The covered platform near a house’s front door has been called many names: porch, portico, veranda, stoop, lanai, piazza. But whatever you call it, this architectural phenomenon is distinctly American. It was the New York native Andrew Jackson Downing who helped popularize the front porch as essential to American homes in his 1841 landscape gardening treatise. Houses on rivers such as the Hudson, the Connecticut — and one assumes, the Potomac — would benefit from two fronts, he said: the riverfront, of course, but also the front porch facing the neighborhood. Only so many of us live on rivers these days, but the front porch is much more common. And it’s still true, as Arlington designer Andrea Houck says, that “creating a welcoming home begins at the front door.” If you have a long porch, or a wraparound porch, for example, then you can welcome guests with multiple seating arrangements. But even if all you have is a five-square-foot space off to the side of your townhouse’s front door, you still have room for style; just choose your furniture and accessories well.