I love the phrase "Hearth and Home" because it has such a warm and inviting feel to it. And that is definitely how I want my house to be, not just for guests but for all of us who live here (human, furry and spirit alike). And though my house doesn't have a traditional hearth or fire in it, I still associate the qualities of fire (protective, giving light and warmth, bringing people together, cooking) with the home.
There is a connection between the Flame and Brigid. I was exposed to the idea of Flamekeeping (keeping a flame lit for Brigid) on one of the forums I am on, where they have a sub-group dedicated to it. I love the idea of keeping an eternal flame even though that is not something that fits well into my personal lift. I have learned (through experience) that I can't leave a candle burning unattended or my cats with come and investigate (or sit with their back to it and their tail in the flame seemingly unaware that their fur is singing). If I don't have a tiny candle in a large glass jar (where it will be relatively safe from investigation), I either extinguish it or take it with me if I need to leave the room.
One thing that an eternal fire brings to my mind is community. In most of the historical mentions I have read, an eternal fire was often something that was tended by a group, so people would tend the fire in shifts. Last year I joined a Creative Spirit Circle, a group offered up by Brigid's Grove, and I feel this sense of community there. My local group also communicates a lot online (because though we technically are 'local', between jobs, cars and free time we don't get to meet face to fact as much as we would like).
There is something really special about sharing spiritual moments with other people who both understand and may be inspired by what you have gone through. Even as a primarily solitary practitioner, my personal path would be much diminished if I didn't have other people to share with. I can't count the number of times that I have been inspired by something someone else has done, or how other people's shared stories have enhanced my own practices. And, I love when I can share something I have seen or done and someone else mentions that it was useful to them.
Getting back to the idea of the hearth, I definitely feel the heart inside the hearth. I think that the concept of the hearth is the heart of the house. It is the energy that fills your house, and if it is a well tended hearth then the house will flourish, no matter what is going on. Sure, you will always have setbacks, but how you respond and navigate the obstacles in life will be greatly influenced by the nature of your hearth.
It doesn't matter how many people you have in your household, each and every one of us can bring our own light to the fire. We all have a unique energy that we contribute, and even if you are the only one there, the way you treat your house will impact how you feel at home.
It all comes back to heart for me. You can do the same action with love and without, and it will be perceived differently because you put your heart into it. Made with love is a real thing! It isn't always about what you do, but truly about how you do it.
There are things we do around the house on a regular basis that can be transformed from simple tasks to acts of love by shifting our focus. We all eat, but when we prepare our food, whether we are cooking something from scratch or heating up a frozen dinner, we can do it with the intention of caring for our body and our self (or the other people we are feeding). When we eat, we can honor and thank everything that is on our plate or in our glass. This in turn helps us appreciate the sacrifices that were made for us, and reinforces our self-care. Caring for yourself is definitely part of tending the hearth!
We also take care of the house itself. This may include house cleaning and repairs, but also simple things like locking the door when you leave or at night. Any action you do to keep your house safe and 'healthy'. I may never come to like housework, but I do find that it becomes something more than drudgery when I use it as a way to show my devotion. I use cleaning time as a way to honor Frigga, and there are many other deities or spirits that would welcome such acts of service. Or you could even just think of your house spirit and of making them happy so they can watch over your house and all who dwell within.
I think that there is great value to be had in connecting with the spirit of the place we live, whether you consider it to be a thinking being or an energetic field. The concept of Feng Shui tends to the energy of the house, and many of the techniques that are used in this practice can be adapted for regular use. One thing that is very helpful is to start to be aware of certain parts of your house feel off. Perhaps there is a room you just don't like being in. Or a picture that you avoid looking at (even though you liked it before you bought it). Tend to the energy of your house, like you would tend a garden. Sometimes you need to pluck plants that don't belong (or relocate them to somewhere they would grow better).
It is also always a good idea to work with the other people and animals living in your house to create a harmonious living environment. We may already talk with the other adults in the house, but don't forget little ones or pets as well. They have just as much stake in the home as you do, but may not always have a voice to speak. That doesn't mean that you can't listen for their messages, just that you need to listen more attentively.
One thing that can be useful is to have a household altar space. It can include things from everyone in the house, and be used as a focal point to work on hearth related issues. You may want to include a deity you feel your home is strongly connected to, whether it is a deity that is concerned with home things or just one that everyone in your house is drawn to. This is a place you can make offerings or light up a symbolic flame (even if you don't keep it lit all the time for safety reasons). You could also use an electric lamp for times when you can't have fire.
Tending the flame of our hearth is a matter of cultivating our affection and letting it shine out from us to those around us. Our house becomes a receptacle for this energy we create and holds what we send out. If we work at honoring our house, those that live in it and ourselves, it will always feel like a home.