Magnificent Porches on Oakwood Place
What is a porch but a floor, support columns and a roof? Oh, but it is so much more than that! A porch is a nod to a time when life’s pace was slower, when we stopped for a break to sit on our porch with a cup of coffee or a glass of iced tea. We welcomed passersby to come and sit a spell and enjoyed the breezes of the season and the pleasure of good conversation.
Porches have been part of the architecture of our homes for centuries. They date back to the time of the Romans and Greeks. Until the mid-20th century, the porch was integral to a home’s design. It fell out of favor as people became too busy. The hustle and bustle of commuting and children’s scheduled activities, plus the addition of air conditioning, made porches seem frivolous to many homeowners. Today, however, porches are back in style. We must have realized what we were missing!
Porches are a great place to relax either alone or with others. They offer peace and restorative power. And the addition of a porch can be a good investment. Porches not only provide homeowners with more living space, but can have a positive impact on the resale value of the home. They can increase the aesthetic appeal of both the home and yard. Homes may have back, front, side or wraparound porches, and even second-story porches. They serve to soften an entrance and ease the transition from outside to in. And they offer a place to go that is outside but not quite outdoors.
There are so many ways to personalize a porch. Unique railings, floors, columns and supports, and ceilings can all add an individual flavor to the design of a porch. With options in furnishings, lighting and fans, there is no end to porch design. And the view is just as important as the décor.
One local street—Lynchburg’s Oakwood Place, well known for its extensive gardens, beautiful homes and its sense of community—has an abundance of gracious porches. “We just love having a porch!” is a remark heard time and time again while visiting several local porch owners there.
Elegant Porch Provides Respite and Fun
Known as the E. P. Miller house, Judy and David Frantz’s home on Oakwood Place is a fine example of a traditional Lynchburg house. Both sophisticated and elegant, the Georgian-designed home was built in the mid-1920s by the renowned architectural firm of the time, Craighill and Cardwell. According to one historical account regarding the firm, “Their clients were among the business and professional leaders of Lynchburg. They could afford the best and from this talented partnership they got it!”
A standout feature of the home is the columned side porch and attached breezeway leading to the garage. The numerous columns and dentil molding are in proportion to the rest of the house and afford extraordinary curb appeal.
Though the porch itself is not very large, Judy calls it “cozy,” and says, “it suits us pretty well.” With a ceiling fan, the porch stays just cool enough through the warmer seasons to use almost every night. “We have even fallen asleep out here!” says Judy. “It is surprising how much more private it is sitting on this corner of the house.” Judy often brings her laptop out on her porch to catch up on office work. She adds, “I love to sit on the porch and talk to everybody walking down the street.” The couple spends their working days indoors, and by evening they are ready to enjoy some outdoor time. “We eat dinner out here, even if we have to wear jackets.”
A hanging iron wall planter is overflowing with ivy, and a gracious magnolia adds shade to the side of the porch. The porch overlooks manicured gardens and a flagstone patio with a garden trellis, wicker furnishings, umbrellas and garden ornaments. This patio serves to extend the porch, providing an easy transition into the gardens.
“We have parties out here. It is ideal for every type of celebration, from street parties and fundraisers to Halloween pumpkin-carving festivities,” says Judy. She points out that with a porch, there is plenty of room for overflow and enables the couple to entertain a crowd. And she adds, “We had no porch in our last house, so it was a big draw this time.”
A Porch With A View
For Sherri and Tom Meyer, their porch was one of the major attractions when they chose their expansive home on the corner of Rivermont and Oakwood Place. “We wanted an old house,” says Tom. “And the porch,” adds Sherri. “I love the porch! Because it is up so high, it is different. It is certainly not the typical porch.”
Because their large lot slopes downward toward the rear of their home, their extensive second-story porch is actually on the main level. “We can see everything, and there are no bugs!” says Sherri. And there is an identical porch below which offers added outdoor living space.
The Meyers moved to Lynchburg from Atlanta seven years ago. Since then, they have done some major work to both the interior and exterior of their home, including making the gardens more accessible with stone steps and the addition of rock walls. Since the couple redid the landscaping and exterior stone work, the view from the porch is lovely. And the added trees provide more privacy.
Sherri points out that moving from a condo in Atlanta was a big change. She liked city life, so the location of their Lynchburg home gives them enough noises of metropolitan life to make them feel comfortable. “I know we are not in the big city, but the sounds from Rivermont make me feel like we are in the city. It’s like we are part of the action,” says Sherri. The couple believes the home and the neighborhood are a good place to bring up a family. And their porch is a great extension of their home. “We use our porch a lot! We eat out here every night as long as it is not too hot,” says Tom. “And it is rarely too hot up here!”
Their porch is casually decorated for life with three young sons. A wrought-iron table and chairs are upholstered with off-white Sunbrella fabric. Throw pillows in a myriad of colors accent the furniture, while overhead fans provide a constant breeze.
Sherri planted coleus, impatiens, ivy and other shade-loving plants in pots along the perimeter of the porch, and added touches of green with hanging pots of Boston ferns.
Two Distinctly Delightful Porches
Elizabeth and Mike Harrington’s Oakwood Place English Tudor boasts two very distinct porches. “There is nothing like a covered porch. We don’t have to worry about bugs or anything up here,” says Elizabeth. Originally the porch was much larger, but a portion of it was enclosed many years ago. Luckily the past owners left a portion of it, so there is still an entry from the dining room and kitchen area. The other, much smaller porch is accessible from the laundry. Both porches have white railings which make for a strong contrast with the gray stone on the house.
The large eating porch is furnished with English teak by Gloster, well known for its outdoor furniture. The table is set and ready for company, and the furniture is upholstered with an off-white Sunbrella fabric accented with mossy-green pillows. Overhead fans, hanging ferns and the bubbling of the wall fountain give the sensation of sitting in a garden.
This porch offers a lovely view onto one of the small formal gardens in bloom with camellias, peonies and ornamental shrubs. A garden arbor ablaze with yellow jasmine, tree hydrangeas and perennials decorate the grounds. “We sit out here all year, except when it is freezing cold,” says Elizabeth. “A few nights ago we watched a terrible thunder storm from here. It gave us quite a show!”
The second, smaller porch that Elizabeth calls her “grilling porch” includes a wrought-iron table and chairs by Three Coins. It overlooks a formal boxwood garden with slate flagstone and a water fountain with two facing benches. With its topiary of ivy, hanging iron planter, basket of pansies and urns of boxwoods, this tiny porch has all the flavor of its sister porch.
“I’ve admired this porch forever!” says Elizabeth. For several years, the Harringtons lived next door and had a view of their current house and its porches. “I love porches! They are an extension of your living area.”
The couple is in the process of building a new home and was planning a covered porch. But Mike suggested they hold off on the porch and add it later. However, according to Elizabeth, “The other night I was sitting out here with my husband and he said, ‘Oh my gosh! Where are we going to sit in the summer?’ He had second thoughts, and now we are adding the porch!”
Porches Highlight Architectural Details
Claudia and Mark Stubstad’s home, known as the Scaisbrooke Abbott house, was once the abode of Scaisbrooke Abbott who was a well-known portrait artist. The home’s Italian Renaissance Mediterranean design lends itself to porches. And its porches are indeed distinct. On two levels, each porch runs the entire width of the house and captures the architectural design of the house with Palladian arch supports.
“We live out here in the evening!” says Claudia, referring to the upper-level porch. “We really use it constantly.” Wired for music, the porch offers an ideal respite where the couple can sit back, listen to music and enjoy a glass of wine. “We use it far more than our patio,”
says Claudia. It is a perfect place to serve cocktails and to entertain.
Claudia has decorated her porches with black wicker furniture upholstered with horizontal polka dots of brown, black and beige on white cushions. White new wave petunias hang in baskets, and maidenhair ferns and pansies in pots give the area a sense of intimacy.
One wall features arched double-barn doors which access a storage area. Doors usually are not a focal point in a room unless they are entry doors. But these, with their unusual shape and wrought-iron hinges and handles, make quite a statement.
Distinctive iron railings add character to the porches, as does the wrought-iron-and-stone staircase leading down to the lower-level porch. Claudia had custom wrought-iron arches fashioned to follow the arches of the house, and white clematis crawls along and up over the arcs.
There is no doubt about it, a porch makes an ideal living space, and is truly an extension of both the indoors and outdoors. It is a welcome addition to any home and may be one of the most useful rooms of the house.