Rooms with a view. Results of survey show how college-educated Americans feel about home

MOST college-educated Americans are happy with where they're living. It's a good thing - because a home one feels satisfied and content with is the No. 1 material aspiration of American college graduates. This is according to a recent survey conducted by Louis Harris and Associates.

About 93 percent of those college graduates surveyed agree that their home provides a haven from the pressures of the outside world. They view it as sanctuary and security, and say it gives them a sense of place and privacy.

All the graduates indicated that they expect their home to express their character, tastes, and interests; provide a proper environment to raise children; and impart a feeling of permanency and ``roots.''

Although most indicated that they do not consider home a status symbol or a matter of ``keeping up with the Joneses,'' they admitted that home can indeed be a reflection of success, and that it should be a place to which they would be proud to invite their friends.

During the survey, 1,200 college-educated Americans were interviewed about the meaning of home. The median age of the respondents was 39, and the median household income was about $44,000. The survey was conducted for Pier 1 Imports, a specialty retailer of decorative home furnishings.

Seventy percent of those surveyed are married. More than three-quarters own their main residence, which they now value at about $105,000. The owners report a median appreciation of 49 percent on the value of their homes.

Seventy percent have mortgages, and most felt they had been prudent home buyers. They did not feel that they had overmortgaged their futures to buy the houses they wanted.

Over three quarters of the college-educated Americans surveyed called their home their largest investment, but one of the best investments they had ever made.

The traditional suburban home (a three-bedroom detached house on its own lot) is still America's ideal. Only 4 percent of respondents described their ``dream home'' as a high-rise apartment!

Eighty-six percent said they had decorated their homes themselves, as opposed to using an interior designer. They say they feel most comfortable shopping in furniture and specialty stores. A smaller number said they preferred shopping in department stores.

A majority of those people surveyed declared that, ideally, they would like to spend more time and money decorating or fixing up their homes.

Eighty percent characterize the main living area of their homes as ``casual'' in style, which interprets loosely to mean ``warm,'' ``informal,'' and ``comfortable.'' They list early American and wicker pieces among their favorite furnishings. Only a third of them indicated that they chose Scandinavian, Euro-design, or high-tech furnishings.

Home, they agree, is their preferred place to entertain friends, enjoy hobbies, and spend time with families. Most of them say that if their busy schedules permitted it, they would love to spend even more time at home and invite in even more friends to enjoy it with them.

Most said that if their homes lacked anything, it was a great view. And many indicated that they could use more property.

But when asked what they would like in their dream house that they don't now have, at least 10 percent of those surveyed replied, ``Absolutely nothing.''

Since many said that having the right kind of home was absolutely essential to their happiness, it's not surprising that only 6 percent said that being able to travel for pleasure was essential - and only 3 percent declared that being able to eat out frequently was an important item in their daily lives.

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