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Dramatic porch enhances life

"We just call it the porch," said Roberta Carcione.

She is referring to the 760-square-foot outdoor space, rounded at each end, which runs the length of her Menlo Park home.

With its elegant railings, soaring cupola and detailed pillars that sprout arching arms, it merits a fancier designation -- perhaps "veranda." But for Roberta and her husband, Joe Jr., and their extended family, including six grandchildren, it is simply the place where the family hangs out together.

The idea of a porch originated when the Carciones purchased the somewhat decrepit house next door.

"We were afraid that another McMansion would go up," Carcione says, but they couldn't combine the two lots. What they could do, according to Menlo Park code, was add 20 feet of land from the new purchase to their original site, providing for two conforming lots.

Carcione had always wanted a porch and now she had the space.

Carcione says that she engaged Menlo Park architect Jim Maliksi, whom they had worked with when they remodeled the home.

"He understands my taste," says Carcione, who is on the board of the San Mateo County History Museum and who also sold antiques at one time. "I love English and French country. This house can be described as 'California, Victorian, ranch.'"

The porch features two seating areas. The larger of the two is under the main cupola, which soars to more than 21 feet and sports a pointed copper cap over a round of windows.

"A hexagon shape would have been cheaper, but the architect said that the cupola had to be round in order to be Victorian," Carcione says. The second cupola at the other end of the porch is not embellished.

The main seating area is furnished with weatherproof wicker furniture that Carcione found online, as well as a weatherproof carpet. The four industrial-sized gas heaters set just below the windows in the cupola are not obtrusive because they are so high. In warm weather a leaf-themed fan helps control the climate.

"We can be on the porch in the rain," Carcione says, "but not if it's windy.

"The floor is cement because I wanted to be able to hose it down," she says. A few strategically placed lines of brick set into the floor relieve the industrial look without detracting from the practicality. All of the pillars are steel, wrapped in redwood.

The access to the porch from the living room is through two arching doors that used to be windows. The wheel-cut glass carving on the door panels is in keeping with Carcione's love of Victoriana. The decorative, sanded glass eliminates the need for drapes and yet provides privacy and filtered light.

The Carciones razed the second house and have built two bocce courts on their new property. As for the area from the porch to the new property line, "We're planting an orchard," she says.

In the winter the porch is clearly visible from the street.

"People walking by love it," Carcione says. However, since spring a flowering cherry in the front yard along with other foliage provides a more secluded retreat.

"We considered installing a TV," she says. "But we were worried about theft -- and conversation is so good that I decided, who needs it?"

Resources:

Architect: Jim Maliksi, J Maliksi and Associates Inc., Menlo Park, 650-323-2902

Building contractor: RJ Smith, Palo Alto, RJ Smith

Landscape architect: Susan Edwards Ogle, Menlo Park, 650-327-4237

Glass fabrication: Lehmann Glass Studio, Oakland, Lehmann Glass Studio

Goal of project:

Add porch to existing home

Unanticipated issues:

Lots of construction delays

Year house built:

1947

Size of home:

Added 760 sq ft to 4,000-sq-ft house

Time to complete:

9 months

Budget:

$250,000

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