My wife went to bed really early on Saturday night, and since I was all alone with nowhere to go, I decided to have a couple of drinks, alone, with no adult supervision. When this happens, you just have no idea where the night is going to go. Sometimes, things get wild…
Sometimes, I end up running to the laptop and making a list of something exceptionally-random in Excel, like all the countries I’ve been to, or all of Will Smith’s action movies. Don’t ask me why. I have extreme obsessive-compulsive disorder, and when you feel like you need to make an Excel spreadsheet with all of Will Smith’s action movies, you simply do make an Excel spreadsheet with all of Will Smith’s action movies…
Sometimes, I find myself lost deep in a Wikipedia-hole, so far from where I started, that I just can’t remember. You start out reading about World War II, and 92-clicks-later, you’re reading about baby cows.
Sometimes, I just lay on the couch and read song lyrics. What’s more interesting: reading lyrics from the 1950’s and trying to imagine the parents going insane because somebody had the audacity to sing, “I wanna hold your hand,” or reading hip hop lyrics and trying to find the meaning.?
Saturday night, for whatever reason, I found myself online searching for, and researching, a consumer product that I just decided, for whatever reason, I had to own: a record player.
I’m not sure where this came from, but I think I heard a song that opened with the vintage and unmistakable sound of a record-needle touching down on vinyl, and I thought, “That’s what I need in my life! That’s what’s missing!”
An hour later, I’ve bookmarked nine record-players, and I’ve already favourited a dozen LP’s on Ebay.
By Tuesday, I had already given up the dream.
As a colleague explained, the record player necessitates a receiver, speakers, maybe even a subwoofer, who knows. The cords alone would drive me nuts. And then is it a vintage record-player, or a modern one? What make and model? If it’s new, is it Bluetooth? Does it have a USB? Wifi? Does it work with Netscape Navigator and can I play Warcraft on it? I mean, what the hell do I know about turntables?
I think I’m just a sucker for nostalgia.
Maybe it’s why I collect G.I Joes and 1930’s hockey cards.
Perhaps it’s why I love Victorian and Edwardian homes in Toronto even though I know nothing about architecture.
And then this week, I got thinking about a feature of a home that has really fallen by the wayside, and while many features with this description may come to mind, this one is incredibly specific, and probably quite random: the front porch.
When I walked home from school in the 1980’s, I would always be able to see my front porch from a half-block away. As soon as I got to Rumsey Road, looking east down Parkhurst Boulevard, I could make out the image of my mother sitting in one of two chairs on the porch.
There was something so special about that. Being a child, walking home at the end of the day, and wanting your mother to be there waiting for you. And my mother was always sitting on the front porch. Sometimes she was reading the newspaper, sometimes she was enjoying a refreshing Diet Coke, and sometimes she was just sitting and watching the world go by.
Do people do that anymore? “Sit and watch the world go by?”
It’s one of those silly quotes that listing agents put in the MLS Write-Up that I always think is misguided, since there’s more value in using those precious characters to write, “New Roof (2019), HWT (2018,” etc.
But is this even a pastime that still exists in 2019?
Do people have the time or wherewithal to sit still for this long doing nothing?
If the answer is, “No,” then I have a very important question that will result in an interesting, albeit highly specialized discussion about real estate: Why do people still have front porches?
If you’re not going to sit out there, then why bother having a porch?
I ask this because when it comes to a certain segment of the Toronto housing market, this question, and your answer, might affect how you live – both in terms of the amount of space you have, as well as how you use it.
Recognizing that this is a very random and somewhat specialized post, I wanted to give you my two cents on how many people are wasting space in their Toronto homes.
Now first, consider that in terms of your “front porch,” I’m not talking about homes like this:
Yeah, that’s a bit different.
I think if we had a porch like that, we would all use it.
Probably drinking iced tea in a seersucker suit, preparing for a meal involving shrimp.
But not all front porches look like this:
In fact, none of them in Toronto do!
What I want to talk about today are the front porches that exist with most semi-detached, 2-storey homes.
Ones that look like this:
That is a very classic front porch, if not unspectacular.
You can say what you want about curb appeal, but this porch does have room for two chairs and an end-table for coffee, beer, and an ashtray if people still do that sort of thing. Although don’t people all vape now? I heard it’s all the rage, and it’s not bad for you…
Now you might say that the above home’s front porch lacks curb appeal, and that’s fine.
here’s one with a little more elegance:
So what’s my point, and where am I going with this?
Well, take a look at this photo, and let me know what you see:
What do you see?
I mean, aside from two chairs nobody would ever sit in, unless it was a buyer, at an open house, sitting down on a staging chair to tie his shoes.
Or better yet, what do you not see here?
How about a closet?
How about a front hall?
This is a growing trend in Toronto semi-detached homes, where people are taking “open concept” to a whole new level.
Don’t get me wrong, I love open concept. But I also would love a place to put more than two coats, and maybe one pair of shoes?
So what is a person to do?
Well, if it’s not obvious by now, then you haven’t been following along: cover the front porch.
A covered porch? Ewwww, right? Tacky, unsightly, and lacking “curb appeal.”
Sure, but for the beauty of the red brick and front door frame, you have absolutely nowhere to put your stuff.
Let’s look at another example, this one from a gorgeous, fully-renovated home:
Here you see a front entrance where they’ve got a coat-rack on the wall for 4-5 coats, but of course none are present, because to stage, you need to de-clutter.
They have, however, put a small divider between the “foyer” and the living room.
Here’s another angle:
That is all that separates your “front hall” from your sofa.
And it’s basically like walking right into your living room from the street.
Again, don’t get me wrong – many people love this style, and it’s extremely common. Since we see this in most condos, many home-buyers don’t mind the layout when they’re moving from a condo to a house.
And not everybody wants a covered front porch that looks like this:
I get it – this house doesn’t have as much curb appeal as it would if the front porch weren’t covered. But these folks probably have room for their coats, shoes, boots, hats, scarves, mittens, gloves, helmets, umbrellas, sweaters, gym bags, and more.
Now there are alternatives to the covered porch, but they’re half-measures, in my mind.
This is an example of a wall dividing the foyer and living room, but the coat-rack still extends well down the brick wall into the living room:
This foyer is covered, which works much better:
Now at least when you hang your coats, you can’t see them from the living, dining, or kitchen.
But you still lack storage space, especially when you compare to a covered front porch.
So what about implementing storage?
How about this:
That works, for sure.
But it blocks the stairway and kills the flow, at least, in the view of some buyers.
So honestly, tell me what’s wrong with this:
Does it lack curb appeal?
Is curb appeal more important than function?
Here’s the inside of the covered porch:
Now while this is still “staged” with the two chairs and table that nobody would ever have if their porch was covered, you can imagine how much storage space this provides for a growing family.
The cupboard alone in the background holds about ten times what the standard coat rack inside the front doorway would.
And then imagine those chairs replaced with a storage box, and a bench where the kids can sit to put on their shoes.
Maybe the rollerblades and running shoes can be neatly lined up across the base of the brick.
Or, you could just go with this:
Really, really pretty, I know.
But how often will you sit in these chairs and “watch the world go by?”
The decision is yours in the end.
I have clients that think the idea of covering a front porch is sacrosanct, but others simply need the space, and I find those that have children understand the value of functionality over aesthetics.
Sometimes, it depends on the house itself. There are houses that, no matter how bad you need the space, would look awful with covered front porches, but I would probably argue that most of the housing stock on the east and west sides, much like the houses shown above, would clearly benefit from the transition.
Tell me if I’m wrong – especially those of you who live in semi-detached houses with children…