great spaces: A PORCH IN MAINE

This series of posts looks at humble, yet great spaces.  They are not the kind of spaces taught in architectural history classes, they aren't monumental, they don't shout.  They are the kind of spaces that often get overlooked.  They are simple, comfortable, lovable spaces; the kind the world could use more of...


The coast of Maine is roughly 230 miles as the black-capped chickadee flies.  However, coastline paradox aside, you'd have to travel about 3,500 miles if you wanted to see every nook and cranny of the Pine Tree State's craggy coast.  This glacier-formed coastline is full of beautiful bays, peninsulas, inlets, points, and islands.  This jagged coastline creates a very intimate coastline with plenty of hidden gems.  One such hidden gem is a quaint porch situated on a point overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

It didn't occur to me immediately why this porch is so comfortable.  There is nothing architecturally spectacular happening here.  It doesn't have any amazing features (outside of that view, of course).  No ornate columns, no grand staircase, no soaring ceiling.  But then I realized, what is great about this space is not its grandeur, but its coziness.  The comfortable vernacular architecture is content to let the setting be the focus.

This porch plays on the human instinct for protection.  When you sit there, you feel safe.  You have a view of the world before you, but are separated from it.  For me it came down to three main, yet subtle, design features:

1. No entrance from the exterior.  Due to being raised a full story above grade level, this porch can only be accessed from within the house, which helps create the protected feeling.

2. Low ceiling.  At under 7'-0", the beam holding up the porch roof defies accepted standards of the beauty of a high ceiling.  While a high ceiling is certainly beautiful and preferable in warm and humid climates, in Maine a low ceiling provides a level of coziness.

3. Low and solid railing.  Your stereotypical porch railing has thin balusters that allow a view into the porch from the street.  In our quaint Maine porch, the railing is solid and only 27" above the floor.  Not being able to see through the railing adds to the sense of security, while the low height keeps that solid railing from becoming overwhelming.