Monday, November 2, 2015

A sitting bench

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. 


  1. Yes, that's a pretty interesting book!

    And I like how you've figured out a way to take advantage of some of the knowledge in it. Let us know how you and yours liking it as you get used to it.

    You could put shims under the edges of the thinner board(s) to level the top. Otherwise, I think your bench is beautiful, in a lovely rustic way, plus it matches your mailbox!

  2. Thanks! Yeah, shims are a good idea. If not shims, I think I want to scout around and see if I have a thick board that would go there -- that'd probably be more stable than shims.

    It's actually sort of comfy having the middle dipped down, so I'm not in a hurry to "fix" it. (Well, especially because I'm several states away right now). But the ease of making this does make me want to make more and really create a "space" outside my door.

    1. Oh, well if it's comfy, then keep it like it is! I thought it mightn't be.

      So fun to figure out new ways to improve your space!