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From the Architect's Desk



In From the Architect's Desk

By lthomas

Porticos and Entryways

On 25, Oct 2016 | In From the Architect's Desk | By lthomas

Entryways, porches and porticos, oh my!

Every home should have a nice entryway, a front face to the public that is welcoming and gracious, but perhaps more than a door. There should also be a welcoming space, an enclosure surrounding the door that allows the transition from outside to inside under cover and dry underfoot. A space that is neither public nor private, but both.

I have written before about the “First Outdoor Room”. I am a big believer in these transition spaces. But what is unique about the front entry, the face to the street, to the neighborhood? And if your house does not have one, how reasonable is it to consider adding one?

Portico-DetailNothing frustrates me more than arriving at a home and not being able to discern the location of the front door. Should I go here? Or there? Maybe this is it? Too many new homes have nothing more than a tiny, three-foot wide concrete walk from the asphalt driveway around a corner to what was indicated “on the plans” as the “Front Entry.” When you follow this miniscule walkway you arrive at a door, perhaps with an undistinguished step or two to a concrete or brick stoop. Sigh.


The front entry is my first clue about a home. To the street, to your guests and neighbors, and yes, to you, your front door should be findable and distinguished in its own way. A front porch or portico can accomplish this in addition to a lovely and gracious front door in and of itself.Portico1


The blog DPAGES expressed this well in a delightful post about beautiful doorways, “Making an Entrance: “They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression and that adage is as true (sometimes painfully) in architecture and design as it is in life.”

Most people (certainly anyone growing up in the south) understand the front porch to be a larger space with room for a swing or chairs that’s also a unifying element across the front façade. Definitely a “room.” But what is a portico? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a portico as “a row of columns supporting a roof at the entrance of a building.” I tend to think of a portico not so much in the classical meaning, but as a small porch, a covering of just the steps and the stoop. Bracket-hip-porticoSome even have brackets holding up a small roof rather than columns or posts if the available space is tight. What is created is a mini porch, just large enough to cover you as you enter or exit, and to add a graceful touch and proportion to your front door, announcing, “Here I am!” to the street.

Note the word PROPORTION. It is such a critical part of the “Vision“. Please, no toothpick columns!

I have been asked to evaluate existing homes more times than I can count. A typical question about the front façade is, “What is wrong with it and can anything be done?” Frequently my answer is to add an entry portico. These can be matched to any style, from Georgian, to Craftsman, to Contemporary. What is critical is that each is designed to be in proportion with the existing home and within itself. Columns, posts, beams, cornices, roof pitches, vaults and overhangs must be evaluated. Craftsman-porticoThe construction materials studied, steps (and even the landscaping) balanced and in proportion. It must not be tacked on, but rather ‘knit in’ to be a proportional and elegant part of the whole.


Now, when one arrives at the home, this structure says, “Here you go, this way to the door, ENTER HERE.”