When we asked our Facebook friends to tell us about a a simple, well-worn object in or aspect of their home that brings them joy or solace, Cass Capen-Housely reported that her screened-in porch is her biggest source of joy. “I can hear the birds morning and night, and the sun shines in the afternoon to make for a peaceful way to wind down from a day at work,” she said. “It is where I spend most of my time. I can sit there with my husband and dogs and just reflect on how great our life is.”
In Rural Studies, with Hints for Country Places, published in 1867, Donald Grant Mitchell said, “A country house without a porch is like a man without an eyebrow.” Every home (not just those in the country) should have a porch—a place for communing with nature and neighbors, sleeping, resting or just sitting and thinking. In the past decade, as I traveled the country photographing and writing about cutting-edge homes for Natural Home & Garden, I’ve seen firsthand how porches enhance a home’s livability and comfort.
Here are five of my favorite porches. Not too surprisingly, four of them are in the South—where they know a thing or two about porch sitting. It’s an art.
Willie Drake and his family spend much of the year on the enormous porch that wraps around their home in West Virginia. The fireplace, constructed of local fieldstone, allows them to enjoy the outdoors well into the winter months. To learn more about this house, go to “Salvaged Soul: A Salvaged Wood Home in West Virginia.” Photo by Michael Shopenn
Madeleine Cenac’s Louisiana home has a great front porch, but I’m partial to her glassed- and screened-in sleeping porch on the home’s north side. Small, lower panes open outward, awning style, for ventilation, and screens keep the bugs away. Imagine waking up to the sound of the birds here! To learn more about this house, go to “Bayou Beauty: A Southern Cottage Home.” Photo by Philip Gould
In Charlottesville, Virginia, Allison Ewing and Chris Hays took advantage of sublime views and created an outdoor dining room with a huge porch that wraps around the front of their home. “The best thing about this house is really the connectedness to the outdoors,” Chris says. “We can just sit on the porch and let the kids play there or in the backyard.” To learn more about this house, go to “A Place Between: A Home Inspired by Japanese and Italian Architecture.” Photo by Philip Beaurline
Guy Baker says the porch on the house he and his family built from salvaged materials is his favorite place to be. “I do not like being inside a whole lot,” Guy says. “It snowed one day last winter, and I built a fire in the woodburning stove, made a cup of coffee, and sat out there for hours." To learn more about this house, go to “Sweet Home Alabama: A Salvaged Home in the South.” Photo by Michael Shopenn
Rives and Wally Yost’s home on Dewees Island in South Carolina is designed for indoor/outdoor living, with porches on the front, back and corners of the house that provide outdoor living space and permit windows and doors to be left open for constant access to island breezes and sounds. The porches accommodate everything from sleeping to checkers, but I was most taken by the screened porch off the laundry room, devoted solely to clotheslines. Rives considers clothes dryers a waste of electricity, especially in a breezy climate. To learn more about this house, go to “The House of 8 Porches: A South Carolina Beach Home.” Photo by Michael Shopenn