in their own home. Others, I visit their home with them, they are no longer able to live in it, they basically walked out and left their home life behind. Their furniture and belongings battered and tattered all over the floor. It is quite distressing to have to take them back there. They will get a new home built, but it is not the same, they have had to rebuild their lives and be in limbo for two years now, finding somewhere temporary to live, moving kids schools, buying new furniture and everyday necessities,  finding work, and most of all trying hard to be strong and keep their families feeling safe and secure.

I write this from the heart as I have always stressed when I teach others interior design that the home should show the owner’s personality, be full of their life’s adventures, mementos from travelling, trophies won by children, collected paintings, handmade quilts, whatever they owner loves should be a strength in the interior design. I still agree whole heatedly with this theory, but it is hard to watch as a lot of families have lost their personality, their collected homely possessions. Yes, insurance covers the cost of replacing or repairing their home and their contents, but it can’t possibly rebuild their home personality. Where do you start as a designer to get that home feeling back for people? How do you build them back their castle?

I will leave this article now as I would love your feedback to help me answer the question – how do we rebuild their home to be their solid, sturdy, safe and warm, homely castle? Do you have any suggestions that I can offer them? I would love to get some help with this as I am too close to be able to think like a real interior designer about this question.
Thank you
Lee Brown

18 thoughts on “My Home is My Castle”

  1. What a challenge! I’m not sure if anyone can make them feel “safe” in their homes. Their homes—like they—have been completely uprooted. Some may feel bitter, angry, or broken. Some are grieving or still in denial. Others have been strengthened, and have discovered the things that really matter in their lives.
    Perhaps you could help folks build new homes to parallel the building of their new lives. Start with the basic colors that make them feel comfortable, but leave the house slightly under-furnished for now; then encourage them to add to it as they grow. Perhaps they need to post a large picture of their “dream home”—a goal for the future. Or perhaps they want to fill rooms with photos of loved ones or new friends who have helped them through these difficult times.
    I believe that all our homes are a work in progress—as are we. With this in mind, and taking their time, the creation of a new home could not only be therapeutic, but an exciting adventure. My prayers are with you all. Marilyn Grau, Augusta, GA, USA

  2. Hi,my name is Nena,n i'm one of your students.i'm still learning to be an interior decorator,and I'm hoping my suggestions would be of some could use a picture of their old home,get some of their favourite personal items,could be an artwork,cloths,handbag…and infuse some of the styles from these items into their new could also use their favourite colors and do some of the shopping for new furniture and some other decorative items with should go a long way to getting their lifestyle into their new home.

  3. Hi Lee, what a job you are doing! And you area dealing with it all yourself too as well as trying to help your clients.

    As an ex-CHCH resident (ironically we moved to Nelson only two months before the first big one) I can only comment from the experience I have had of talking to my friends still left coping down there and having most of them up to stay on "quake breaks".

    Leaving aside the huge topic of constructing a home that is quake-proof and dealing only with the contents and coverings that transform it from a building into a home : I don't now have many pictures on the walls – certainly nothing over our heads in bed but decals are great; fun images which can be designed by the homeowner and made economically in any colour – and removable. I choose a lot of bamboo homeware the for the kitchen (it bounces!) and comes in funky colourways. I choose canvas prints of my famillies photos or arty prints as they can jump off the wall and not leave a lot of smashed glass. I've been through my kitchen cupboards and replaced all the glass jars and burst-able packets with a plastic snap-lock containers. I've gone for wood as a theme so that if a piece goes over it might well survive. Regressed a bit on the soft furnishings too – lots of cushions and soft edges – no pointy chrome or "industrial" aesthetic ; too aggressive for me these days.

    In my quake pack I've not only put the necessities but a couple of things that I cannot afford to lose : a couple of tiny ornaments, a book or two, a couple of pieces of jewellery that are sentimental and a notepad and pen (I"m an artist)

    So, as you can see – even though we lack the experience of the quakes themselves we've taken on board how our mates felt and changed our lives just a little in the hope that when we get ours (and no doubt everyone in NZ expects to) it won't be so personally devastating.


  4. Dear Lee
    I dont know if there is a good or suitable question to your answer. Somepeople try to forget and others want to remember. For those who want to remember,there must be something that they safed or wasnt damaged try to place that in their new home. Just tell them they walked away with the most valuble thing in their home and that is them and their family. They survived. For those who lost loved ones it might be hard but its bette for them to start fresh in a complete new setting which oftens is goid for the healing process. I hope this will help

  5. Transform something that is already nothing needs different ingredients. I think, strong faith, this is a solid basement, patience, time, love and peace.
    Those things aren’t materials things but they are the best construction elements in order to rebuild and live in a home like a castle.

  6. I would focus on the positive. What are you grateful for? Make new memories of life today. Help them to help others. REmember you are strong and can get through this. Blessings and prayers, Marcia

  7. Firstly, I would encourage them to ask relatives, friends for anything that they may have that relates to them personally and collected over the years that can be handed back ie school photos, memorablia from school events, sporting events, hobbies shared and build from that. New Furnishings and household items can be brought together to blend the old with the new for a new beginning and fresh start.

  8. I grew up in Southern California where earthquakes were literally a daily occurrence. One doesn't have to live without things of meaning. You don't want heavy pots or breakable items overhead as you noted. There is some stuff called museum gel or earthquake hold gel that does not harm objects, but holds them tight to a shelf so they won't fall off. Cabinets, shelves, etc. need to be attached securely to walls from behind. Eye bolts into wall studs can be used for this. My heart goes out to you and those who lost their homes. I've been to Christchurch and I'm glad I still have memories of it long before the quake. I'm sure it will never be the same, but it is possible to rebuild a lovely new city that will now be able to withstand future quakes so that people can live safely. It is a very frightening feeling to be completely out of control when a natural disaster like this hits. Thank you for being part of the solution!

  9. I just love your articles. I would ask them to put up some wording that really uplifts them. For instant a bible verse like Jeremiah 29, which says that the Lord has plans for you not for evil but for welfare to give you a future and a hope.

    All the best

  10. Go simple, have less – (less to lose possession wise) take the best advantage of orientation if its a rebuild so you can acknowledge the new day and feel gratitude to be part of each one, get together and fill it with friends and start collecting new memories. There was once a Japanese artist (sorry cant recall his name) who said – to make a home all you need is a room, a mat (Tatami) and a light! I don't think that we realise enough the importance of fresh air and natural light in our homes – they don't take up space and they are gifts to all – include nature (mother) ie views from windows verandahs ect and realise time(father) will help healing and regrowth

  11. As difficult as it is to have to start over after losing everything, it is an opportunity to express who they are today. Our homes can so easily reflect who we were, rather than who we are today. While difficult, it can be an opportunity to express who they are today and reflect their present lifestyle, to set their imagination free to dream a new tomorrow.

  12. Nature gave them the most beautiful gift that is there LIFE…Think positive..Everything can be start again..their home, personal belongings..everything but ..LIFE ..if it goes ..goes forever….
    Live your life..and make it colorful..shape it, design it, love it, rebuilt it…enjoy every moment of it..LIFE IS UNCERTAIN SO EAT THE DESERT FIRST…

  13. What a wonderful opportunity amidst the chaos of the situation… My heart goes out to everyone involved, as this affects not only the victims of the tragedy but also you and all the other people that are trying to improve their circumstances. God bless you all <3

    Keep things positive… giving them a picture of new beginnings… Showing them that this is not just an end of a chapter but the beginning of a new one… and though it may look and feel overwhelming,it is in the darkest of times where the strength inside of us shines the brightest. Show them that it's not over… that there are opportunities awaiting them.. to make new memories. It is not the home but the people that share the home that makes the biggest impact. Show them things they can be thankful for… be it pictures of the loved ones that are still standing by their sides, and all the dreams they still can and are most capable of achieving. Show them they can celebrate their lives no matter what happens…

    I have no doubt that you are making an amazing difference as is. Most times we feel overwhelmed when there are a lot of people that depends on us. But you would not have been handed the task if you were unable to find the best solution. Don't doubt your own knowledge and your own influence in this situation… You are a light in the dark and you can do this!!

    Blessings and prayers <3

  14. hi lee..
    madam i appreciate your work.
    And yrs article is really very useful for us….
    thank you so much…

  15. Hi LEE
    the first thing is to always thank GOD for life. i remember a saying 'AS LONG AS THEIR'S LIFE THEIR IS HOPE' pls tell them not to be discouraged, they can always clean up every mess.
    Be determined life's too short to worry over nothing…….

  16. Dear Leeș
    I appreciate your effort and feel very sorrow about those people,you know life is sometimes tough with us,I feel how they feel I had experience like this in my life,and we lost our house ,some relatives and many of our childhood memories and now the same thing happened in many parts of this world some because of natural disasters,and others because of wars and this is what happening now in my mother country Syria.Those people need people like you to help them to encourage them to tell them they have to continue,they can not stop ,they are survived and they can rebuild everything again and with love and hope,loving each other ,loving our planet with the details in our lives we can go ahead.God bless you and all the people who are suffering on our planet…

  17. Hi Lee,
    My name is Myrna and I am also one of your ecourse students.
    I can relate to how your clients feel going back to see what is left of what once was HOME.
    I lived in New Orleans, La. when Hurricane Katrina hit. Even with the reconstruction of our house- it didn't feel like home. We have since moved across the country to Boston, Ma. A new place starting over is easier than to be haunted by memories "good and bad". Our new house is starting to feel like Home. Advice to your clients is -Take advantage and create something new for your family. You will always your memories of what you lost in your heart,but don't live in the past, look forward to tomorrow.

  18. Hi Lee
    Really love your thoughts on this crisis for the people of Christchurch. It's difficult to give advice that really helps.. Trauma lasts for a long time. I believe acknowledging the trauma can be your helpful.

    Taking something that is still intact from the old home to the new home and turning it into something functional or a piece of art on the wall can also be helpful.

    I am wondering w heather keeping an open journal where everyone who lives in the new home could write some simple words whenever they felt they needed to say anything about the changes could also be helpful.

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