The closest thing I’ve ever had to a front porch was in my second year of college, from 1998 to 1999, when I shared a small three-bedroom house with my friend Leah in Westchester, minutes from LAX.
We were among a few sophomores who lived off campus, so our house became quite the regular party spot. In the beginning, we had an older female roommate — a woman in her late-twenties with two dogs and a full-time job in Hollywood — but with all the impromptu parties I threw and noise I made, I drove her out of the house after just a month or so.
While our backyard was pretty big and we spent a lot of time out there, our front porch — painted white to match the trim of the house — was my favorite place to congregate: to smoke and have a beer, to wait for friends who came over, and to watch people at the drive-through window at the combined Taco Bell and KFC across the street. We also lived steps away from the Fireside, a bar close to campus that accepted obviously fake IDs, as well as the Furama Hotel, another drinking spot. So we lived in a place that saw a lot of foot traffic, action, and mischief — all the time.
That year was probably the best ever, and many things happened or came to be in that house. Close friendships solidified. Enemies were made. Love blossomed. Firsts of many sorts occurred. We were reckless and curious; we philosophized; we fought; we made up; we explored. Memories of my late friend Aki are strong on this front porch, and for this reason I’ll never forget what this house looks like.
I’ve not lived in a house with a front porch since then and have forgotten what it’s like to have such a space. Because of this, I wasn’t initially attracted to tiny house plans with porches. Why waste the small amount of square footage you have on outdoor space — doesn’t it make more sense to make the most of what you’ve got for indoor shelter?
In the beginning, when Nick and I looked at various Tumbleweed floor plans, we were drawn to the Cypress, which maximizes interior space with a small alcove at the front of the house. But after discussing our options, we realized just how important a porch is — and have decided on the Elm model, which has a full front porch:
Living in a tiny house will encourage us to spend more time outside, and we wouldn’t actually need a porch to do that. But there’s comfort in this transitional space that fuses public and private: where people come together and where things happen. In American history and literature, the front porch has been a rich symbol — perhaps more a state of mind than a physical place. Sure, this particular porch is on the smaller side — 7 feet by 2.8 feet, to be exact — but it’s a place that’s ours yet connected to the outside world. And it’s something we haven’t even had in San Francisco, living in one of many units in an impersonal condo complex in SOMA.
People have porches in the Bay Area, but it’s not really A Thing — at least not in the way that New Yorkers have stoops. I grew up in a suburb of the San Francisco Peninsula, in a four-bedroom house with a long driveway and gate. You can fit more than ten cars in my parents’ driveway — that’s quite the buffer between the innards of our property and the public street. I’m not saying anything is wrong with this — in fact, I love my childhood home and am looking forward to staying there this year. But as I think about the types of houses I’ve lived in, what I enjoy, and what I miss, I understand why I’ve grown attracted to and have fallen for the Elm: it’s symmetrical and traditional, which speaks to the part of me that craves a sense of order and ownership; and also has a porch — a shared space that links the public and the private.
There are a lot of things we can do on this porch: A place to read and play cards? A space to set up a hammock? An alternate place to write? An area for a small garden? We’ll see.