Earlier this year, I read through a book called A Pattern Language. The title doesn't really explain what's in the book -- it's really about how space (architecture, roads, furniture) shape the interactions of the people who use it. It's full of cool tidbits like this: if the average number of cars that pass along a road is greater than 200 per hour, then people who live along that road are significantly less likely to feel that the area is "friendly" or like a "neighborhood". There is lots and lots (and then even more lots) on how and why neighborhoods should have roads that come to T intersections, on how and where to put parking spaces, and all manners of opinionated information on public courtyards and meeting spaces.
But there is also a section on homes and the on spaces that go with them. (For example: the authors give reasons why doorways ought to be in a corner of the room rather than in the middle of one wall).
One of the aspects the books touch upon is the area immediately outside and inside of the front door. Are these transition spaces in their own right? The authors love deep porches; they love stairs that have "sitting steps"; they love benches, and symbolic thresholds before the actual threshold, and deliberate views of interesting vistas: anything that allows for a gentler transition than a stoop and a doorway.
And reading this, it made me realize how much I actually feel the lack of a congregation space, a waiting space, right outside our own front door. And since the most important thing a congregation/waiting/transition space needs is a place to sit, I decided to make a sitting bench that could double as "wall", or a a fence, or whatever you call that thing that signals "different space over here".
Of course, I didn't want to spend any money, or use new materials, if I had existing supplies at hand. And fortunately, I have a bunch of pieces of scrap wood lying around from previous projects.
So I spent an hour outside with my circular saw and cordless drill. Three four-foot planks were in good enough shape to form the seat; I supported these with a pair of likewise-not-terrible 18" pieces of two-by-fours. Underneath the seat, I added extra two-by-fours below the support pieces to keep the legs from wobbling in one direction, and a long dowel rod between those two lower bars, to keep the legs from wobbling in the other direction. So, a dozen pieces of wood and two dozen screws later, I now have a bench that visually signals one edge of our entryway . . .
. . . and once you're close enough to see the whole bench, it does seem to be a convenient place to sit and place bags and such.
It's not, y'know, the prettiest bench in the world (hmm . . . if my three planks had all been the same thickness, that would have looked nicer, yes?). Still, given that I spent almost no time and exactly no money on it, I'm just really pleased with my sitting bench. It's already an improvement over the nothing we had there. It's a start. A possible transition to whatever it is that comes next.