Porches offer an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors in comfort and style.
Porch Party

Whether you use your porch for dining, sleeping, or just enjoying the breeze, follow these decorating tips for tailoring your outdoor room to its function.

Entice your family away from the television or computer by outfitting your porch with all the accoutrements and comforts of the living room (except the TV and computer).

Make Your Porch Inviting

  • Define seating areas with a rug. Depending on the space's exposure to weather, use a real rug or natural fiber matting, such as sisal, coir, or jute. If you use natural fiber, pick a mat that won't prick bare feet. Or, paint a rug design directly onto the porch floor.
  • Use indoor furniture for protected outdoor areas. Often, an extra coat of paint or varnish is all that's needed to make these pieces weather-hardy.
  • Arrange comfortable seating into cozy conversational groups; face some seats toward the house.
  • Use enough coffee tables and end tables so that every seated person has a place to rest a drink. Also consider using table alternatives, such as benches, crates, or trunks.
  • Plump up hard seats with cushions and throw pillows.
  • Use fabric to visually soften the space. In addition to cushions and seats, use fabric to cover tables, create a privacy screen, or make porch curtains. Durable fabrics for a covered porch include sheeting, ticking, and toweling.
  • Consider using synthetic, weather-resistant fabrics on exposed porch areas. Woven vinyl-coated polyester is waterproof and resists fading. Acrylics (available at tent, awning, and fabric stores) sew up easily into soft furnishings and curtains. They dry quickly, don't mildew, and look and feel like indoor fabrics. Also look for laminated-cotton yard goods at the fabric store.
  • Accessorize. It's these little personal touches that really make a room inviting. Hang birdcages, pictures, mirrors, and collectibles on your exterior walls. For tabletops, think of using lamps, framed photographs, watering cans, toleware, birdhouses, and garden statuary.
  • Use texture in your scheme. Rough-hewn texture is a trademark of a casual room. Find it in the form of wicker, bamboo, and twig furniture; weathered wood, metal, and terra-cotta pieces; and woven baskets.
  • Remember to use cut flowers and plants. Place them at varying heights, and employ them as privacy screens where needed. Add window boxes or vine-covered trellises to create a colorful focal point.

Dine & Entertain in Style

  • Divide a large porch for different purposes: one section as a sitting area and one section as a dining area. Maintain good traffic flow since porches usually double as entries and exits.
  • Define the dining area with its own rug. A painted rug design is most appropriate here so that spilled food is easy to clean.
  • Use indoor dining chairs and an indoor table. Wood furniture is warmer and more inviting than metal.
  • Fashion a sideboard from a potting bench, chest, or table. Position it along the wall near the dining table. Create the look of a hutch by placing shelving above the sideboard to showcase collectibles.
  • Take the edge off hard seats by using chair cushions. For plain chairs, consider sewing seat skirts or slipcovers. Floral fabrics look best for bridging indoor and outdoor spaces.
  • Soften your scene by using fabric as a tablecloth, a tablesquare on the diagonal, a runner, or as placemats. Use fabrics you can just toss in the washing machine.
  • Make your table centerpiece a focal point. Decide on an arrangement that can remain there permanently, such as a grouping of decorative bottles or pottery. You could also use a low plant. Add cut flowers to your arrangement as desired.
  • Store porch linens and flatware in table drawers or in a basket.
  • Remember candles for twilight suppers. Put them on your tabletop or in various lanterns surrounding the table.

Outfit for Comfort

  • Set up a proper bed outside if your porch is big enough and your weather warm enough. A full or queen size bed can be romantic. Or, consider two or three twin beds (or a trundle bed) for the kids. Twin beds can also serve as daybeds.
  • Opt for a delightful napping hammock if you lack the space or inclination to sleep on the porch all night. Rope hammocks with wood stretchers at the end are most comfortable. Secure it with S-hooks and heavy chain to solid wood trim or porch framing.
  • Screen in your porch (to keep out the bugs) if you're going to sleep outside on a regular basis.
  • Use sumptuous sheeting for the ultimate luxury. Linen sheeting is a summer standard. If it's out of your price range, use a crisp percale with at least a 200 thread count. You can incorporate touches of linen and lace with vintage shams and pillowcases found at antiques stores and flea markets.
  • Use a lightweight summer quilt in crisp or bright colors to keep your toes warm.
  • Add other furniture pieces typical of a bedroom: a nightstand, chair, footstool, and writing desk.
  • Create privacy where you lack foliage by hanging a matchstick blind or curtains.
  • Don't forget a light source for late night reading.


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