Porch as stage. A neo-veranda by McBride Charles Ryan.
From Porch to Patio (Classic study by Richard Thomas.)
The Shed: The new front porch? NYT
I live on a porchless cul de sac in Southern California. Built in 1989, the facades on our street are swallowed up by the great beige blankness of garage doors. When my children were very young, the neighbors and I would sit at the shadeless edges of our driveways wearily watching our toddlers play in the asphalt circle. A porch retreat would have been welcome (a babysitter even more so).
On the adjacent street, built just a few years later, the porch is back, part of the movement to create a more social architecture. Garages have scooted discretely to the sides of the houses, and modest verandas now frame the front doors.
Still dreaming about porches, I decided to take a walking tour of the neighboring sac. Some of these structures are so small they are really just covered entryways, but the addition of a wooden banister between two posts says, “Hey, I’m a porch.” Some of the porches were completely bare. Others had dreamed once of becoming container gardens, but had degraded instead into gardening sheds, complete with fertilizer bags, old trowels, and a great tangle of hose. Many were serving as storage units for bikes, strollers, and scooters – second garages for secondary vehicles – while a few housed great quantities of shoes.
The most successful porches appeared to be those that formed an L. The side piece, served by an additional doorway and set back a bit more from the street, was more likely to shelter a cluster of furniture (though I saw no one sitting there).
Unlike the voluptuous verandas of older houses, most of these newcomers are too skinny to seat a real gathering. In any case, people may mingle more freely at Starbucks, or in common areas like the park or the pool, than in front of their houses. And if television first drew people off the veranda and into the living room, the Internet has social charms that no porch can provide. Face Book is the new porch.
Along with balconies the size of window boxes and driveways paved like patios, these narrow newcomers are more a symptom of gas-and-electric life than a solution to it. Even backyards have once again become refugee camps for abandoned toys and old tools. In New Orleans, where the porch survived until Katrina, residents report that their new abodes — trailers fitted with factory air – require no porches. Everyone stays inside.
I asked a friend from the next street, a sexy scientist from Argentina, how she uses her new porch. “I don’t actually sit out there,” she said, “but it’s great for package delivery. You know—” (her voice dropped into a confidential quiver) “from Victoria’s Secret and Frederick of Hollywood.”
I am glad that the neo-porch is enhancing the sex life of working mothers, but it certainly hasn’t revived the social world framed by its historic ancestors. Maybe I shouldn’t feel so bad about not having a porch. Its gentle frame would be prettier than my garage, but would it really change the traffic patterns of my life? Perhaps what I really need is another blog, a raspberry frappucino, or a Really Special Delivery.
Porch with packages.
This porch is really a patio.
Tired of welcome mats? I like this “welcome” blackboard.
Photo essay on porches at the University of Virginia
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