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Sarah Susanka's Not So Big Showhouse includes a classic feature on the comeback - the front porch


Look around the SchoolStreet housing development in the northern Chicago suburb of Libertyville and you’ll witness a trend that’s experiencing a major resurgence across the country: front porches.

Increasingly, American homeowners are tired of hiding out in their backyards. A recent study by the National Association of Home Builders found 50 percent of all new single-family homes now feature a front porch, an increase of eight percent from just a few years ago.

Why the sudden interest in front porches?

Paddy Steinschneider, chief operating officer for the New York Chapter of the Congress of the New Urbanism, offered an interesting theory in a New York Times feature earlier this year:

When we embraced this weird thing called suburbanization, homeowners started living in their backyards. Front porches fell out of favor, especially in the late 1900s. Now people are turning back to them… New urbanism didn’t invent front porches, but it recognizes the importance of the porch in making the idea of community work. You can sit on your porch and watch the comings and goings of your neighbors and share a friendly hello. A deck in the backyard can’t do that for you.

Among the SchoolStreet homes prominently featuring a front porch is the Not So Big Showhouse, which was designed by architect and author Sarah Susanka. The front porch is no small feature, either. Susanka positioned the kitchen toward the front of the house, so homeowners are invited to enjoy their meals on the porch while taking in the vitality of the surrounding neighborhood.

(Of course, there’s another charming feature we enjoy about Susanka’s Not So Big Showhouse — the special Marvin window Susanka designed as part of the myMarvin Artist Project.)

Susanka’s Not So Big Showhouse — front porch and all — will go on public display this week. On Thursday, Susanka will appear at Libertyville High School to present her home, answer questions and sign books. On Saturday, Susanka’s Not So Big Showhouse will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The house is located at 138 School Street in Libertyville.

[Photo by Barry Rustin]