It happens every year. There’s always an unseasonably warm day toward the end of winter when I lose my head. I tell myself that winter is over and it’s time to get my porch ready for outdoor living. I sweep the floor, uncover the furniture, pull the cushions from the basement and spend hours accessorizing my outdoor retreat. Then it snows.
Even though I know I’m starting too early, I just can’t help myself. Having my screened porch ready for summer makes me so darn happy because this special outdoor room is one of my favorite spots. This summer, turn your outdoor space into a retreat. Here are my essentials for a perfect porch to get you started.
Comfort is king when it comes to my outdoor seating. I know I’ve hit the mark when I get home from work on warm summer evenings and find my husband zonked on the daybed, resting up before he makes dinner.
Before you put one chair, chaise, daybed or settee on your porch, make sure it’s sink-into wonderful, so inviting you can hardly wait to kick your shoes off, tuck your feet up under you and settle in for a while.
My porch is a size that is best suited for intimate gatherings. Instead of forcing it to accommodate more guests than it can really handle, I’ve opted to furnish it to seat four people comfortably. Right now, in one corner I have an antique daybed that’s big enough to hold one sleeping husband and his two sleeping cats. Across from that stand are two comfy wicker chairs. If we want to expand our party, we can easily pull out extra chairs from the house. Or I can shuffle things around a bit and bring out a dining table for a candlelight meal. When you’re contemplating what type of seating you want, decide how you will use it most often. If it’s open-air, do you want chaises where you can sun yourself? Do you need a sectional that will seat several guests? If you are the queen of the backyard barbecue, should you reserve plenty of space for a dining table? Once you’ve defined your priorities for the space, create a scaled floor plan so you know how much furniture, and what sizes, will fit comfortably.
I rarely see porches that lack seating. But I often see porches that don’t include a spot to serve food and drinks. Since imbibing in good food and drink is essential for finding bliss on your porch, be sure your outdoor room includes a great service piece. Years ago, I moved an inexpensive wooden hutch onto my porch, nestling it against the wall, protected from any rain that might blow in. Other than needing a fresh coat of paint every once in a while, that valiant hutch has handled the elements beautifully. Depending on how I want to entertain, it can serve as a bar, a buffet or both. Best of all, it also gives me lots of lovely shelves I can dress up with seasonal decorations.
If I could, I would eat every meal of the day on my porch during spring, summer and fall. I’ve arranged my porch differently through the years, sometimes outfitting it with a dining table large enough for a dinner party. Right now, I’m big on dining on trays when it’s just me and my husband for dinner. We can either place the trays on the coffee table or on our laps. I like how the absence of a table allows us more room to move around.
Once the bones of your outdoor room are in place, it’s time to have fun giving them life with an assortment of cushions sporting cute summer fabrics. I’ve gone lots of different directions with my outdoor cushions. Right now they are awash in traditional mattress ticking fabric, and I love the simple, clean, peaceful look it creates. Ticking is a great neutral that gives you a bit of texture but also allows you lots of freedom to bring in a host of colors and patterns through accent pillows and accessories.
While I have traditionally used “indoor” fabrics on my outdoor furniture because I much preferred the selection and how the finished product looks, now I can honestly say I love the outdoor fabrics just as much.
The manufacturers have refined the fabric so that it is not only durable but also lovely.
The column has been adapted from Mary Carol Garrity’s blog at www.nellhills.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.