Select Page

Back to basics: Create a home that will last generations

New or old, every home has a story.  Every story begins somewhere, and some go back farther than others.  One of the benefits to our recent economy is this: more people are buckling down, staying still, finding contentment with where they are and learning to love the homes they live in.

As new construction slows and older homes are being lived in and loved, each home is telling more stories from one single family than they might have otherwise.  In this shift to getting back to basics, home has become a haven rather than a savings account — a place to share memories and build a foundation for generations to enjoy and appreciate.

Here are some ideas about making your home one that will tell stories for generations.

1. Plant a forever garden.

Photo by Emily Walker

One of my favorite things about the last house I lived in was the garden. Each spring, the labor and love from the previous owner shined through in the foliage that bloomed all around. Not only is it low maintenance, but what you plant will tell a story about you — that you used your hands, what colors you loved, and what flowers made you smile each day when you walked out your door.

2. Leave your mark.

Old homes have character. They show signs of life in the nooks and crannies (and I’m not talking about bugs). An old pantry door or a door frame can be used to measure the heights of all the kids who visit – telling the tale of growth, laughter, and pounding feet that race around the floors of your home.

Every ding and dent in your walls and furniture aren’t necessarily flaws to cover up – they add charm and character and will tell stories of a home that was lived in and loved.

3. Personalize it: make a memory wall.

Photo by Travis Isaacs

A wall full of family photos, meaningful items from trips together and personalized artwork shows moments of real life in your home. You’ll take those things with you when you move away, but while you’re there, they can remind you of what matters in your home – not the furnishings or fixtures, but the moments created by the people inside.

4. Make it yours.

How many people do you know that, when they finally sell their home, do all the things they should’ve enjoyed before? Paint your rooms the colors you want them now. Make your guest room an office or personal space instead. Use your space like it is yours, forever.

Don’t live with beige walls if you love color just because beige is better for when you’ll sell… in ten years Make your home yours – the way you love it. Make changes for someone else later.

Homes are built to last and sustain your moments and memories for generations.

Tell us about your home — what have you done to make it yours? What does it say about your family?

Reading Time:

2 minutes





  1. Marlon

    We’re on the process of buying a house right now. These are basically some tips that need to be considered. If you own it, you really have to own it.

  2. Josephine

    Lovely post. One thing I did was paint the bedrooms pink. I had always avoided doing this for when we resell but finally gave in and so glad we did. Not only do they look lovely but it’s so calming in the rooms. xx

  3. Jodi

    I have begun painting murals, some small some large, some playful some serious, all over the house. I have painted my bathroom 4 times and it wasnt until I mixxed all the paints together that I got a brownish orange that my bathroom absolutely loves! I swear I could hear my bathroom SING when I finally got the color right. The trees on the walls in my youngest boys room has handprints from the members of the family as its “leaves”. pianting is cheap and a wonderful outlet of expression. And if you dont like it, paint over it! 🙂

  4. Maryann

    We bought this house 12 years ago, a very small cape in the NYC suburbs. We bought it to keep, not trade up or whatever. In 13 years my husband will retire from construction with a full pension, the boys will be out of college and on their way to their own lives. Our mortgage will be paid off.

    We will probably not be able to afford the property tax here in the future (4th highest in the country), and Long Island is getting much too crowded. The plan is to sell this house and build a log cabin on property we have upstate. So far so good.

    My problem: this has been the only house I’ve ever lived in. My babies were raised here. Every memory I have is in this house. It’s small, cosy, HOME. I’m getting panicky just thinking about moving and it’s a decade away!


  5. Amber Cullum

    I am all about the memory wall and the wall color. I love bright colors, so when my husband and I got married I painted the guest bedroom green…… grass green. When we moved from Kentucky to Florida our realtor wanted us to change the wall color, but the couple who bought our house loved it!!! Now our master has an orange accent wall!!! LOVE IT!

  6. Megan@SortaCrunchy

    Oh, Emily! I love this! We’ve only ever rented, so it’s tricky to make a home “ours,” but things like a memory wall are very doable.

    The house we live in currently was built in the 1920-30s era and it is my favorite yet. It is BRIMMING with character. Lots of quirks 😉 but I absolutely adore it. I love the history and knowing so many other families have nurtured little ones under this roof.

    Thanks for the inspiration in building a forever home!

  7. Rachel

    The previous owners (actually, we know they were two owners ago) marked their children’s heights on the bedroom door. The last owners painted over it, but one coat of white paint doesn’t cover Sharpie. When we moved in, I enjoyed reading the names and dates and piecing together the birth order (some of the marks are birthdays).

  8. Kelly Coyle DiNorcia

    This is a great post! This is where we’re at with our current home – it’s tiny, a little tight for our family, but we can’t afford anything bigger right now so we’re working on making it HOME. Little repairs, built-in bookcases, kids’ art on the walls, a fun garden outside, and getting to know our property and neighborhood all make a place we love to be!

  9. Trudy G.

    We are living in the house my great-grandparents built, my grandmother was born in, that my grandfather died in, and family has LIVED in. I love this old house and all the memories it carries, especially when there are the stories my father shares. Although some things have changed over the years, the ‘home’ feeling is still there! My husband and I consider ourselves blessed to call it our home.

  10. Kara Fleck

    Love this, Emily! 🙂

    We rented for a long, long time and one of the things I love the most about being where we are now is that we own these walls and that means I can paint them any color I want and hang up whatever I want! It makes it feel so much more like MY home to see my favorite colors all around me.

    I love the idea of a forever garden and the memory wall – that is an idea I’m taking away from this, for sure!


  11. Kim

    Great post, thanks so much. This being our third house in six years, I am definitely guilty of decorating with sell-ability in mind – even though we don’t plan to move again anytime in the near future! This is a great encouragement to settle down and let our roots go down here, however long that might be. Plant, paint, and put up pictures…act like we actually own the place! 🙂

  12. Thrifty

    Moving in to an old house has been such a creative outlet for me. The character that older homes have is a major source of inspiration for me. Great post!

  13. Alissa

    You described us to a tee! We are just coming to terms that we are going to be staying in “OUR” house in “OUR” neighborhood for a while and not moving across town anytime soon. Fortunately, we are habitual DIY people, so we redid the kitchen fairly early and have now painted every wall. Next project: the backyardl. We’re making the decision of whether to refurbish what the last people had (basic, boring, sell-able), or rework things to fit US better.

  14. Melodie

    Very timely. We have just moved into a new house (like yesterday!) and I am missing my old home so much today. Lots of tears. Anyway, this is a good reminder that I can learn to love this home as well. Thank you!

  15. Melissa B.

    My home is an eclectic combination of the old and the new. I’ve got Scandinavian “antiques” from my MIL, old country pieces from my Nana, and then the kitchen table that I bought new and let the kids “antique” themselves. Some of our rooms feature treasured Salvation Army pieces. But my favorite is the old white wicker chair on the screened-in porch. It was my Mom’s favorite, too.

  16. Nisha

    Charming post. I need a memory wall. My husband and I both are big on paint color. We are pretty bold and make moves with our walls that makes my mother freak out 🙂 It always turns out looking lovely. We’ve lived in our house for three years and it finally feels like our own. We’ve painted every wall and gotten new flooring on two floors (upstairs bedrooms left with the old stuff). Now if only I could get my husband to let me paint the cabinets…then I’d be perfectly happy!

  17. Kristen

    A year ago on Labor Day weekend, I moved into my current, forever home. It is a brand-new home built by a realitor so every room is the same beige. Its driving me crazy! My husband is against painting because everything is new. I’m going to try showing him this article and see if it convinces him that we need to paint a few rooms just to add some life to this home.

  18. Tabitha (From Single to Married)

    When we moved into our home three years ago, we painted it whatever colors we wanted to. We know that this is somewhat temporary home as it’s small and won’t accommodate our growing family, but we want it to feel like home while we’re here (at least five years or so). So our front room is orange/ivory, our bedroom is a dark taupe and our kitchen is a dark red. All the colors that they tell you not to use if you’re trying to sell a house. 🙂 We figure when we leave, we can just have the whole thing painted beige but for now, we’re going to enjoy it!

  19. Madelyn

    I love this post! I have always avoided painting because when we sell the house, the walls need to be neutral. When will we be selling? In about two years…and we’ve already been here for three. So we’ve been living with bland colors based on some time in the future when we may sell it.

    I’m going to buy paint!

  20. Karly

    We just moved into our new home and I’m in the process of choosing paint colors and making a memory wall. I am so happy to see the previous owners planned a wonderful natural garden. This is our forever home and I’m so looking forward to growing in it and building a lifetime of memories.

  21. Mary @ A Simple Twist of Faith

    My husband used to be a house painter so he encouraged me to add color to our home. His favorite is “Glad Yellow”. It brightens the long hallway of our ranch home.
    In that hallway, I need to update the memory wall. I like the idea of painting all the frames the same color for a united look. However, I am unsure if black would be the right choice with a cheery yellow. Do you have any color suggestions?

  22. Maryann @ Raise Healthy Eaters

    We are in the process of buying a place and I can’t wait to make it a home. We have been renting since we’ve been married and have never done much with our places. Thanks for the inspiring ideas!

  23. Kymberly

    Hailing from a long line of people who settle in to one house for 60 years or more, I’ve always been an anomaly among peers who seem to purchase homes only as a stepping stone and not as an actual haven.

    It’s great to read and hear of others who understand that a home is what you make from a house. That learning to live with the nooks and crannies is, in and of itself, a rewarding thing. It’s being adaptable. Both in adapting the house to you and you to the house. The need for so many to have EXACTLY what they THINK they want (open floor plans! Flow! Must be able to see the dirty dishes from any point in the downstairs! 😉 removes much of the personality and quirkiness from living, I think.

    We have so many friends who comment on how much their kids LOVE our quirky old house. We have walls. Hallways. Nooks. Crannies. Front and back stairways and windows and doors everywhere. Not an “open floor plan” in sight and yet somehow – very much loved. 🙂

  24. kmarie

    I love this post. I hope it is ok that I linked it in my last post:)

  25. Kristen

    So we are currently transforming our present house to a rental as we are moving to a larger space (thank goodness!!!). The funny thing is, all the little improvements that I have wanted to work on during the past 10 yrs here have not happened ($$$ and arrival of 3 children in 2 yrs was part of that, lol!) but now I have painted and replaced carpet and it is a lovely little house that I could have enjoyed much more fully had I done those things earlier. Sigh. Live and learn, I guess! I will make more of an effort in our new space to try to really make it home the way I want it rather than wait until we are leaving! : )

  26. Kristen

    All the previous posts are older, but I saw this article and it runs so true to my family’s life right now! Close to two years ago, we moved out of the house we were renting and into the house we bought. Buying a house wasn’t a new experience for us by any means, but this house is something special. We bought this house from my husband’s grandparents when they moved down south–neat, right? Well, it gets better. My husband’s grandpa and dad built this house when my husband was a toddler! He remembers being tied to the stud walls while the house was going up. Then he and his parents lived in this house for a couple of winters when the grandparents were on extended vacations. So this is already a house that has been a home to several generations!
    One interesting thing is that it has made it a bit difficult for my husband to want to make many changes, at first. It was hard for him to make the transition from this being “Grandma and Grandpa’s house” to being “our house.” But we’ve made a few changes–the trim outside is a royal blue, the bedroom that was the master and is now our kids’ room has a bright blue accent wall, there’s a new front door, and we’re adding on another bedroom this summer!
    And it’s very freeing to be making these changes without a single thought of “How will this impact resale value?” because that’s not something we’re contemplating. This is a house we hope to hang on to for a very long time! 🙂

Join thousands of readers
& get Tsh’s free weekly email called
5 Quick Things,

where she shares stuff she either created herself or loved from others. (It can be read in under a minute, pinky-swear.)

It's part of Tsh's popular newsletter called Books & Crannies, where she shares thoughts about the intersection of stories & travel, work & play, faith & questions, and more.