Saturday, 14 April 2012

Porches by Wynn Wheldon

I don't get a lot of reviews, but this seems a pretty good one, and who am I not to share it with the world?  I have only just come across it. It is from the Chicago Tribune, and is no less than 8 years old. You can now buy used copies of 'Porches' (published by Barron's) for £0.69 on Amazon.

Book extols the neighborly notion of home porches

April 23, 2004|By Robert Bruss, Inman News.

While browsing in a bookstore, I stumbled on the new book "Porches" by Wynn Wheldon. My first reaction was "Who would write a book just about porches?"

But as I read the first few pages, I quickly realized how important porches are to past and current American home architecture. When I paid for the book, the cashier said, "This must be a good book. This is the second copy I've sold this morning." She was right. It's a very good book.

The book's introduction says "porch" comes from the Latin "porticus," which is related to both portal and passage. Then British author Wheldon artfully summarizes a home porch's purpose is to connect "in" and "out."

"The porch also conveys a notion of neighborliness and openness to the world. There is something so inviting about it, which is why it's such a good place to talk as friends," he continues.

The beautiful color photos of dozens of porches show many unusual porch styles. Old Victorian porches, double-decker two-story porches, rundown porches badly in need of paint, pristine porches with beautiful water views, rotting porches, row houses all with porches, small porches, big porches, porches filled with junk, the pillared porch at Mt. Vernon, a log cabin porch, new porches, ugly porches, store porches, beautiful round porches and even a sharecropper's ramshackle porch are all in this book.

To accompany the color photos, the author selected excerpts from mostly well-known authors. For example, next to the color photo of an elegant old home's porch is "They topped the rise and the white house reared its perfect symmetry before her, tall of columns, wide of verandas, flat of roof, beautiful as a woman who is so sure of her charm that she can be generous and gracious to all," (from author Margaret Mitchell in "Gone With the Wind").

The book's emphasis is on southern porches, although one porch photo shows snowflakes. Usually, there are rocking chairs or at least a suspended porch swing in the photos.

My favorite quotation, however, accompanies the photo of a plain plank porch with a huge hanging American flag. "We meet on democracy's front porch, a good place to talk as friends. For this is the day when our nation is made whole, when our differences, for a moment, are suspended." That quote is from President George H.W. Bush's 1989 Inaugural Address on the "front porch" of the U.S. Capitol.

After enjoying this beautiful little book, readers will never think about front porches the same way again. My long, narrow front porch has two chairs with a little table. I've often sat there on warm evenings reading a book or just staring at the beautiful trees in the distance.

But from now on, enjoying my little porch will be much different as I compare it with the elegant and also the not-so-elegant porches photographed in this unusual book.

Every home builder, designer and architect should be required to spend at least an hour with this innovative book--never again would an American home ever be built or remodeled without at least a modest, covered front porch.

Until reading Wheldon's new book, like most homeowners, I never thought about the importance of porches as comfortable places to relax and to make the transition, as the author suggests, between "in" and "out."

On my scale of 1 to 10, this most unusual and very thoughtful book rates a solid 10.

"Porches," by Wynn Wheldon (Barron's Publishing, $11.95). Available in stock or by special order at local bookstores, public libraries and on the Web.

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