Home >News >World >Want to instantly upgrade your home? Give it a name

Visitors turning into Beverly and David McNulty’s driveway in Allen, Texas, marvel at the massive home with a white picket fence.

That’s the neighbors’ house. Their modest ranch-style home is around the bend.

So after a 2018 renovation, the couple decided it was time to upgrade their home’s stature with a little humor. They commissioned a metal sign above their mantel to read: The Maids’ Quarters.

“It’s the perfect name for our little place," says Mr. McNulty, a 67-year-old sales executive who spent months finding the right font, settling on one a signmaker custom made for them. “This is a cool secret hideaway back here."

Inspired by HGTV décor shows, home-rental websites and with plenty of time at home to think about how to upgrade houses and rental properties, even owners without estates are discovering the joy of naming their abodes.

“If you name it, it sounds a bit posh," says Lori Howarth, author of the self-published book “House and Farm Names," who is based in Bathurst, Australia. “You’ve got to be realistic to some degree," she adds. “You don’t want to call it an estate when it’s really a cottage."

Though Ms. Howarth rents now, she named her prior home Biggletree for the “big old tree" in the front yard. The new owners kept the sign but got rid of the tree, she says: “Must be a bit of a mystery to people passing by."

In Cape Cod, Mass., Tudi Thiele, 48, bought a three-bedroom home with a yard and named it Bigger Britches to signify a major life upgrade 20 years ago. She had gone from renting a bedroom there. “It was a total fixer-upper," she says, “but I was totally able to put down the down payment."

She has named a rental property she owns in town. Wash Ashore, she christened it, a term native Cape Codders call new arrivals. “It’s not meant to be denigrating," says the special-education teacher who relocated from Canada. “I’ve washed ashore in a place that I decided to stay."

Bob Lacy, owner of the Chatham Sign Shop in Chatham, Mass., says he sends house nameplates to all parts of the world, carved onto traditional quarterboards that replicate those salvaged from ships. Popular are plays on “sea"—Après Sea, Searenity, Luna Sea—says Mr. Lacy, whose signs cost $350 to $1,400. He says he has seen an increase in demand from outside the Northeast.

Jason Milovich, 46, who co-owns Bluefish Vacation Rentals, a home-rental-management company in Union Pier, Mich., started naming homes four years ago as a branding opportunity. He sends owners a few choices of what their homes will be dubbed on his site.

“There are only so many creatively cute names," says Mr. Milovich. He has recently suggested All Decked Out, Beachy Keen and Just Beachy, while nixing Seas the Day and Seaclusion for rentals on Lake Michigan.

After buying a two-bedroom vacation cottage in seaside Quogue, N.Y., Liz Audet wanted to change almost everything except the name: Final View. Her remodeled cottage sits at the edge of a cemetery, and a small sign near the manicured hedges announces its name.

“From the kitchen window, I can see services," says Ms. Audet, a real-estate agent. The sign was installed by the previous owner, she says: “It’s overlooking the cemetery and that is your Final View."

When buying a second home two years ago in Bandon, Ore., Julie and Mike Cuneo kept its name: Dacha, Russian for country cottage. They embraced its Slavic roots, adding the name and definition to their marketing materials for renters. They also kept the previous owner’s Russian knickknacks, including a balalaika, a triangular stringed instrument above the fireplace.

“We have people that drive by our house and say: That looks lovely, but what’s the Dacha?" says Ms. Cuneo, 56, who runs a construction company with her husband. “Since it had a history, we liked the idea."

Some homeowners seem to “pull names out of thin air" and name homes to mimic the country’s historic estates in the 18th and 19th centuries, says Philip Herrington, an architectural historian at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., who studies home names. “It does sometimes come across as pretentious," he says, “and that’s the point."

After spending most of her time stuck inside her Los Angeles home this spring, Stephanie Greitzer rented the Red Barn Happy House with her family for a weekend getaway in June. She was drawn to the name while browsing Airbnb. Learning the home had an on-site tennis court, hiking trails and fire pit helped.

When the family of four arrived at the house in Santa Paula, Calif., they were overcome by the bright red hues of the interior, including the coffee maker, rug, toaster, towels and guest-room futon. After spending months inside their own home, the weekend exploring the 8-acre property with two preschool-aged sons was “so quaint," says the 40-year-old.

Owner Jill Cox, 57, says she named the home as a homage to the cheerful way her late grandmother used to answer her apartment phone. To fit with the theme, she decorated the home with the red accents. “It became etched in our family memories," she says.

After building his West Palm Beach, Fla., home in 2007 and naming it Bamboo Hill, celebrity interior designer Lars Bolander planted bamboo on one side. “We thought we’d leave them and there’s going to be a forest there in the year," says Mr. Bolander, 75, who was inspired by Balinese forests.

The plants are tall but sparse now, he says, and “not looking very impressive." He has put Bamboo Hill up for sale for $5.9 million and is glad the more lush-looking banana and papaya trees nearby conceal the thin bamboo. For now, potential buyers haven’t inquired about the origins of the name. “Thank God they haven’t," he says, “because I wouldn’t like to show to them."

After watching his favorite home décor shows, Tony Lentini, decided on the name Flip Flop Manor for the four-bedroom Galveston, Texas, rental he bought in 2019 with his wife Carolyn Lentini. He wanted the 107-year-old home a few blocks from the beach to sound approachable yet stately enough to draw wealthier renters.

“A manor is a fancy house and flip flops are pretty down in the sand," says the 71-year-old investor-relations executive. “Having a cute name attracts people."

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