For almost as long as I have written this column about architecture, there has been a line at the end mentioning the upcoming publication of On the Porch written by Sandra L. Mahoney and myself. As the days draw near to this momentous event in our lives, my editor at Dutchess, Kate Goldsmith, asked me to write something about the book.
Our becoming authors did not follow the standard arc of most aspiring writers. I will admit that around the office we had mused occasionally about writing a book. If you are modestly successful at your profession and past a certain age, I think that just goes with the territory. That being said, I don’t think we ever seriously considered the next step in writing a book or had even come up with a realistic topic.
A couple of years ago, one of our projects which included a glassed-in porch was featured in Renovation Style magazine. As fate and luck had it, Inspired Home, a beautiful, well researched and now defunct magazine, asked us to write an article on porches. Sandee and I wrote the article which, combined with the fact that most projects at Crisp Architects include at least one porch, led Taunton Press to our doorstep. For good reason, there has been a long resurgence of interest in the American porch, and Taunton Press, being one of the most respected ‘shelter’ magazine and book publishers, saw a need for a new porch book. They decided to take a chance on two people who had never come close to writing a book. We, on the other hand, were flattered and anxious, and could not imagine how we would possibly be able to manage the increased work load, but in the end, we could not say no.
So, after discussing the pros and cons with our respective families(who would have to take up a lot of our slack at home) we jumped in, head first into the world of editors, publishers, photographers, and best of all…porches. When we told our friends that we were writing a book on porches the stories and childhood experiences came pouring out in wonderful detail. That confirmed what we believed about the importance of porches to our homes and our lives.
The first task in actually writing the book was to come up with an outline. With a lot of help from our editor, we settled on a format which included: before and after porches with their stories, details of how to build porches and make them work on a home, portfolios of porches around the country, historic examples with context, and finishing touches such as furniture, lighting, and accessories. And that was just the beginning.
As a member of the American Institute of Architects I put out a call for architects across the country to submit their favorite porch additions. Our summer intern, Evan Hauptman, spent the better part of that summer logging and filing submissions from architects and architecture schools nation wide. Once we and our editors had chosen which porches to include, Taunton Press hired photographers to take the best photos possible. Sometimes waiting days for just the right light. Luckily we only photographed the porches of very understanding and gracious homeowners.
Over the course of more than a year we wrote, and our editors rewrote, and we selected and reselected photos and stories to include in the book. We researched things we thought we knew already about porch history and materials and details. Admittedly, there were some days we felt like sausage makers.
In the end, with the help of knowledgeable editors, talented photographers, gracious homeowners, and many writers and architects who came before us, we put together a book we are proud of. Our hope is that this book will encourage some fence sitters to become porch sitters and others to learn the pleasures of sitting on the porch.
(Available April 10th, at your favorite bookstore)