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Adding nostalgia to home fronts

  • The recently redesigned Craftsman style front porch and facade of Michael and Alysson Foster's home in Petaluma, on Monday, June 16, 2014.(BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

Almost like a teenage girl eager to look grown-up with more make-up, young Americans after World War II tried to look more sophisticated by doing away with the styles of the older generation.

That rush to modernize was even evident on the home front, where Victorians and bungalows, classic homes and cottages gave way to stripped down tract houses with sleek new furniture inside. And one of the many "old fashioned" features that vanished was the front porch.

Families equipped with barbecues, cement patios and big lawns began living in their back yards, losing touch with the street.

Not only did it lead to isolation from neighbors, but it left houses looking very plain.

Such was the case with Michael and Alysson Foster's Petaluma home. Built in the 1950s, the two-story house on a quiet street on the east side had a fabulous big back yard with shade trees and a built-in pond. But the front yard, they conceded, was a fizzle.

After undertaking a host of home improvements to keep their retirement nest comfortable, they decided to give it a true facelift. Without adding walls or square footage, they dramatically changed the look of their house by adding an inviting front porch, new windows and a new front door, brick walkways and updated landscaping that was far more interesting than the dated junipers and rock already there.

"I always thought the front porches in this neighborhood got no thought," lamented Alysson. "They just had these tiny little sticks holding up an eave that was just there to keep you from getting wet when you went into the front door. They're blah."

The only difference among the houses on the block is that some, like hers, have dormer windows on the second floor.

She bought the house in 1976 with her late husband and undertook improvement projects over the years, from landscaping the back yard to a new kitchen. But her new husband Michael, who she met when they were volunteers with Habitat for Humanity, really got behind the idea of finishing off the house by giving it an attractive front.

"I thought if there was a possibility to do something to make it stand out and give it more curb appeal and to make it more comfortable and more inviting, we should do it," Alysson said.

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