The back story: Julie Gallant waited a long time to get the front porch of her dreams. Gallant, who has lived in her 1950s rambler in Minneapolis’ Armitage neighborhood for almost four decades, said she loves the look of a front porch. She also craved more connection to the neighborhood. “We really like to sit out in front and see what’s going on,” she said “On the deck [in back], you’re so isolated.”
Over the years, she and her husband, Tom, had explored tackling the project. “We got two or three bids but just didn’t pull the trigger,” Julie said — until last year.
The designer: Ben Braun, Braun Architects, Minneapolis, 612-210-8048; general contractor Charlie Browning, Charlie’s Angles, Minneapolis, charliesanglesllc.com.
Getting started: After receiving an “outrageous” bid from another contractor, the Gallants contacted Browning, who had recently done a project for some neighbors. Browning’s lower bid helped the Gallants move ahead. To make sure the porch fit with the rest of the house, Browning brought in Braun to create the design and determine optimal setbacks. “I had him do drawings for me and my team. It’s nice to get the design element, to make sure it scales out and looks good,” Browning said. “And it speeds up the permit process” to have professional architectural drawings to show city inspectors, he added.
A matter of scale: Braun’s biggest challenge? “Making it sympathetic with the design and scale of the existing house without being boring,” he said. Julie didn’t want old-fashioned lattice detailing; she wanted tapered columns, like those she’d seen on newer homes. Braun’s task was to design new columns — tapered wood set on a rugged stone base — that looked modern yet still complemented the home’s existing design.
Braun also preserved the house’s original orientation to the street. The front door was perpendicular to the street, sheltered by a small overhang. “I wanted to retain that sensibility,” Braun said. He clad the porch’s front gable with wide lap siding, installed at an angle. “It’s in keeping with what was there.”
Access: The Gallants originally wanted to replace their living-room windows with French doors opening to the porch, but Braun advised them against it. “It’s a fairly small living room, and if there was a door there, it would disrupt the living space.” Instead, the porch aligns with the front steps.
Flooring: Braun originally specified a low-maintenance composite material for the porch’s raised floor, but that would have pushed the price tag beyond the project’s $25,000 budget. “Too spendy,” said Julie. Instead, they opted for stained cedar.
Size matters: The 8- by 16-foot porch doesn’t overwhelm the house but still gives the Gallants plenty of outdoor living space. “It makes the whole house feel roomier,” Julie said. Browning, too, is pleased with the final product. “It turned out better than we all anticipated,” he said. “Not too big, not too small.”
The result: “We had the best summer and fall,” said Julie, who likes to start and end her day on the porch — with coffee in the morning and listening to baseball in the evening. “We were out there almost every night, even in the rain,” she said. “We were still out there in November.”
The porch also helped the Gallants connect with their neighbors. “Everybody stopped by for drinks,” Julie said, recalling last summer. “We had more interactions with our neighbors than we’ve had in years.”