I'm still in the process of figuring out what turns a place into home.
Now I'm supposing that moving into a house with someone and doing bunches of decorating and furniture shopping for it together is an altogether different scenario. That will happen down the road, I hope, but for now I'm on a bit of a different quest: turning my apartment (for one) into home.
After college graduation, I was lucky enough to be able to move out on my own right away. But since then, conditions haven't been quite ideal for really nesting into a place. For one, I've ended up moving once a year - and while diagramming new furniture arrangements is actually quite fun, any roots I've put down in that place (both indoors and the surrounding neighborhood) get abruptly pulled back up again.
Secondly and more importantly, though, is the feel of a room when I'm in it. When I think of a home, I think of coziness, peace, warmth. I want to feel it is a place I could bring together people who are important to me, as well as a place for my own time.
Through noticing the lack of some of these features, I've begun to sense how strongly the decor inspires the feel of the room. And I use 'decor' in the broadest sense; for me, it is mainly the furniture. For quite awhile, my collection felt horribly mismatched - bright college dorm colors clashed with a gray-green couch inherited from a prior roommate and the beautiful dark wood of the bedroom pieces with which I grew up. While I've appreciated not having to pay for a whole new set of furniture to fill my apartment, together they didn't create a comfy atmosphere, an environment that invited me to feel settled. And oddly enough, it bugged me that the collection was obviously in transition from typical college dorm items. I guess I do have some adult instincts after all. :)
In my latest apartment I'm happy to have taken a few steps closer to these goals. My parents recently gave me a very nice living room lamp and I'm just in love with it. Paired with a brilliant new furniture arrangement by my mom, I now have that cozy feeling in my living area. (Well, mostly - I wouldn't mind replacing this couch at some point.) Often now I can't help lighting a candle to accompany me through my quiet evening activities, as there's something special to me about its warmth and flickering glow.
Smaller things make big differences too. A few paintings and a clock decorate the living room walls; a set of colorful cloth coasters is scattered about on tabletops. My parents also brought me my bed comforter from home, for which I traded the neon green and blue one I'd used in college. It gives my bedroom a soft lightness and even complements the colors of the curtains.
I still have a ways to go, I know. But even if my current apartment won't be where I'll live forever, I'm happy to be finding out what makes it really feel like my home.