I grew up with the German version, which is Heinzelmännchen. They are little dudes that come into your house while you are asleep at night, and help with chores, fix things, clean things and are generally helpful. Funny, compared to the examples from other cultures below, the German one seems the most downright practical. Efficient little Heinzelmännchen:
These guys below are Scottish, and they are called Brownies. Wikipedia says "Brownies are said to inhabit houses and aid in tasks around the house. However, they do not like to be seen and will only work at night, traditionally in exchange for small gifts or food. Among food, they especially enjoy porridge and honey. They usually abandon the house if their gifts are called payments, or if the owners of the house misuse them. Brownies make their homes in an unused part of the house."
Here they are:
The Tomte: The Swedish version, or Nisse (Norway and Denmark). These guys also came by night, to the houses of farmers to watch over their homes and children. This illustration of a Tomte is from 1539:
The Domovoi: the Slavic version of the houseghost. Not so cute. But very loveable. One could get attached, as I think they do too.
Here is what wikipedia says about them: "The main purpose of a domovoi is usually that of a household protector from "the evil eye", although this often varies from tale to tale. Domovois are masculine in nature and typically resemble small, bearded and haired old people, often with anxious faces...Some tales describe them as being doppelgangers of the household masters while others either give them a completely monstrous appearance, or none at all. The actions performed by a domovoi vaguely resemble (but are not limited to) those of poltergeists from Western European mythology in description, although they are not necessarily harmful. The same can also apply to pets or even certain household objects."
The incarnation of the home from a different culture, here is Hestia, the Greek Goddess of the hearth. I wonder which of these tales is older - that of the Goddess or that of the houseghost.... Here she is, tending the fire:
Hestia is not the most glamorous of deities. Talk about taking a home for granted: "Hestia, first daughter of Cronus and Rhea is the virgin goddess of the hearth, architecture, and of the right ordering of domesticity and the family. She received the first offering at every sacrifice in the household. She sat on a plain wooden throne with a white woolen cushion and did not trouble to choose an emblem for herself."
Not sure why this image snuck in here...it's of the Norse Goddess Frigg, wife of Odin. Probably becasue she is an ur-mother and home-maker. In this picture she is spinning clouds: