Covered Porch Offers Privacy

Kids hide away in tree houses, secure in their position of height, reveling in the feeling of being the untouched observer. Adults race for that cozy corner seat in the local café to anonymously observe the drama of daily life act out before them. I’m doing it now as I write this article. Each of these activities touches on the basic human desire to visually participate in the world around them while situated in a place of perceived psychological security.

In its most fundamental capacity a home is a physical shelter affording protection and security for the people that live within it. But beyond this very corporeal concern lies the realm of the psychological. A house needs to feel safe and secure as well.

A well designed home will provide opportunities for its occupants to capture a sense of security and shelter while enjoying a view to something beyond. This view might be a distant mountain range or simply the hustle and bustle of family life but in each case the viewer will feel comfortable and protected in their space while still visually participating in something else. Examples of such experiences might be curling up to a roaring fire as snow blankets the world outside or sipping a lemonade deep in the shadows of a covered porch as the kids play in the front yard.

Places of retreat often take on a cozy nature. A reduced light level on a porch or balcony can be very effective in enhancing the sense of detachment and might encourage a longer stay on a hot summer day. The opposite might be true in winter months when that sun drenched window nook looks particularly inviting. A reduction in ceiling height over the area will add to a sense of enclosure and privacy.

In a recent design of a new home in the Ambleside area we created a covered porch that fully captures a view to a sunny, south-facing front yard and to Vancouver Island beyond but still affords the residents a sense of privacy from the busy street adjacent. We placed the patio well above street level and enclosed it on the street side with a low wall while providing a fully glazed railing to the garden. The design allows the residents to move about the patio and overlook the world outside without being observed from the street below.

Being able to raise the place of retreat from the area it is looking over increases the feeling of physical separation while enhancing the sense of private association. In their book Patterns of Homes, the authors discuss how architect Frank Lloyd Wright successfully employed this device in his early Chicago homes. By placing the main floor on the second level he would separate the primary living spaces from the street below. Deeply set, low-walled patios afforded views to the street while still maintaining a sense of visual privacy.

A good home is a creative response to not only the physical requirements for safety and security of its inhabitants but also to the psychological requirements as well.