Porch landing on an older house: straight vs round steps?

Fori is not pleasedJuly 15, 2012

Sort of a decorating the outside of my house question. :)

To start, I know the paint color is awful. It's worse in person. Painting is on the list of projects...general color suggestions are more than welcome!

But my current dilemma.

We're redoing the hardscape (and the rest of it, of course, retaining some of the larger plants) in the front yard. The front walk is too narrow so we'll widen it and the steps to the porch. We'll replace the two steps with larger landing style steps and the landscape designer has suggested a semicircular landing/step thingy to break up the straight lines of the house, about 6' wide. I think maybe I'd like to accentuate the straight lines, or at least not fight them. (The porch itself is about 5' deep x 15' long, hiding behind those two shrubs.)

I want it the new step to look like it was original (but better, of course). I'm pretty sure it won't matter either way.

So, long story short, when did the semicircular steps become popular? Are they appropriate for this house or would nice wide rectangles be better? I think perhaps round would be weird.

This is an old RE glamor shot photo. :) Actually it still is this bad although we've replaced the roof. Most of it will come out, the walk and porch will be bricked, and there will be much less concrete. We have a plan I like except I'm not sure about the darn step. Does a semicircular landing have any place in front of this house?


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Wow, I love your house! Is it about mid-60's? My in-laws house looked very similar and had a porch that extended away from the house in a big curve. It was really pretty.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 2:48PM
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Lori A. Sawaya

No because there isn't anything else that is curved or semicircular for it to relate to. Like, not even a little bit. The house story is strongly all about lines and angles. Curved doesn't fit and it won't make sense.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 3:25PM
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Actually, with the oblique angle of the garage, plus all the other lines in the house, I suspect your doubt is really valid. It also seems like a lost opportunity. How about asking for drawings for the circular design in context and for an alternative entry design that plays off the lines of the house and driveway?

    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 3:28PM
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Fori is not pleased

Thanks for confirming my suspicions y'all. We are definitely going to work this out with the designer. She's a landscape designer so I won't give her a hard time for not respecting the ranchiness. :) And in my subdivision, many homeowners are ranch deniers and do try to cottagify and deranch their homes. Curvy porches aren't unusual and they look nice, but are all on homes that have lost their original flavor.

We're still in the preliminary design phase and while we liked much of the plan, this bit didn't seem perfect.

Gee, Marti! I bet nobody's ever said that about this place before, at least not until they got inside! It's from the mid 50s and except for some cheap windows, bad paint, and acres of additional paving, pretty much original (including, quite possibly, that roof!).

I think the swooping curvy patio works in the rear where things are more casual (like the informal blobby amoeba swimming pool) but in the front it wouldn't be very big. Just a 6' diameter semicircle.

There will be curves in the planting areas but the elevated bits attached to the house will be straight. It's a difficult spot because so much of it is driveway and the house is bent at the garage to fit it onto a pie shaped cul de sac lot. It's shaped weird. And the front of the lot is actually curved to fit the end of the street. But we won't be accentuating THAT!

    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 3:52PM
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I LIKE the house !! Not sure what you all don't care for about it but to me it looks like home. I am 61 and born in 1951 so maybe that is it :) But I think it is pretty special and would hate to see it denied too. Don't put a curved step in the front...the others above are right. Play up the strong lines...they are there for the purpose of the design of the house and make it what it is.

Lovely gentle curves in the flowerbed and lovely colors will be enough. You are lucky to get such a gem. Now are you going to furnish it with 50's things ??? c

    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 4:24PM
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Very nice looking house to me! And, yes, it looks like my parents ranch built in the 50's. Your house could easily have been in the neighborhood. Everything was straight lines and angular - except the driveways which generally had to curve a bit. Thus, having grown up around houses like that I'd agree with the others in that a curved front step would not look "original but better." Pretty house. Have fun with it. I'll even bet the walls are really square and true, not off like... oh, say... new construction. =)

    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 4:35PM
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Fori is not pleased

Thanks all. I don't mind the house's style. It's just not the best looking ranch out there. But there are certainly uglier ones! I think getting the yard in order and some decent paint will help a great deal. This builder made houses with nice proportions and good materials and they are still square and true, despite being really close to a major fault. :) There are other floorplans in the subdivision which were a little more visually pleasing from the front but this one has enough of a (back) yard that I moved from a perfectly restored/remodeled one a few blocks away last year.

Still, it's not nearly as awesome as the one my grandparents built in the late 50s which was always my idealized perfect house.

Anyway, yes. Gently curved beds and at least one obnoxiously bright orange hibiscus. Because I can! :P

And a nice boxy step, like the original builder would have used if he had only realized that a walkway should be at least as wide as the dang doorway.


    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 9:51PM
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Has your landscape designer actually done any sketches? I think you should look at her proposal because I frankly think you need some curves to give relief from all that rectilinear angularity. The design of the house is very severe and IMO would benefit from a few more curves. You already have two, in fact--- one very short curve where the walkway veers from the driveway, and another in the very wide swoop of what appears to be a cul de sac or curved street on which your lot is located.

I would get rid of the straight lines of the walk and do the curved steps, Perhaps not an exaggerated curve but something nice and gentle. House designs can be improved upon and even those that are great examples of a period or style that can benefit from the attention of a good retrospective redesign by someone who knows that he or she is doing. Most tract houses were designed by builders or draftsmen to begin with, not by architects, so their design could use some after the fact tweaks--- although not necessarily to "cottageify" them.

I really like the strong presence of your house. Hardscape and landscape has the traditional role of softening angles and helping a house relate more to the surrounding. It sounds like you've don'e a ton of work already--- would love to see more photos.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 6:57AM
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I'm in the don't-do-it-round camp. I can't tell from the photo...does your porch run all the way to the garage wall? If not, is there any reason not to extend the porch and steps all the way across to that garage wall? Authentic ranches often have wide shallow porches like that.

Then you could simply run steps all the way across to the point just beyond the high window, and use planter boxes next to the house.

And because your house is long and low, I would adjust the ratio of tread to riser so that the treads are deeper and the risers lower, which would extend the step area farther into your yard, make the walking up more comfortable, and tie the house to the landscape better. There's a specific ratio for this, although it can differ a bit from place to place. Your building codes will have something to say about what you can do.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 9:48AM
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I LIKE your house, too! It looks very welcoming, and very retro cool!

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 9:56AM
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Fori is not pleased

Thanks. We do have some preliminary sketches and will be tweaking those. The landscape designer was pretty good about asking what we wanted and trying to improve on that. =P We weren't sure about the steps so we let her be herself on those. There are curves of course--the drive is curvy and the walk has to curve. Curved planting areas and a rounded lawn since the alternative to that is a weird polygon like I already have. I should get my scanner working maybe! Or camera.

The porch doesn't run all the way across--the roof does, however. The house extends to the edge of the roof on the right side which is absolutely impossible to tell from that photo. The little window behind the lamppost looks over the porch, the larger one near the garage is all the way out to the typical setback under the eaves. (I know there are proper terms for all this somewhere.)

Much wider steps would be nice, but with half the front being driveway already, I don't think we can pull it off!

I don't know if it's relevant, but the only places one can sit inside the house and appreciate any front yard landscaping is the kitchen table (the window closer to the garage) where you can't see much more than driveway and the toilet whose window is tucked between the garage and kitchen in the direction of the garage. That's the good seat.

I really do appreciate all the views on this. Thanks!!

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 11:40AM
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Great house! Agree with others -- I'd keep the porch rectangular for sure.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 12:23PM
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