The Front Porch – Bring Family Life Outdoors 

Front porch with curved timbers
Front porch with curved timbers

When you’re being nostalgic about your perfect dream home, you may envision yourself sitting out on the front porch, gently rocking in a swing as you wave to neighbors out for a stroll after supper or gazing at the sunset.. A vision of a past era, to be sure, but today more and more homes are reviving the architectural feature that kept generations cool and gave folks a chance to socialize with their neighbors  – a great covered timber frame porch.

The advent of air conditioning, television, cars and backyard decks caused people to spend more time inside, so a generation of homes was built without the ubiquitous front porch. Families became more mobile, spent more time away from home and developed busy schedules. The idea of sitting on the porch and relaxing just fell out of favor. Backyard patios and decks became the norm as people began to value privacy more and more…but why?

Virtues Of A Front Porch

Dining porch
Dining porch

If you’re in the developmental stages of your new home, take a moment to consider your front porch. A generous porch not only sets the stage for your home’s entryway, it gives a focal point to your front yard. It’s an outdoor space you can develop and accessorize in much the same way you would any living space and give it character that reflects your style and taste.

On the practical side, a good-sized front porch provides shelter for guests arriving in inclement weather. In addition to affording protection from the elements to guests, if you have packages delivered on a regular basis, your purchases won’t end up soaked if no one is home to accept them.

Design Considerations

Your timber frame porch shouldn’t look like a postage stamp stuck on an envelope. It should meld seamlessly with the house and accentuate the positive aspects of the house while minimizing any shortcomings. The porch should be in keeping with the architectural design of the house in both size and style.

Country farm houses can always use a nice wrap-around porch while a large, open pediment and strong support columns enhance a Craftsman bungalow.

Planning Your Outdoor Space Wisely

Sitting porch
Sitting porch

Once you’ve decided on the basic style for your porch, you can have a little fun and create a scale floor plan. Scour magazines and websites for porch ideas that inspire you. Arrange and rearrange furniture and design elements and see what will fit well and work best with your porch shape and size. It may be worth it to add a couple feet here or extend a few feet there to make the space truly useful and a place you’d enjoy spending time.

Just like any other room, furniture layout and traffic flow are important on your porch. Is there room for that porch swing and a little table? Can a wicker settee and a rocker fit in that corner? Using a diagram with scale furnishings allows you to plan arrangements that utilize the space best.

Backdrop For Landscape Design And Curb Appeal

Your porch can be a central focal point for your front yard landscaping. As the main architectural component, you create your hardscape, plantings and other features to complement and direct the eye to the porch and entryway.

Adding bushes, pathways and lighting adds to the total look of the space and adds the finishing touch to your porch. While you may first think about curb appeal during the spring, summer and fall, consider what elements will enhance the appearance of your porch during the winter.

Porch Considerations

Front entry porch
Dramatic front entry porch

The distance your house is to the street can have a big impact on your porch. A high porch near the street gives a sense of privacy. You have a feeling of seclusion and protection from passing cars. On the other hand, if your home is set far from the street, your porch spilling directly to the lawn has an open and welcoming feel.

If your porch is 30 inches or higher, you need to install a railing. Depending on the porch design, you may have a railing on a lower porch.

Porch Building Materials

Your porch should be an extension of your home. Its building materials should match or complement the rest of the house’s facade. Wide plank decking, concrete or composite deck materials give the space different feels and should be considered when specifying building materials.

Front breezeway porch
Front breezeway porch

Columns and railings can be made from materials such as concrete, wrought iron, wood, cable and steel. These materials should integrate with the main house structure.
The stairs can also vary in materials and styles. Wood, poured concrete, brick and stone are commonly used as building materials for entry stairs.
Don’t think of your porch as an afterthought. Planning it should be just as important as the patio or deck you’re planning for the back yard. In fact, it may be more important, as it’s the first impression people have about you and your property. Make it reflect your family’s lifestyle and personality.

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