To Thou Swell ’s Kevin O’Gara, home is all about family. Whether it was the house built by his great-grandfather where his mother was raised or the houses his family leased while he was growing up, Kevin believes that homes are at the center of family life and that residential design can strengthen those ties. Read the interview below and follow along on social to learn how Kevin O’Gara makes it home.

Have you ever leased a home?

My family started leasing homes after the recession, and it was interesting to deal with homes that we didn’t own. But we were able to find a lot of creative solutions to make the houses our homes. I think some of the most creative solutions that we found were using curtains inside rooms to divide spaces or hide bad architecture. Filling the walls with mirrors or artwork always makes a huge difference. Using removable wallpaper in the kitchen or bathroom can really transform a room. There is a huge emotional return that really comes from making the space your own.

What’s your favorite room to gather?

My favorite room in the house for gathering would be a tie between the kitchen and the dining room. We love to cook in my family, so both rooms are really important to us. And we spend a lot of time in the kitchen just keeping people company as they cook or helping out, preparing ingredients. We also have a really strong tradition of connecting over meals, so spending time in the dining room is always really special to me.

What do you look for in a home?

What I look for in a house is probably not typical of your average person. I really look for a challenge. So, I really like to see a house that has a lot potential—maybe some challenges when it comes to the design. And that for me makes it all the more satisfying. So, I love a house that has some quirks and has some challenges, but ends up being amazing nonetheless. And secondly, I look for a good neighborhood because access to culture and community is really important to me.

What makes a house a home?

A house feels like a home to me when you can truly see the person who uses it everyday reflected in the design. I think it’s great when a house looks pretty, but the human element is missing until you really see the person authentically and joyfully reflected in the design of the home. Learn more about the Make it Home Show House and follow along with our designers here .

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