Shari Shares Her Porch – and 4 Tips for How You Can Make the Most of Your Outdoor Space

Summer is almost here folks, and we are eager for some lazy days outdoors! Get ready to see some of Kate & Shari’s outdoor digs and learn some tips to spruce up your own. Today, we start at the beginning (of some homes- including mine)  — the front porch. I’ll share how my porch has been loved (and renovated) over the years, AND how you can make your own porch, should you have one, a place where your family wants to hang! If you don’t have a porch, don’t despair –  apply these tips to your balcony or back deck , or lay some pavers in your front yard to create a new gathering spot…we promise the neighbors will thank you! And be sure to stay tuned as we enter our back yards soon!

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During my family’s last house hunt, the desire for a front porch was not even on my radar, let alone my “wish list”. As I’d never had one, I simply did not know what I was missing. Now, eight years later, I hate to imagine life without it. It is one the most loved spaces in our home.

In the time that we’ve lived here, the space has changed a lot, but it has always been well-loved and well used. Of course it greets visitors. It also stores a lot of our gear. (Without a mudroom or entry hall, muddy shoes, umbrellas, sports gear, and the like, often just get dropped on the porch.) We eat and drink there a lot. It helps that it is close to the kitchen (and our back yard is not), so it has always been an easy place to take our morning coffee or feed the kids (especially when they were small and MESSY!) And speaking of messy, it was also our go-to spot for art projects for many years. Plus my small kids always loved the excitement of seeing what was going on in the neighborhood (neighbors, stray cats, and garbage trucks – oh my!). To them, a morning on the porch was always much more exciting than their boring selves in the (fenced) backyard. For a tired mom, it meant I just might be graced with some passing adult conversation while I drank my coffee!

Today, our porch has grown up with our family. Just this past year, we remodeled the porch, and so it’s ready for a new era of love. We replaced the wood floor with a composite. (Which is a game-changer in terms of maintenance if you have a brutal western exposure like we do.) We beefed up the columns to bring in a bit of craftsman charm, and we doubled the width of the stairs, to open up the space and bring some visual balance to the home. (I didn’t like looking through the railing at people passing by, and we noticed neighbors are somehow much more willing to take a seat on the stairs than “come in” and actually sit on the porch furniture, so we just embraced that quirk by adding more stair space!)

In terms of furnishings, I’ve taken out the child-sized table and chairs and added a glider (something the kids would have probably gotten hurt on when they were young … or broken). Today the porch is mostly used for lounging, reading, and, oh yeah – typing blog posts! It remains a great place for anyone in the family to get some outside time with the added allure that you might get pulled into a good conversation or impromptu play date with a passing neighbor.

If you have a porch, I hope you love it as much as we do.  If not, consider taking some steps make it earn its keep in your home!

Here are 4 ways to make your porch more inviting and functional:

Furnish it!

And please, I don’t mean a lonely wooden bench; I mean pretend it’s a room! Porches need only be 6 feet deep to be functional, so if you’re starting with that, you have plenty of room to create a great space. (That’s exactly how deep mine is, and is the minimum you should consider if building from scratch.) A bistro table & chairs, a bench or loveseat, an ottoman or coffee table to prop up your feet – whatever you need. And just like any other living space, think about zones for conversation – so if you have a long narrow porch, you likely should have more than one gathering area or activity zone.

Add Accessories

A rug underfoot makes things cozy & feel like a room. A cute vignette on your coffee table, colorful throw pillows, and an arrangement of pots filled with flowers can makes a porch feel like a room. Depending on your window placement, you might even hang some art on the “wall”. For us, the porch has always been a great place to display some of the “treasures” my kids drag home — like the tortoise shell on my coffee table, or the sun-bleached cow bones that my kids were so proud of for so long (artifacts from their grandfather’s farm) … so sad that we “lost” those in the renovation! And ALL the many, super important, very lovely sticks and rocks that have been picked up through the years. But seriously folks, gather them on a tray and call it art!

Prioritize comfort

In our hot and buggy climate, the number one feature that really makes our porch functional is the ceiling fan. It makes warm summer mornings or evenings bearable outside (nothing can help midday) AND most importantly cuts down on mosquitoes & flies. Another consideration, depending on your exposure, is shade. Outdoor curtains, a trellis, or a roller shade can be hung to increase number of usable hours on a porch that gets a lot of sun. Plus, they can add some privacy if you feel too exposed to the neighbors or passers-by.

Use the Space Intentionally

At our house, the front porch has always been part of our routine. When the kids were young, whenever weather was warm, breakfast was served on the front porch. This got everyone a good dose of outdoor time right off the bat. Then they would just play out there for a bit while I sipped my coffee. I stocked the “room” with play dough, sidewalk chalk, hotwheel cars, and the like. To tempt older family members outside, consider a basket filled with playing cards, hand fidgets, or those magazines you’ve been meaning to read. Still today, my husband and I take our weekend coffee on the porch whenever weather permits, and our big kids still enjoy their time outside.

Make the porch a place with something to do, and make it part of your routine! Unless you determine to use the space intentionally, even the most lovely porch can sit unused.

Proof:  Big Kids Still “Play” on the Porch

 

Your Turn:  What’s your favorite outdoor space in your real home? Tell us in the comments how you’ve made it lovely and functional for your family.

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