Spending the first part of my life in a post—WWII “crackerbox” just off the Chesapeake Bay, I didn’t grow up with a large porch. There were no rocking chairs in which to sit and greet the morning. In fact, our home had only what I would call a stoop.
Three brick stairs led up to a landing that was just big enough for an old, upright chair, a potted pant, and the morning newspaper.
But being a family with strong Southern ties, hardly a summer night passed that the adults didn’t pile up in the driveway with lawn chairs and iced tea to exchange a daily dose of debate and democracy while us kids threw the baseball or rode our bikes up and down the sidewalk.
It was not just about “coming of age.” It was — and perhaps remains – a historical activity that dates back 150 years or better.
Porches were a necessity before air conditioning, whether it was the screened sleeping porch or the broad, columned veranda where cold drinks – and gossip — were plentiful.
In the mid—1800s, a well-known landscape gardener named Andrew Jackson Downing began writing about his vision of the American home — and how it could stand apart from English architecture. The porch was key.
Downing saw it as a link from the house to nature. It served perhaps as a sort of transitional space between the privacy of ones family to the public realm of the street.
Photo courtesy of Tiny Green Cabins
Some evening when the sun is setting and there is a slight breeze coming from the East I like to close my eyes and imagine a time when life was simpler. I like to think about a time when no one would choose text messaging over solid, face-to-face conversation.
I think about an after dinner cup of coffee or even a scotch, enjoyed in time to the rocking of an old cane chair.
When my wife Crystal and I first left Brooklyn and moved back with my folks to rural Barnesville, GA, my father and I shared moments I never thought possible.
Each morning for the first 15 minutes before we had to break and go to work he and I would sit in rockers he and Momma’s front porch and solve the world’s problems. It was a time that I long for even now.
But today, many homes don’t have that transitional space. Air-conditioning, television, computers and other distractions draw people inside the home.
American porch culture isn’t what it used to be. Momma doesn’t crochet much (if even at all) as she is often busy answering morning emails or shuttling one of the kids here and there. Grandaddy likely lives in an assisted living facility and has a porch’ette’ of his own.
And stealing that first kiss? With the influence of hypersexual television programs and music, most kids find kisses to be boring and not nearly as “mature” as other activities.
To some porch sitting is a lost art, and a thing of the past. And if a home does have a porch it serves as little more than a catch-all for potted plants and welcome mats. That is until now.
Since the introduction of the 7’6” x 3’ porch on the Tumbleweed Epu in 1997, porches and – by extension – the art of porch sitting has seen a revival in the tiny house community.
Photo courtesy of Mini Motives
No fewer than forty-three tiny houses with porches can be seen on a quick Google image search; 13 built within the last 16 months alone. In a home where every inch counts the inches spent on a porch are some of the most treasured.
Notes tiny house builder/dweller Macy Miller of minimotives.com, “Outdoor space is VERY important in tiny house living, with such a small space it is important to get all of the spaces you need, including that escape outside.
Sure you could just hang outside on a lawn or at a park but I wanted a definite space that felt like home and the connection to outside is paramount for me mentally.”
Miller built her porch so that she could have a nice, protected space to simply read a book or work on her laptop. She wanted semi-private space, but that still required a connection with the rest of the world.
Photo courtesy of 120SquareFeet
“For us, a porch on our tiny house was the only practical choice. Because we built our home in a spot on our mountain without road access, we needed a place to put a boot scraper and a doormat.
Our gnome Chomsky lives there as well,” says Laura LaVoie, tiny house dweller and author of 120SquareFeet.com. “Because we have such a beautiful view and a lot of outdoor living space our porch is available for sitting or just offering a warm welcome to us and anyone else that visits.”
It seems porches haven’t disappeared and porch sitting isn’t a lost art at all. And with the tiny house community redefining comfort and necessity it seems the importance has re-emerged and the desire to ‘take a seat’ is stronger than ever.
Written by Andrew Odom for the Tiny House Magazine
If The World Had A Front Porch
It was where my mama sat on that old swing with her crochet
It was where grandaddy taught me how to cuss and how to pray
It was where we made our own ice cream those sultry summer nights
Where the bulldog had her puppies and us brothers had our fights
There were many nights I’d sit right there and look out at the stars
To the sound of a distant whippoorwill or the hum of a passin’ car
It was where I first got up the nerve to steal me my first kiss
And it was where I learned to play guitar and pray I had the gift
If the world had a front porch like we did back then
We’d still have our problems but we’d all be friends
Treatin’ your neighbor like he’s your next of kin
Wouldn’t be gone with the wind
If the world had a front porch like we did back then.
~ Tracy Lawrence
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