When James Farmer finished his first book, A Time to Plant, he didn't dive into a flower or garden design for his follow up. Instead, he took what he says is the logical next step and wrote about decorating porches. "A porch is part garden, part house -- a hybrid really," says Farmer, author of Porch Living and a designer. "A porch is also my favorite room of the house."
Farmer loves the relaxed tone found when hosting and entertaining on a porch, but all too often he sees clients who are nervous about those transitional indoor-outdoor design choices. "What I tell clients or friends is that the best dish a host can serve is confidence," Farmer says. "If your porch isn't perfect, but you are confident and have fun with it, when you serve, guests will be very comfortable."
1. Ask yourself, "What is my porch for?" That's the springboard for everything: Is it an outdoor living room or dining room, or is it a spot for a TV and weekly football watching? "Just because it's a porch doesn't mean it has to have rocking chairs," he says.
2. Envision your porch as a tabletop. Because a porch is a middle ground between garden and outdoors, it's often an afterthought -- an unfortunate mistake, Farmer says. "A porch is the first and last impression people have of a home."
He gives clients this visual: Think of a porch like a tabletop. "We eat with our eyes first," says Farmer. "You want to see it visually, so before you take the first bite, you see a beautiful table and you're already starting to be satisfied. To have a porch that is visually appealing, it must stimulate all the senses."
3. Invite the senses in. Speaking of senses, decorating porches means providing things to taste, touch, see, smell, and hear. That may translate into a tabletop fountain, textural fabrics, bright patterns, fragrant flowers, or even painted pots. Watch the video below to see how to do this simple DIY project.
4. Don't forget the garden. Porches are also the perfect place to display plant collections, even if it's just houseplants taking a break from the indoors. Shade-lovers such as newer varieties of ferns love the covered space on a porch, Farmer says. He favors tropical-loving blooms that relish in his native Southern climate. "You can grow a plant collection that you don't necessary have all the time," he says.
5. Explore the power of paint. Sure, a porch may not have traditional walls to decorate, but it does have a ceiling and floor that need tending. Farmer's favorite porch ceiling decorating trick is to paint the surface an old-fashion blue for a little pop. "A porch ceiling is great place for character and personality," he says. Another trick: Take a shutter or trim color and go a shade darker or lighter. Or, paint the floorboards that same color.
6. Change it up. Farmer uses his porch as an extension of his dining room and swaps out its decor based on the season. That's why he advocates decorating porches with a neutral foundation of furniture that can be built on and adjusted. Come winter, for example, your linen-covered couch may get an accent with a Christmas tree, while in spring there might be brightly colored pillows or even a shift in artwork. "If you have a statement piece with clean lines, you can change the personality and feel of a porch with something as simple as a few pillows," he says.