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Outdoor space for small dwellings

Sunshine and 57 degrees, sitting on the (north-facing) stoop of my small dwelling (not pictured here), drinking tea, listening to bird songs, and typing from "Go Outside" in Little House on a Small Planet by Shay Salomon with photographs by Nigel Valdez.
Porches on farmhouses were essential for food processing, entertaining guests during harvest, and summer sleeping. Front porches in neighborhoods used to serve as telephones and TV sets: they announced to neighbors you are available to chat, and livened up the street life for those out on an evening stroll. Porticoes, balconies, terraces, and verandahs were signs of a complete house. Some people credit the arrival of air conditioning with the decline of neighborhood cohesion, especially in the South. Porches on small houses provide extra storage, party, and summer guest space. Some are designed and built to convert easily into four-season space, if necessary, at some point in the future. They filter or block sun, and rain and they can be shallow on the south side of the house, to allow in warm winter sun but block summer heat. They protect finishes, making it possible for the owner to choose natural, inexpensive, nontoxic plasters or wood finished that otherwise would be hard to maintain. Screened porches provide mosquito-free outdoor relaxation. Excellent outdoor space, even when architect-designed and contractor-built, is typically one-third to one-tenth the cost of indoor space. "But unfortunately, the outdoor space comes last, landscape architect Irene Ogata explains, "literally--it's built when everything else is finished, and after the finances have been depleted." For this reason, some landscape architects complain that their profession is relegated to providing the "parsley on the pig," makes more sense to treat the outdoor space as the main course.