the end of house anxiety.
We have all been there.
We tell ourselves we're not going to invite anyone over until our house looks like the pages of whatever design magazine we snagged at the supermarket check-out. Which is precisely never. Or, until we're hosting a themed birthday party, and the cleaner has come, and everything is perfect. Then maybe we'll have guests.
It doesn't have to be that way. In fact, it shouldn't be that way. Houses, it turns out, are more than just shelters. They are the best places in the world to connect with others. They’re also a reflection of who we are.
Go inside someone’s house, I realized in my early twenties living in Mississippi, and you’ll learn a lot about a person. I had just done a midnight run with friends to Graceland Too, the famed house of an Elvis fanatic. The man was an eccentric hoarder, sure, but he was also devoted, a quality that matters more.
My fondest memory though, and one that has long stayed with me, involved watching a Muslim woman pray in her home in Rotterdam. We had a mutual friend who introduced us, so I didn't know her very well, but one morning I woke up early and she invited me to watch her pray. Positioned from a corner of her bedroom, I witnessed Islamic prayers for the first time. I was 22. A college graduate—but as this experience proved, hardly worldly. Barring her prayer rug and difference in language, it was an act familiar to my Christian upbringing. Her home was the stage to connect through this sacred act, and later on through a meal she cooked for me.
We presented two very different upbringings, but her home revealed our similariaties. This is important. Have you read the news lately? Inviting people into our homes is something we need to be doing now more than ever to remind ourselves we are all human. We all just want to make home.
A few years ago, I got tired of "shelter" magazines. To be fair, I worked in the design world and whenever I'd come home my mailbox was stuffed with them. Where they excelled in highlighting design and enviable places, however, they failed at making me care about the people they represented. Herman Hesse may have written that, "one never reaches home," but nothing, as far as I knew, existed that delved into the personal histories that were the real decoration in homes around the world.
Coucou Home was born from a desire to invite people into other people's homes to connect, to eliminate prejudices, and to reveal how very similar—and yet wildly interesting—we are.
I'm often asked why "coucou" home. There are two reasons. In French, the familiar way to say hello is "coucou". But more interesting to me is the fact that Dorothy's iconic chant, "There's no place like home," doesn't exactly translate to French. Why? Because there exists no word in French to convey a "sense of home". Learning about this omission made me really think about how we express that word. What does it mean?
Philosopher Gaston Bachelard (no surprise, also French), said about where we dwell: "For our house is our corner of the world. As has often been said, it is our first universe, a real cosmos in every sense of the word. If we look at it intimately, the humblest dwelling has beauty." I assure you that he didn't mean the decoration.
When I was a child, our house was a bit of a crazy place (there were six kids!), so I decided "coucou"—a word that echoed the call of a bird and was plopped down comfortably next to a word French tongues couldn't convey—fit the bill of what home meant to me: crazy and familiar, a place that understood me. I think a lot of people could say the same about their home too. And so one day Coucou Home was born. A crazy collection of perspectives brought together by the familiar, in a place that aims to celebrate the joys and struggles with making home.
When I envisioned Coucou Home years ago, there were two things I decided I would not do:
- Make it personal
- Create another design website. (There are plenty already doing that well.)
I quickly scrapped the first mandate. Coucou Home is very personal, just not about me. It includes a mix of long form writing (a dying art), interviews, films, recipes, anecdotes, and art, all of which I hope you'll enjoy. And maybe, just maybe, it will reduce some of your house anxiety as you learn how people make home on their own terms.
While I don't plan to focus on design, it was important to create a space that feels fresh and inspirational—much like the real home I've created many times over all over the world. I also plan to work with designers and other creatives to tell their stories and maybe even collaborate on products for our "coucou" homes. I promise to keep it interesting.
But I need your help too. My stories are endless, but with one point-of-view, Coucou Home will get very boring. If you have a story about home you'd like to share—maybe it's an anecdote about what it means to make home, or a situation in homemaking you overcame, perhaps it's a series of images, or a song that captures the essence of home for you—send it my way. I welcome your voice and vision. And together we'll learn to understand each other, one house at a time.
-Mary Warner, Founder