porch from sneak peek: christina flowers of magnolia moonlight see more sneak peek porches below!
It has been hot, hot, hot here on the East Coast – a little taste of summer! All week we were waiting for a little rain to cool things off, and I was wishing for a place (other than a movie theater) to escape the heat box that had become my apartment. I would love to have a porch where I could cool off, enjoy the summer and watch that summer rain. So if you have a porch, have a mint julep for me and if you don’t, let’s live vicariously through some cool photos of the early history of the porch.
temple of portunu via wikimedia commons
Porches are a component of the vernacular architecture in nearly every warm climate (makes sense, right?), and the porches in America borrow a little bit from nearly every one of those cultures. In order that you have time for lunch today, I’m going to concentrate on the early European influences (spoiler alert: that’s where we got the word “porch”!) but if you’re interested in reading more about the history, please see the Books to Read section. The photo above might seem to share little with our modern porch but the word “porch” was derived from the Latin porticus or the Greek portico – both referring to a covered, the columnated opening to an important building or temple.
Porticos- A Classic Architectural Feature
Porticos were a significant feature of classical architecture. The Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all incorporated a porch-like aspect to their buildings – it was the perfect escape for hot climates. This porch-like feature fell out of fashion during the Middle Ages (when more fortress-like structures were preferred), but was revived during the Renaissance.
Check out some of my favorite porch accessories below!
The portico was revived by the individual considered to be the most influential Western architect – Andrea Palladio. In the 16th century, Palladio mistakenly assumed that the porticos he saw on Roman temples and public buildings must have been also used in residential architecture, and he applied the form to his own designs. He would occasionally substitute a loggia for a portico. A loggia is a recessed portico – an internal single-storey room with pierced walls – open to the elements. (A double loggia has two levels) It was a huge development. Those fortress-like buildings of the Middle Ages were now completely opened up.
hampton court designed by christopher wren, 1689–1702 via wikimedia commons
The Palladian style of architecture delighted Grand Tour travelers. And the 18th century English edition of The Four Books of Architecture set off a Palladian movement across Europe and into the New World. The look became identified as democratic and egalitarian. Porticos were prominently featured in neoclassical architecture – such as at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello as well as in his design for the University of Virginia.
marquise and stoop railing via the new york public library digital gallery
In America the porch began to appear in the 1730s and 1740s. Having a porch means that the home’s residents must be comfortable with open spaces. The desire to be open and welcoming trumped the need for defense. In order to even consider a porch, home owners had to feel secure. Americans must have felt positive about the 18th century because the porch was everywhere! And by the mid-18th century, they were a vital part of the American home.
18th & 19th century names for porches
- galleries – what French speakers in the lower Mississippi called the porches that encircled their buildings
- veranda(h) – entered the American vocabulary from India by way of England. A veranda is open pillared gallery, often roofed, and partly enclosed by a railing. The veranda is frequently seen in Australian vernacular architecture.
- stoep – a Dutch term that referred to an open entry-way
Decline of the porch
After Word War II, people were less interested in an outdoor room and more interested in space for a car. Porches began to decline in favor of carports and garages. If the sneak peeks (see below) are any indication, porches are more popular today than ever!
Books to Read
- There’s a Bed in the Piano: The Inside Story of the American Home by Myrna Kaye – I used this book for the post on Murphy beds and for Spool Beds. It gives an inside look into the American home and pays particular attention to the development of furniture for the American interior. If you like these America furniture posts, you should definitely buy it! (The used price is $4 – so go for it!)
- The American Porch: An Informal History of an Informal Place by Michael Dolan – As he writes about his own porch renovations, author Michael Dolan casually weaves in the history of the American porch.
Facts to Know
- American homes had balconies before they had porches.
- In William McKinley’s 1896 famous “front porch campaign” – he ran for president while appearing to relax at home and inviting the nation to his doorstep.
Favorite Porches from Sneak Peeks
There have been some fantastic porches featured in the design*sponge sneak peeks. Here are just a few favorites!
nancy lendved’s georgia home (see the full peek)
The porch of the kitchen cottage was inspired by a photo in a coffee table design book, and executed (scallops were hand made!) by James Askins. The tavern table is from Pennsylvania, the wall of french doors is from our local Habitat for Humanity thrift store, and the sheer curtains are from the Noorder-market in Amsterdam. –nancy lendved
kelly moseley’s austin porch (see the full peek)
Many happy times on this porch, aka ‘my office’. On cool mornings, I take my coffee and laptop out to check email and make notes. For twenty in years in New York, I dreamt of one of these! -kelly moseley
chicago’s cursive design (see the full peek)
our porch is our salvation. it doubles our living space in warmer months. we basically live and entertain friends out here for 6 months out of the year. my favorite thing this year was the bunny tail grass i grew from seed and my organic herb garden. sadly our “porch season” is ending but i think we have a couple days left. the porch furniture is from a thrift store. i re-painted them and stained/sealed the wood. the table was a bookcase i found in the alley and re-fashioned it into a table. the white standing planter is from cb2, and the hurricanes are from crate & barrel. –sara fox & jon satrom
on left: christina flowers of magnolia moonlight (see the full peek) and on right: pam zsori of ink and peat (see the full peek)
Our porch. We love to sit in the rockers and play a little chess after a long days work! –christina flowers
Our porch – great on summer evenings. –pam zsori
tec and chelsea petaja in nashville, tennessee (see the full peek)
Here are some of my favorite outdoor furnishings – rustic, french country and modern!
[clockwise from left: captain stripe indoor/outdoor rug $34-495, diftwood birdhouse $40, vintage pear crate $28, rustic rattan cutlery box $26, willow and glass canister $18, trunk wood bowls $40-45, london life utensil set $32, lakeland mills rocking chair $152]
[clockwise from left: moon chimes $88, alberino lanterns $9.99, bodega birdhouse $79, herb garden royal vkb $49, guggenheim pots $8-$24, barrow bar cart $199, vivo square bento box $32.99, camilla watering can $24]
[sky planter, $85]
[clockwise from left: crested treeswift birdhouse $38, faux bois wall pockets $1,658, apothecary beverage dispenser $45.95, pom pom spreading obelisk $32, french urn $48-250, sunburst garden chair $129, european herb holder $34]
[guy wolff pottery $8-24]