Porch Culture

With gusto, ladies and gentlemen, I say to you: I believe summer is upon us! Let’s all take a second, feel the breeze on our shoulders, and know that we’ve been liberated from our long winter. Even when it’s raining, there’s a general sense of warmth and uplifted spirits floating around. Trees are in bloom, too, and the air smells sweet with possibility!

Alright, maybe a little much. But as the seasons change and it gets warmer, hopefully you’re feeling the late spring/early summer begin to creep around you. I love being outside at this shutterstock_3971008time of year and enjoying nature, particularly ifI can do all of that while sitting on a porch. Originally, porches were built to give homeowners a covered place to sit in the summer when the weather was too hot to be inside and they stood a chance of catching a breeze outdoors.[1] Now they have become a social gathering place and encourage community spirit.

An article in The Milwaukee Journal, written in June of 1966, waxed poetic about porch culture and significance of porches as a status symbol: “You don’t have to be antiquated to remember when a porch was a sign of affluence. Even if it was a mere dab on the front of a row house, its owners could feel superior to less fortunate neighbors with nothing more comfortable to squat on than stoops.”[2] While this might not be a hard and fast social symbol today, those who have porches still enjoy their covered social area. The quality of that experience also depends on the furniture on which you’re sitting. The article, in particular, mentioned porch swings: while they might be slightly uncomfortable and fit approximately 2.5 people, they can also perfect for cuddling up with a significant other.

In 2006, forty years after the Milwaukee Journal article was printed, NPR’s Michele Norris did a piece on All Things Considered about porches entitled “Sitting on the Porch: Not a Place, But a State of Mind.” Among some of her observations was that porches organically bridge the gap between private homes and public space on the streets.[3] Therefore, homeowners can invite guests to spend time with them in a way that’s not too intrusive so they could still keep their home more private but still entertain comfortably. Similarly, would-be guests did not have to feel they were intruding if they were only gathered on the porch. Thus, in thIMG_4597at established milieu, the porch also became a symbol of good-natured and “safe” quality time.

Bush Industries is located in Jamestown, NY about twenty miles southeast of Chautauqua Institution, the pinnacle of porch perfection. Chautauqua is a cultural center dedicated to lifelong learning that focuses on religion, literature, science, and the arts. Finding a house at Chautauqua without a porch is rare; I don’t know if anyone has ever specifically counted how many porches the Institution has, but there are undoubtedly hundreds in its tiny community. During Chautauqua’s nine-week summer season, thousands of people enter the grounds and often engage in meaningful discourse on their porches…or they just sit back and enjoy the time with their friends. Either way, porch culture is very prominent and contributes to Chautauqua’s laidback atmosphere. To learn more about the Institution and its upcoming summer season, click here.

IMG_3725The Chautauqua Amphitheater Back Porch:
a gathering place after lectures, church services, and performances.

Thus, porches create summer ambiance. Why not spread that to other areas of your home? The Bush Furniture Volcano Dusk Collection by Kathy Ireland can help you complete your summer atmosphere, particularly if you want to give your whole home the same comfortable feeling your porch has. Or maybe you don’t have a porch but you desire that Volcano Cabinetsummery feeling in your cottage or home year-round. Check out the collection for desks and hutches, storage options, and convenient tables for any living area.

Here’s to quiet evenings that are still warm even after the sun has gone down, lightning bugs, and the casual bluegrass after-dinner jam session. Here’s to sitting with your friends and peeking out from under the porch railing to glimpse comets creeping across the sky (I was six and remember my father telling me it was the only time I was ever going to see the Hale–Bopp comet in my life.) Here’s to sleeping on the porch on warm nights, and the Chautauqua season commencing in a month. Let summer seep into your bones, and keep swinging.

[1] http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5589974


[3] http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5589974

Porch Culture

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