Journalist, Essayist, Author, Blogger

The Front Porch is the Face of a Home

 

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By Paula Ganzi Licata

As summer segues to fall, the porch takes center stage with harvest scenes and, before you know it, Halloween. The focus shifts from busy barbecues out back to the autumnal serenity of the front porch with its rocking chair-ready appeal. The pool and deck may lay claim to summer fun, but the porch is the place from which parents lead their little ones to the school bus stop, and where homeowners welcome trick-or-treaters – scarecrows acting as sentries sitting atop bales of hay amidst jack o’lanterns with craggy grins, corn stalks standing tall against columns and posts.

But the porch isn’t simply just another space, it’s the face of a home welcoming visitors. The charm of a wraparound porch hugging the house is like a beautiful woman batting her eyelashes. 

It’s no surprise that home renovations often include porch makeovers; they are the facelifts of a house, bestowing character and ensuring curbside appeal with the nip and tuck of two-by-fours and pillars, and the artful coverage of latticework. 

Porches used to be associated with elegant Victorian and Edwardian houses or cozy Mission-style cottages.
But now, chances are when colonials are renovated, capes are modified and ranches are raised, a porch is part of the renovation.

The allure of this architectural feature is not lost on Realtors, who use the term “grandma porch” to woo potential buyers with rocking-chair-ready charm.

Who wouldn’t be seduced by the steady two-beat creak of a rocking chair?

A few neighbors on our block expanded their homes and every renovation included porch work. Some homeowners added a porch where there once was none.
Others improved existing porches by restoring sagging stairs and broken handrails, and expanding it into a welcoming retreat with wide plank flooring, stylish spindles, rockers and a swing – creating a space worthy of HGTV before-and-after satisfaction.

Besides aesthetics, part of the draw is the living space. It’s special space, a world away from the busy deck hiding behind the house. There’s a distinct mood to a porch. Even the furniture speaks volumes about the difference between porch appeal and backyard behavior. Poolside lounge chairs induce sleep; porch furniture – rockers, gliders, swings – invite reading, observing, thinking. 

While the fireplace may be the symbol of home-sweet-home, the porch seems to be an American institution, and homeowners are restoring the porch to its proper place in society.

Simply by its proximity to the street – open to the community – it invites conversations with neighbors and passersby.

Sagamore Hill, the Oyster Bay estate of Theodore Roosevelt, our 26th president and the only one buried on Long Island, was built in 1884-1885 and features a large wraparound porch.

Roosevelt knew the value of this distinctive structural element – he sometimes addressed crowds from his porch.

Fall is essentially here. Temperatures are starting to drop and the 2008 presidential campaign is heating up. Perhaps Barack Obama and John McCain should start cozying up to voters, campaigning from a porch.

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