A Sense of Place

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A New Front Porch Welcomes Family and Visitors
A New Front Porch Welcomes Family and Visitors
A gracious, comfortable front entry — the neighbors who have been closely observing the year-long inside and outside renovation of this 1940’s Colonial in a close-in Washington DC suburb — remark most often about the transition to the front of the house.  A neighbor across the street enjoys a more peaceful, relaxed morning coffee — she says sitting in her breakfast room now feels like she’s across the street from a park.  Neighborhood kids ask if they can play on the oval of grass at the top of the steps — rather than play in their own expansive back yards.  It’s all about a sense of place.

Full View of House and New Entry Stairs
Full View of House and New Entry Stairs
Gone are the unsafe front brick steps — at only 30 inches wide and with treads that varied in width and without a handrail — the wife’s mother gave a big thanks.  Gone also is the trip-step in the middle of the front walk — that I personally tripped over at least 3 times.  New brick steps were moved about 6 feet down the wall to create a curved walk in approaching the house and a more gracious division of the front entry garden.  The steps are now 4 ft wide and are taller to fully tackle the grade.  The bottom of the steps and the handrail curve to welcome visitors.
Gone also is the 1970’s vestibule — a response to the 1970’s energy crisis.  The homeowner complained of having to set groceries down on the concrete stoop, open the vestibule door, move the bags of groceries into the vestibule, open the front door and only then bring the groceries into the house.   Now she simply sets them on the generous bench right beside the front door.  She also sits on the bench to chat with neighbors, read the mail, or to observe the neighborhood children at play.

Before Picture (courtesy of Google Street View)
Before Picture (courtesy of Google Street View)
The history of this house is a story of several separate additions that responded to the needs at the time.  Visible in this before photo are the vestibule that was added to the front of this modest brick colonial just outside Washington, DC, during the 1970’s energy crisis — this was a common response to the crisis.  It might have helped with heating bills but in almost every other way this add-on was an inconvenience.  Also visible is the addition to the left side of the house — a side porch converted to a small room.  This addition while providing nice light, is of a completely different style from the rest of the house.
The roof of the addition was lowered to meet the roof of the new front porch at a hip.  The porch is only seven feet wide but these changes greatly help the proportions of the house.  A new front door and a high-end full view storm door provide the energy savings of the old vestibule.  The new porch, new walk and steps dramatically change the sense of welcome and grace as you approach the home.
Low maintenance plantings provide year-round interest.  Early spring interest is provided by a fragrant, flowering Carol Mackey Daphne at the curve of the front bed just as you arrive at the front door.  Later spring interest comes from flowering shrubs, summer interest is created by a variety of ornamental grasses and a lavender crepe myrtle in a place of prominence, fall interest comes from the changing colors of the ornamental grasses, and winter interest comes from the bark of the crepe myrtle and the red berries of the nandina.  A mix of foliage color and texture adds year-round appeal.  A day’s maintenance spring and fall are all that’s required.  [That’s, of course, after more frequent weeding as the plantings take hold and the deep-rooted weeds, persistent weeds are eliminated.]  Well-placed, aged western Maryland boulders help ground the plantings to create a natural look.
The facade was made made more transitional (and less colonial) by removing the shutters, replacing the aged aluminum siding with fiber cement siding, balancing the long windows on the addition with patio
doors on the other side.   The grey tone of the siding and new wood-replacement white window trim replace the need for shutters to create architectural interest.
Concrete Was Grooved & Acid-Stained
Concrete Was Grooved & Acid-Stained

We used concrete for the porch to eliminate the need for future maintenance.  An acid stain was used to create an antique amber color and blend the porch into the landscape — it coordinates with the cedar-colored Trex used on the back deck.  Before acid staining, the concrete was scored on a diagonal to create the look of large tiles with a solid border.  The window well was covered with a glass and concrete paver panel created by Circle Redmont.  The panel is set into the concrete and still provides good light into the basement.

The front bench — in addition to providing visual interest, a place for packages and to sit —  hides the gas meter and the electrical service.  The gas meter is hidden in the right leg of the bench.  The column hides the electrical service except for a window to view the meter.

Front Bench Hides Utilities
Front Bench Hides Utilities

Front Bench Recycles Flagstone Removed from Hearth
Front Bench Recycles Flagstone Removed from Hearth
Ceiling Fans on either end of the porch provide mosquito-free future seating areas.
All images courtesy of Braitman Design/Build
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One thought on “A Sense of Place”

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