The physical dimension of home helps to locate what is home. It is inappropriate to use the terms house and home interchangeably. Families may identify housing as home, but home is not necessarily a domicile (permanent legal residence). Designation of what is home depends on specification and extent of the concept. John Hollander (1993) suggests that home is conceptual concentric circles radiating outward, with the surface of the world as the outermost circle. The smallest central point of the concentricities might be the place of greatest hominess. Moving outward are the broader, public places, such as cities or regions, which are considered home. The notion that home is a community of people in a region comes from the German heimat or homeland. This is a collective sense of home rather than the personal and private sense of home of individuals and families.
A place is a home if it is familiar. A place becomes familiar and eventually considered a home through successive interactions with the place. Repeated interactions through organized patterns of routines yield recognition of actions and place. Frequent and regular family interactions associated with daily acts of living (e.g., food preparation, sleeping, childcare) or repetitive family and community rituals held in a specific place can contribute to familiarity with a residence or a territory.
The place that is home must have a regular physical appearance so that it is recognizable. Too much variation in the place will not elicit enough recognition over time to generate a sense of familiarity. Some stability in the environment may exist, but stability can also be controlled by the family. For example, furnishings in a house are often arranged in patterns and allowed to remain for a period. This regularity permits recognition of the place as familiar rather than strange. Thus, people act as agents in the construction and arrangement of the physical dimension of home (Douglas 1993).