Welcome Home: Reviving the Front Porch, From the Wraparound to the Stoop

Appreciation for the front porch, the home's connection to the community, is back. Whether your home has a small stoop or a Victorian wraparound, here's how to make it warm and welcoming.

| March/April 2001

purple basket mailbox

Placing a basket at shoulder height is an aesthetic alternative to the humdrum mailbox; it also provides a convenient place to stash keys or a book you’re reading. This metal wall pocket is made from old Canadian sap buckets, once used for maple sugaring.

Photo By Povy Kendal Atchison

“A country house without a porch is like a man without an eyebrow.” —Donald Grant Mitchell, Rural Studies, with Hints for Country Places, 1867. 

I grew up in a post-World War II subdivision, a refuge for returning vet­erans and their young families. While the houses were modest, nearly everyone had a small front porch, which we children considered the perfect setting for all kinds of games. The porch was a safe haven, within earshot of the kitchen, and we were free to conduct our childhood business inside its wooden railings, while our family carpets and upholstery remained unblemished.

After supper, the adults appropriated our space, sitting on the glider or the rush-seated wooden rockers that were the porch’s “formal” furnishings. We could join them until bedtime, greeting neighbors as they strolled by.

The porch was a friendly yet secure connection between the family and the public space at the sidewalk, simultaneously extending the living area of our small house and expanding our lives outward to the social realm.

Front porches—from the city stoop to the genteel Southern veranda—were a fixture in American life until the urban exodus of the 1950s and 1960s changed the orientation of new homes to the backyard and the patio. While this change provided families with some sense of security and privacy, it also represented a turn away from the vitality of the close-knit neighborhood. A generation of children grew up without the sense of community that the front porch provided. So it is perhaps their collective sense of longing for this connection that has again changed the face of the American home.

New housing developments, from Seaside and Celebration in Florida to cohousing projects in New England and the West, feature front porches as an integral part of their residential designs. Even the most cookie-cutter subdivisions offer the attractions of railed and columned entryways, in part because real estate moguls realize that porches make houses look larger and more welcoming. Inaugurated by New Urbanist architects, the return to front porches has spread throughout the country, and homes again present their friendliest face to the street.

elderberry, echinacea, bee hive


Feb. 17-18, 2018
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