If you dream of having a beautiful porch, this book, by James Crisp and Sandra Mahoney of Crisp Architects, is the perfect planning and design guide, loaded with tips about construction, maintenance and lots of information about adding finishing touches.
Excerpt from chapter 2:
The American porch has evolved from the most primitive lean-to-attached to a log cabin to a veritable outdoor room complete with comfy sofa, wet bar, and cozy rug underfoot. As our lifestyles (and our architecture) have grown more complex, so too have our porches, including the way we use them; they're less utilitarian today than they once were, and much more a reflection of how we spend our leisure time. They're not just for shucking corn anymore.
There was period in American history when porches were everywhere. From the frenetic energy of a Queen Anne porch to the laid-back, tree limb porch on a rustic Adirondack camp, porches were part of who we were and how we lived. Our love for porches was so intense for a time (between the middle of the 19th and 20th centuries) that if you somehow ended up with a home that had no porch, you added one posthaste. [...]
On farms everywhere, porches served as transition spaces between dusty, muddy fields and the clean rooms where families ate, slept, and gathered. In the same way that most homes had public rooms such as parlors in front and more informal rooms in back, porches were assigned activities. Most farmhouses had both front and back porches, serving two distinct functions. Situated off the kitchen, the back porch was where serious, messy work was done-from taking off muddy boots to plucking chickens. As such, the back porch was often plain and simple in its detailing. The front porch was usually more adorned and furnished with benches or rockers; the front porch was where the family went to "set a while" after the chores were done.
(end of excerpt)