Home Sweet Home – Part 22 – Porch Living

Front porches are one of the cornerstones of traditional neighborhoods. Homeowners love them and community planning departments often require them. Let’s go through the basics to capture the magic of a front porch.

Porch with rocking chairs

Porches are considered pedestrian-friendly and should be a conversational distance from the sidewalk to encourage neighborhood connections. Perhaps their value to the community is said best in the words of a regional planning department, “Porches provide a transitional layer between the private and public realms. They shelter large window openings and add richness to the pedestrian experience. Spacious porches encourage gathering and spontaneous interactions… Slightly elevated spaces provide opportunities for passive monitoring of streets and public spaces.”

Small porch

In our post-pandemic world, porches can help promote health and wellness. While health departments urged social distancing, there was the risk of extended social isolation. People needed to connect with people, face to face, and not just through electronic devices and zoom calls. That spontaneous interaction with neighbors who were working from home or walking their dogs may seem small, but it’s healthy! After being locked down, many craved being outside. Sunshine and fresh air are what our bodies need and what better place to get it than on the front porch? The porch is by far the best place to combat cabin fever if you ask me.

Homes with front porches just seem to look better. Perhaps they evoke nostalgia and memories of less hectic times. Almost all styles of houses look better with porches. The details around the porch may change from style to style–like the size and shape of the columns, the trim around the windows and even the color and style of the front door. All of these components come together to enhance that quintessential image of “Home.”

Porch with blue ceiling

Porches done right not only look good but function beautifully. Let’s dive into the nuts and bolts of what makes a fabulous front porch, from dimensions to finishes. Porches need to fit furniture. I find the minimum depth to be six feet. This is acceptable for a couple of chairs. However, a more generous depth of 8′ is perfect for the full outdoor living setup, perhaps even a porch swing! The width of the porch should correspond with the width of the house – the wider the house, the wider the front porch.

Porch swing

Too often, both critical components of a front porch are simply overlooked. There is nothing welcoming about a plain concrete floor scarred with the bumps and bruises of construction. Consider concrete pavers for warmth and texture or synthetic wood planking. For ceilings, consider a beadboard patterned vinyl. This maintenance-free option provides the look of wood without the concern of rot in humid climates. And don’t forget the color! While white works, look at the “haint” blue from historic Charleston. Legend has it that this color would keep the bugs and “haints” away. Does it actually work? When it looks this good, who cares?

Large Porch
Johnson Pictures, Inc.

Porches are the perfect place to personalize to make a great first impression with furniture, flowers, and front door wreaths.  And the porch certainly makes for a great place to relax and wait for family and friends to arrive for holiday gatherings.

Adapted from Housing Design Matters Blog