An Ode to the Front Porch

An Ode to the Front Porch

It’s fashionable among urbanites to look upon the suburbs with disdain. Big city apologists snub their noses at two-car garages, lawns and expanses of empty sidewalks. They decry the necessity of cars and lack of public transportation.

But there is one feature of the American suburbs that I love: the front porch. It’s more than a place to collect Amazon boxes or display Halloween decorations. A properly designed front porch connects your home to the neighborhood. It invites your neighbors to stop and chat for a spell.

I fell in love with front porches with my first home. On Sunday mornings the newspaper landed there with a heavy thud. I would shuffle out there with my coffee and rifle through paper. Neighbors would walk past with their dogs or kids on the way to the park. Most would just wave and say “hello,” but some would stop briefly to catch up. In the spring I would smell freshly mowed grass (no allergies) as people did their gardening.

My first home, a little California bungalow where I spent Sunday mornings on the porch.

This slow unwinding of a morning, this indoor-outdoor connection is not possible in a high rise apartment building. It’s not the same as a veranda or a terrace. A front porch is an invitation. It is literally the threshold between your private space and the community that surrounds you.

Here are some of my favorite features of front porches, and the elements that create an inviting space.

Even a tiny porch can be welcoming by just adding a chair.
Porch swings add a playful vibe.
Different seating areas extend the home’s living space.
In the American South, it is traditional to paint the porch ceiling a robin’s egg blue.
A front porch that’s been screened adds a new room and keeps the bugs out in the evening.
Potted plants, pillows and an outdoor rug create a cozy space for relaxing.
The mother of all porches: the wrap-around porch that is common in farmhouse style homes.

In my other project, I explore the question of life transitions and personal thresholds. The American front porch is the perfect metaphor for the connection between your inner and outer life, the moment where exposure meets safety.

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