Naperville’s Nostalgic Trend—The Revival of the Front Porch

November 2015 View more

NMAG1115_FeatureFrontPorches_iStock_000025441258_Large_800pxThe front porch is making a comeback in American home designs and Naperville residents are quickly embracing this trend.

A throwback to simpler times, porches are becoming increasingly popular in both new construction and remodeling projects. “The demand for porches has increased significantly in recent years,” said Cory Smith, owner of Cory Smith Architecture. “Every home I design now has a front porch.” Dina Kosiba, designer and owner of DMK DesignHouse agrees. “People have definitely been investing more in updating the look of their homes by adding porches over the last couple of years. There’s been a tremendous growth in demand for outdoor living spaces.”

Up until the 1930s, American homes featured front porches as a necessity for cooling off on hot summer days and to offer shelter from the rain. People also used their porches as a social hub where they would gather and relax. Families and neighbors often chatted while they cooled off in the shade and watched their children play out front.

With the invention of air conditioning, radio and television, people began moving inside for their entertainment. Suburban homes were built closer together and lot sizes shrunk. Wanting more privacy, homeowners built porches in their backyards and replaced them with garages out front. “Porches went out of vogue for a long time. People moved to their backyards and homes were built with a flat facade,” said Kosiba.
People are now looking to recapture that sense of community in their neighborhoods. “Naperville is a very family-friendly town with great neighborhoods. People once again want to sit out front, chat with their neighbors and watch their kids play,” said Smith.

CoupleAn Architectural Face Lift

Porches add architectural interest by updating a home’s facade and improving its curb appeal. “They break the scale of the house down making it much more welcoming and inviting,” said Smith. “To me, it is a design element that has a purpose.” Kosiba agrees that porches can give a house a face lift. “Porches change the entire look of the home making it more visually exciting and inviting,” said Kosiba.

Today’s porches are larger, more substantial and much easier to maintain. “Part of the idea of a porch is to be able to relax. People are investing extra money to be able to have less work and just enjoy their space,” said Glenn Zagon, architect and owner of Crimson Design & Construction. “Natural materials such as stone and exposed wood are really popular right now. Incorporating stone, slate or tile into a porch along with thick columns and decorative railings turns a typical 1980s or ‘90s Naperville house into a modern and unique home,” Zagon added.

If you’re looking to add a porch onto your home, the winter months are a great time to begin the planning process. “Ideally if you start planning after the first of the year, construction can start mid-March and you’ll have the entire summer to enjoy it,” said Zagon. The key to a good porch design is to make it look like its always been there. “We spend a lot of time in design to make sure the porch is cohesive with the rest of the house,” Zagon states. Working with an architect also helps ensure roof lines, water drainage and building permits are properly addressed.

Start by gathering images of porches you like. Websites such as allow you to store images in a virtual idea book. “When clients do their homework and show us images of what they like, it’s a great start,” said Zagon.

Smith recommends having a long-term master plan for the facade of your home and creating a hierarchy of improvements you’d like to make. “When its time to replace your roof or old windows, it’s a good opportunity to think about changing the look of your house,” Smith says. Bundling large projects together can save time and money in the long run. “It’s good to think about all the things you want to accomplish and have a master plan so you aren’t redoing things later.”

NMAG1115_FeatureFrontPorches_iStock_000020565399_Large_800pxCreating a Cozy Outdoor Living Space

The front porch is quickly evolving into an outdoor living room. “Homeowners want to create an inviting place where people can sit and relax, so comfortable seating is first on their list,” said Kosiba. Couches, tables, rocking chairs and even the old-fashioned porch swing serve as anchor pieces. “You can find so many great things from furniture to cushions and fabrics that are made for the outdoors but are as beautiful as anything you would find for inside your home.” She continues, “Since exteriors of most homes are painted in neutral colors, decorating your porch with flowers and bold fabrics is an easy and versatile way to add some color. Outdoor rugs are also a popular way to add color and make the space feel more cozy.”

It’s common practice for homeowners to change their porch decorations depending on the season or holiday. “Changing from hanging ferns and colorful flowers in the summer to pumpkins and mums in the fall is a fun and inexpensive way to update the whole look of the outside of your house,” said Kosiba.

Angela Graefenhain, artist and designer for Graefenhain Designs agrees. “As outdoor living spaces grow in popularity, people are bringing many of the comforts of the indoors out.” She suggests creating ambiance by adding candles, lamps and hanging lights. “Even throwing a blanket or two in a basket to use on cool autumn nights can give the space a cozier feel.”

Whether it’s a desire to connect with neighbors, keep an eye on the kids, or update a home’s look, the front porch is back in demand. “To me it boils down to people needing more time to relax and maximize the enjoyment of their outdoor space,” said Graefenhain. Kosiba says it’s all about connecting with others. “There’s something really charming about sitting in front of your home and chatting with people as they walk by. It fosters a real sense of community and enables people to know what’s going on in the neighborhood,” said Kosiba.