When asked what makes front porches so special, architect Elizabeth Thompson of Orient said they’re a perfect hybrid of private and public spaces.
“It is protected and autonomous, giving a gently elevated view of the world,” she said, adding that people across the world love them. “You can be still and apart, and yet feel connected to the action of the world around you.”
In recent weeks, I drove the North Fork speaking with residents about what their front porches mean to them.
From Polish Town to Orient, I found people who count their porches as the favorite thing about their home — folks who seek time off from work so they can relax in their cherished spaces.
Here’s what they had to say.
Route 25, East Marion
Bill Maffettone was searching for an older home back in 1996, but wasn’t necessarily fixated on one with a porch. When he rode up the driveway to visit the house for the first time, the porch was obscured by overgrown shrubs.
“I said, ‘Oh my God, look at the porch,’ ” he recalled late one afternoon last week.
Part of the house dates back to 1797, with certain additions built in 1886.
Mr. Maffettone said he almost lost the chance to purchase the house in a bidding war, but was fortunate the other bidders later backed out. He has worked on the house with his father, Dominic, now 86, for 14 years. He said the porch’s posts have all new bases.
“We took it all apart and put it back together again,” he said. All the railings are finished but have not been installed on the porch, which originally had no steps.
Mr. Maffettone said his porch “seems to be the place to meet and catch up with all your neighbors. If it is going to happen or has already happened it runs across this porch. This is where we find out about it.”
With summers off, Mr. Maffettone said he’s on his porch by 6:30 a.m. most mornings, drinking coffee and watching everyone head to work. Then he’s in his garden by 12:30 p.m. before a swim.
One day recently, when he skipped his usual porch routine, a neighbor shot him a text message.
“I missed you on the porch this morning,” she wrote. “What happened, you are not there. Is everything OK?”
Lincoln Street, Riverhead
Theresa and Bill Zucconi were looking for an older home in 2010 when they came across the 1868 Corwin House. Mr. Zucconi said his wife always wanted an older home with a porch and he sought out a Victorian.
When they moved into the house in 2012, one section of the porch was enclosed. Mr. Zucconi reconfigured it as one of many restoration projects he’s undertaken at the house.
“It was a summer room with windows, screens, dropped ceilings and a door,” he said. “I wanted to bring it back to the way it used to be.”
Mr. Zucconi also noted that large hooks in the ceiling indicate the porch at one time had a very long swing suspended from it.
As the Zucconis sat on the porch eating fresh strawberry shortcake after dinner one night recently, a neighbor stopped by to visit. A porch welcomes company.
While Mr. Zucconi said the size of their house will likely lead them to sell it once his restoration projects are completed, his wife said it’s just what she wanted — and the porch completes it.
“I can sit out on the porch during the day and read a book,” she said.
Main Road, Mattituck
Cynthia-Bruen Guditus and her husband, Michael Guditus, moved to Mattituck 15 years ago from Northport in search of a quieter place to raise their three children, Sean, Chelsea and Connor. They rented initially, but about three years ago the family began its search to purchase a home on the North Fork.
On weekends, Mr. Guditus dragged his wife to every open house from Riverhead to Cutchogue. He had been a carpenter for 20 years and they were looking for something they could fix up. Ms. Bruen-Guditus said they began to lose hope as they were outbid on several houses.
“Then, last Halloween, Mike texted me a picture of this house and I almost started crying,” she said. “It had the front porch I always dreamed of and it was built in 1890 and we both love old houses.”
Before the couple even entered the house, they told their broker they wanted to make an offer.
“Honestly, the porch sold me,” Ms. Bruen-Guditus said. “I could imagine lazy days reading on the porch, drinking coffee.”
The family moved in this past February.
Ms. Bruen-Guditus said she always had a picture in her head of what her porch would look like.
“I wanted it to be pretty and welcoming and comfortable,” she said. “I saw pictures of beautiful Southern porches with flowing curtains and a deep-seated swing bed with tons of pillows and flowers … I wanted it to be an extension of our living room, where you could just come and be comfortable. Honestly, it’s my favorite room of the house.”
Pulaski Street, Riverhead
Linda Fioto and her boyfriend of 37 years, Richard Zebroski, have owned their Pulaski Street home since 1987. They believe it dates to 1868.
Ms. Fioto said the couple looked at a lot of other houses, but settled on theirs because it was listed for $62,000. Back then, it’s all they could afford.
At the time, the front porch was enclosed and in bad shape. Water would seep in, leading to mildewy odors. Happily, that’s no longer the case.
“It’s quite comfortable now,” Mr. Zebroski said.
Ms. Fioto called the porch her “home away from home.”
“Now that I’m retired I’m out here all the time,” she said. “Three hours in the morning drinking coffee with the newspaper, and sometimes we are out here until 1 or 2 a.m.”
Ms. Fioto said she often sees the same people from day to day from her porch and that a sense of camaraderie is developed among neighbors when you have one.
One time, she said, a little boy asked her if she lived on the porch.
“I said, ‘Basically,’ ” she recalled with a chuckle.
“Porches are a gateway to people,” Mr. Zebroksi said. “We have a deck in back, but we spend more time on the porch. It is a south-facing porch and I could take this all year long, even in the winter.”
Village Lane, Orient
Doug and Karin Constant were living in a new ranch development in Hampton Bays 40 years ago when they decided to relocate to the North Fork. Mr. Constant said he and his wife just wanted to live on a street with sidewalks — a porch wasn’t a consideration.
Since the couple’s house, which was built in the 1850s, faces west, their porch heats up quite a bit in the afternoon. So does the rest of their home.
Awnings have helped with that issue, and this year the Constants installed a ceiling fan that has finally cooled off the porch, making it a more comfortable space for them to enjoy.
“We are out here every afternoon,” Mr. Constant said. “We wave to the neighbors and even other people who are not from here … We came to the North Fork as refugees and have no regrets.”