Upgrading a stoop to a screened porch is roughly like trading a cot for a California king: It really does make your life better. The owners of one 1940s-era house in Charlottesville knew they’d reap many benefits from investing in the outdoor space behind their home. Justin Heiser of the design-build firm STOA said it previously had been “unusable,” with a crumbling stone wall, copious mosquitoes, and sloping ground. “There was some flagstone, but it was slick and they never used it,” he said.
However, the house was beloved by its owners, who “wanted to know that when this house went to somebody else, it would be in good condition,” said STOA’s Mike Savage. The owners asked the firm to create a three-season porch that would “last as long as the house was built to last.”
That meant solving drainage problems. The designers also needed to hold back the slope of the yard without a towering wall that would block light. Instead of one retaining wall, they built two, the rear one being two feet higher. “Stepping it all back helps keep it from enclosing the porch,” said Savage. Between the two is a 32-inch-wide channel filled with Mexican beach pebbles.
The porch itself is a spacious room with bluestone flooring, custom-built Spanish cedar framing, bronze screens, and a copper roof and gutters. It’s flanked by two patios. Bluestone tops the walls outside, which are built of Pennsylvania fieldstone. These natural materials are, Heiser said, “indicative of the neighborhood,” which is one of mature trees and roomy lots.
The porch opens off both the dining room and kitchen. Wicker furniture invites sitting, reading, or sharing a meal—sans mosquitoes. “This becomes a secondary dining room,” said Heiser. And it’s a complement, clean-lined and cosy, to the sturdy house it adjoins.