Sunday, June 19, 2011

Back Porches

My back porches have been the source of a few sleepless nights.  My vision for the front of house has been clear from the very beginning, but the plan for the porches has always been cloudy.  The porches are not original, they were added around 1940.  If you recall my earlier stories about the house being a two-family house, it's my belief that the porches were added as a requirement of second egress from the upstairs apartment.

Here's what that area of the house looked like a few years ago.  After ripping out the ramp, the old concrete patio underneath it, and the sidewalk that ran across the entire lawn...

...I ripped out the staircase that rendered the lower porch unusable, swapped out the old barn railings for a square-spindled balustrade and painted them to match the house.

And after renovating the front part of the house, the porches were painted to match the new exterior.

Here's a closeup of them.  They're just not right.

If you've been following for a while, you'll remember I investigated closing in the porches to expand the kitchen and create an incredible master bedroom suite.  It would a good idea ONLY if I were planning to sell the house in the short term.  The square footage it would add to the house would provide a great return on investment.  But as everyone agreed, keeping the porches is a better idea.  

So I've been collecting images of two-story porches on old houses and narrowed it down to two.

The first option uses a series of single columns with a second story porch that sits behind the columns.  In the end, I felt this would give too much importance to the back porches.  Better for a front facade I think. 

I think the better approach is to break up the vertical elements into two distinct sets of smaller posts/columns on each floor.  

I also want to replace the windows in the kitchen and master bedroom with French glass doors.  This is a much more symmetrical treatment that seems perfect for a Greek Revival.

This is the architect's drawing of the new plan.  It may look a little funny just because we've left off the siding so the columns and balustrades are more clear.  It would have clapboards just like the rest of the house.  I think I'm happier with this than anything else I've considered.  By closing up the old door, it also leaves room inside between the dining room and kitchen for a pantry closet or an old hutch.

It does break up the porch into two smaller areas.  I could get maybe three chairs one side and little cafe table on the other.   I think that would be just fine.


I've got a lot of little projects that need finishing up so I hope to work on those and enjoy the summer a little bit.  So I won't be posting too much unless anything newsworthy comes up.  I hope everyone enjoys their summer!


  1. Your architectural rendering is most flattering to the structure of your home. I feel you are making the right decision in maintaining the porches, I cannot image a space without a porch.
    Hope you have a beautiful summer

  2. Hello

    The changes you have already made have made a spectacular difference. I especially like the new colour.

    The architect's drawings show a much more classical approach, which as you say, is what you are aiming for. I think you should go for it.

    Have a good summer.


  3. Great ideas are brewing for the porches. Happy Summer to you too!!!

  4. a perfect solution- love the french doors. we added them to our porches (up and down) and it makes ALL the difference. you will love it and can now get some sleep;)
    happy summer Steve!

  5. Well I for one am hoping "somethings come up" so you do a little posting.

    But until then, keep your linens white, don't forget to wear sunscreen and send postcards!

    xo Jane

  6. I love your porches! Of course your new plan is gorgeous, you have the best taste. Happy Summer!

  7. I love the idea of french doors. I hope you will post pictures of all you projects. Sort of mini-posts I know all will be perfect. Happy Summer to you!

  8. The porch plan is perfect...would expect nothing less. Going to miss your post as you enjoy summer. :(

  9. The architectural renderings are perfect for your house. They add such character to the back and balance off the modifications you did on the front porch. You could screen in the upper porch for additional living space for at least 3 seasons. Non?

    Here's hoping you have a wonderful summer too.


  10. You have really thought everything through, and are being really sympathetic to the classical style of your home. I think it will all look wonderful. Have an enjoyable summer, love Linda x

  11. Steve, I think that is a great idea - I love the symmetry. Will breaking up the seating space matter - assume there is enough room on either side of the doors for ample seating, etc.?

    I love that you are so interested in making this true to the style of house, and that you want to improve things. I can't get my other half to spend a cent on improving things here (everything is "good enough") - like removing the popcorn ceilings, adding new doors and replacing the trim throughout. We could do all for around or less than $20k but he doesn't want to. I would do both in a second. But we did buy the house for a high price, so he doesn't want to add a lot of value if we can't sell it for that. But I have to live here with all this imperfection and it kills me, especially as we plan to stay at least 5-7 years. AT least you have along term plan to keep you sane! And you have Architects (who I know you LOVE). Very lucky.

    : )

    xo T.

  12. I really like the second choice, the one that is showcased in the architect rendering. How lovely. The french doors are perfect.

  13. Oh my friend, what will we do without a post or two? Wait patiently, I guess! What exhaustive research for the porches. That is why your house is turning out so enviable! Can't wait for you to share what these little projects are :) Happy Summer!

  14. Hi Steve, I admire symmetry in the exterior of the house and have to say that I am flabbergasted that you have more plans in the works. The transformation you've already made is jaw-dropping. I guess I'll have to pick my chin off of the floor when you are finished.

  15. The architect did a great job with the elevations. Your house is charming and very appropriately designed. Hope you have a great summer enjoying it!

  16. All right, everyone says "wonderful" but me. Those double French doors are not architecturally valid. I have been looking on line at side porches and respectfully suggest a website for your interest -

    The reconstruction of an old Greek Revival house is shown in progress. Their side porch uses walk through windows. The ratio of width to length in a window is imperative to its appearance and sets the time period of its inception clearly in the minds eye.

    The phrase you used "it's clearly not right" I think you said, is going to happen if you use double French doors. Would you consider long tall windows which would provide you the light, allow you to use more of the porch and remain faithful to the period of construction of your house.

    On the other hand you could just tell me to build my log cabin and let you build your porch. Ann

  17. I think you might miss those ramps when you come home much easier to navigate then stairs! You can just crawl......:)

  18. I love the detail in the 2nd photo of the ones you are considering. I think the addition of the French doors is a nice addition to let the light in!

    Happy Summer!


  19. I love your plan for the back porches and will miss your posts. Happy Summer!

  20. I love this plan! Have a great summer...I maybe also be slowing down the posts for the summer and reinventing the blog over time...I may email you when I need a steve fix...

  21. Hi Steve, Love the porch the way it is now, love every thing you've done. Best, Joyce

  22. I oh so have porch envy. My cottage doesn't have one (only a little tiny one)and
    I can imagine a fine one with furniture, ferns etc. . Your photography is enticing but your drawings are wonderful. First time visitor and so glad I dropped by. Kathy