The Front Porch: Not just for grandma anymore

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HOUSTON, TX -- A wise man once said, "True luxury is being able to own your time... to take a walk, sit on your porch... not be compelled by obligation."

Okay. So maybe it wasn't a wise man, but a wiseass. Ashton Kutcher said it to Esquire, but the wisdom still holds true. Perhaps that's why porches seem to be making a comeback-- a return to leisure and luxury.

In 1993, the Census Bureau said only 42% of new single-family homes included a porch. 20 years later, in 2013, that shot up to 63%. So what's the appeal to the young family today?

"When we were looking to buy a home, the front porch was one of my first priorities," says Houston interior designer Jamie House  who lives in Norhill, a neighborhood known for its bungalow homes and pillared porches.  "It's friendly and open and connects you to the neighborhood. And I didn't want us to just be stuck inside our little house. I wanted to be a part of the neighborhood."

In her business, Jamie often encourages homeowners to add or spruce up the front porch. "In the Heights," she says, "most of the houses have front porches or used to have front porches, so bringing them back is important to the integrity of the house."

Art Chavez, managing principal architect at Page Southerland Page,  would agree. When he bought his home in historic Eastwood, he knew something was not quite right. "It did have a porch in front, but the shape of it and the way it sat on the property, with sort of views to the east, taking advantage of southeasterly winds, I figured a nice wraparound porch would fit it just lovely." And it does! It also offers his family a place for parties, barbecues and Easter egg hunts. His kids also use it to do homework and work out.

That versatility of the big porch may explain the new "Porch Street" development on Adele near the Heights. 11 modern looking homes have been constructed, each with a classic front porch and several of  those with a second side porch.

"It adds that Southern feel, adds a little bit of charm," says Ryan Atlee, the VP of construction for Southern Green Builders. "And it gives you an extra space to relax outside and enjoy your surroundings, your neighbors."

Chavez sums up today's porch appeal even more concisely, "Maybe Houston's beginning to sort of enjoy the outdoors again."

For more on the comeback of the front porch, check out this month's Houstonia.