Livening up the facade
Illustration: Jean Rehkamp Larson
A porch added to the front of the house, above, can be left half open and half screened, creating a more gracious entry. A front porch also adds dimension to the long, flat facade of most ramblers. The frames for screened porches are typically custom-made, so the style can be linear and ordered or more playful.
I want to add a screened porch to my 1960s rambler. What are the basic design elements to consider so that it looks good and works well?

I grew up in a house with a screened porch, and they're near and dear to my heart. I'm pleased that you're willing to invest in this space. In my part of the world, where winters are long, most of my clients quickly calculate that they will only be able to use a screened porch for half the year, and they succumb to practical, left-brain logic. I suggest throwing out the quantitative calculations and instead imagining the invigorating day in early spring when the French doors from the house are thrown open and the smells and sounds of the outdoors come swaggering in with the freshness of the new season.

Now that you know how I feel about screened porches, we can talk about the elements to consider when adding one to your home.

The first and most basic consideration is the site and its orientation to the sun. Will the porch be located to the south, so that it gets early- and late-season warmth? Or is it on the north side of the house, making it a cool refuge from summer swelter? Think also about what surrounds the house: Which views and sounds would you like to capture? Do you want a quiet retreat in the garden, or a social gathering place? A porch on the front of the house will feel far more public than one tucked in the back, which can be an asset or a liability, depending on what you expect from this outdoor living room.

If you want to create a seamless addition to the house that looks like it has always been there, start with the roof. The long, low-pitched roofs of the rambler grew out of the Prairie style. These linear houses pay homage to the horizon, something to keep in mind if your intent is to maintain the rambler aesthetic. The good news is that the simple roof of a rambler makes adding on easy. One approach is to match the existing roof pitch and style and the length of the overhang and the fascia boards. But a new porch can also be an ideal opportunity to add a little zip to an otherwise uneventful facade. One way to do that is to increase the overhang. As the overhang gets longer, the roof seems to be stretching out to the horizon. It will take on a hovering character, with some attitude that will distinguish your rambler from the others on the street.

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