Tips for Creating a Pretty Porch

If you've got a porch, you've got space for "livin'-is-easy" expansion.

With a little forethought and a day or two's time, you can readily convert a homely porch into an inviting alfresco room. Whether enclosed by screens or wide open to neighborhood sights and sounds, your porch can perform double duty as extra living or dining areas when outfitted with a few inside-outside accessories.

The porches in this story were renovated using inexpensive furnishings, quick-and-easy fabric treatments, and everyday stuff from the house, yard, and garage. Use these ideas to inspire your own porch rejuvenation.

Natural Space

+ enlarge image Textural furnishings andbreezy window treatmentsinvite the outdoors in.

These ideas will help you give your indoor/outdoor space the best qualities of both worlds.

Choose neutral colors and textures to keep the focus on the outdoors. Think sisal, jute, wicker, rattan, and bamboo. Find oversize and rustic baskets to hold plants, table linens, or comfy blankets.

Add interest underfoot. Lay down a jute, sisal, or braided rug or a painted canvas floorcloth to warm up and perk up a cement or wood floor. Or, paint or stencil the floor with a sturdy floor paint that's suitable for outdoors.

Blur the line between indoors and out. Place a timeworn table near a window or porch rail and pack it with plants. Use moss-covered concrete garden ornanments, such as satues, urns, and wall plaques, to decorate the space. Bring in a birdbath to hold magazines and seed catalogs, or top it with a piece of glass to make a side table.

+ enlarge image Make the most of your sunroom by adding comfortable furniture for relaxing.

By moving out an unexciting bench and table and allowing the white-painted swing to take center stage, we created old-fashioned rhythm in the delightfully secluded space shown here. The seating space is anchored with an area rug, and the plaid, sage green, and lemon yellow pillows moved from the living room to the porch. Sheers filter the light but keep the porch sparkling. With the addition of sunbeam-bouncing glass urns, tabletops, and hurricane globes, the space becomes a shimmering and private retreat.

  • Clear the deck. Edit your porch furnishings, keeping only what works with your scheme. Take everything off the porch and carefully pick which furnishings to put back. Choose one special piece, such as our swing, and turn it into a focal point.
  • Make a table. Transform two glass vases and a polished-edge glass tabletop, available at home interior stores, into a light-reflecting coffee table. No large vases on hand? Substitute large terra-cotta pots or cement garden urns for the vases; for added stability, weigh down the containers with sand or stones.
  • Light the lights. Place votive candles on the table and hang hurricane globes from shepherd-hook garden stakes firmly embedded in a sand-filled galvanized bucket. Coordinate the hurricane globes with the rest of the porch's color scheme.
  • Show off collections. Pull together all the stones or shells you have gathered from faraway beaches and put them where you can see them every day. Fill a see-through basket or vase with treasures from your travels.

Tired of looking in your neighbor's windows from your porch? Is the blazing sun putting loungers in the hot seat? Take action. "Hang sheer draperies on tension rods," advises designer Wade Scherrer. "They're a good way to mask the view and give yourselves privacy," and as you can see in Photo 1, also give the room a light and airy feeling.

+ enlarge image Photo 1: Hiding the view.
  • To make sheer panels yourself, determine how much of the window you want to cover, and cut a piece of fabric to fit your measurements, plus 4 inches for rod pockets. Turn the top and bottom edges over 1/2 inch; then turn over another 1-1/2 inches. Press. Stitch along inside edges of rod pockets, as for a hem. Insert tension rods into the pockets and hang by inserting rod into the top of the window's frame.
  • Don't feel like sewing? Hang ready-made cafe curtains.
+ enlarge image Photo 2: Enjoying the scenery.

If your porch has a view you'd rather frame than hide, hang barely-there fabric swags across the tops of the windows. For the window treatment shown in Photo 2, cut a rectangle of sheer fabric to the window width plus 12 inches, then hem the edges. Knot the ends of the rectangles, and stuff the knots into hollowed-out bamboo rods cut to fit the windows. The bamboo rods slip into closet-rod brackets that you screw into the inside edges of the trim.

What You Need:

+ enlarge image Make a pretty tie-on slipcover for any chair.
  • Fabric to fit chair
  • Tracing paper or newspaper


1. Cut a pattern of chair back from tracing paper or newspaper pattern, allowing for 1/2-inch seam allowances. Use pattern to cut two rectangles from fabric.

2. Cut four 2-1/2 x 30-inch ties. For each tie, press under raw edges on long sides and one short side. Fold in half lengthwise, wrong sides together; topstitch around edges. Baste together raw ends of two ties.

3. Align raw edges with one short edge of a chair back rectangle (this will be the top of slipcover); pin ties 1 inch in from the edges. Place ties down right side of rectangle toward bottom of slipcover. With right sides together, pin the other rectangle in place and stitch all sides, leaving an opening at bottom for turning. Turn, press, and stitch opening closed. Topstitch around rectangle, 1 inch from edge. Place on front of chair and tie in place.

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