Open Homes bring Nature and People inside

Having spent a good deal of my life in Japan, I appreciate ancient Japanese architecture that seeks to remove barriers between interior and exterior space. Sliding-wall doors open to manicured, moss-covered rock gardens where not only the sights but the sounds, smells and general ambiance of nature blend seamlessly with the living space. The Japanese, more than any other culture I know, have a deep love of nature.

In the Village, we are blessed with an abundance of nature at its best and most beautiful. Large flocks of wild turkey, does with their spotted fawn scamper by. Dense fog with a sense of mystery shrouds the deep mountain canyon views. Thundering waterfalls.  Majestic cliffs with sheer lookouts.  Lightning storms frequently rumble across the vista alternating with meteor showers on clear, deep black nights. Stunning displays of profound power inspire our deepest spiritual longings.

In western popular architecture, the closest we come to opening our homes is the covered porch. That’s one reason I require all homes in the Village to feature a large one.  To date, all five homes here have done a nice job of interpreting that feature and I look forward to the new ones coming on. Access to the porch on one lovely Village log home is through french doors on a 2-story wall of floor-to-ceiling windows.  It features a commanding view of Sewanee Gulf, a newly built pond, and a livestock pasture surrounded by a portable electric fence like the ones recommended by Joel Salatin.  Another Village home is of the newly popular tiny-home tradition.  A generous covered porch, featuring the same commanding view, at least doubles its sense of size and space. Jessica (name changed for privacy) absolutely LOVES her tiny house. The porch on another home, running along the long side of the house with huge road frontage, is particularly welcoming to passers-by.   My house has two large covered porches, one on the front that welcomes visitors and one on the back that sits comfortably over the creek with an outdoor dining area and space off the kitchen where my wife mills wheat and oats for her fresh, home-made bread.  None of these homes are ostentatious.  Each is practical, frugal and well-used.  Each is lovely, befitting the Village motto, “in harmony with nature and people”.

But I must admit that my favorite of all the porches here is my brother’s. Shear dimensions define it. Square, rather than linear, it is incorporated into the house on one side via sliding glass doors opening to the kitchen, a wall of windows to the living room on the other side and the front door on a 45 degree angle in between. Potted, fragrant herbs line the porch rails, conveniently facilitating a penchant for fresh, creative cooking. The porch thoughtfully sits above and hides three 2,500 gallon cisterns.  On the opposite side of the house, I recently helped build a chicken coop under the smaller porch.  The chickens are so pleased with it that I’m thinking I need to build another one on the back side of my house, further from the garden so the chickens won’t scratch it up and can run free as his do.

My brother’s main porch is large enough to accommodate a major gaggle of Villagers and other friends for dinner or a group project like making sauerkraut or building bee hives (both recent community projects).  This evening, he will host the monthly Village potluck on his porch. All friends are invited. RSVP requested. Thank you, brother, for designing, building and sharing your lovely porch.

For more ideas on a trend towards home architecture that welcomes nature and people inside and blurs the barriers, here is an interesting article.  I’ll try to post some local photos later on.

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