Don’t Want to Miss A Thing? It’s About the American Porch!

America has a long history of ‘community’ connections. It began in our pioneer days when helping one another with protection and ranching was necessary.

Our earliest homes reflect the inevitable ‘front porch’. It is an American heritage!

Depending on your location you probably have a porch, enclosed porch, patio or lanai to enjoy the outdoors.

If you want to reconnect with your neighbors or the community, head to your front porch or whatever outdoor space your home offers.

These spaces can and should become an extension of your home. Family members and visitors can spill out onto these areas to relax and enjoy whatever ‘nature’ your location has to offer. If you live in a metropolis ‘jungle’ help is on the way!

A few years ago I went to L.A. on a business venture. My niece lived in Newport Beach, CA so the trip provided some time to ‘catch up’ and visit with her.

She lived on an upper floor, directly on the beach but facing the street. My impression of Newport Beach is that every street is busy!

At the front of her apartment she had a never used porch that looked out over the traffic and smog.

She was also very unhappy with the layout of her home and was looking for changes that made it more ‘user friendly.’ Because she was renting she was not interested in spending exorbitant amounts of money to make it feel like home to her.

While she was literally a few short steps to the beach and ocean, she had no way to enjoy the outdoors without leaving her home. She had many friends and enjoyed entertaining at home, not necessarily on the beach.

The challenges for her were the amount of traffic, the lack of any view and for the most part, she found her ‘porch’ to be utterly distasteful!

We headed to the IKEA store and picked up woven mats in sections of 4′ by 6′. These are easy to trim back if you want to cover an entire area since they consist of 1′ squares woven together.

Outdoor blinds were available in matching natural colors. We picked up enough to cover her entire open areas without breaking the bank.

Since our choices seemed to be leading towards an Oriental look, we went over to the lighting area and picked up rice paper shades to add to the overhead light and matching shades for the lamps we intended to use out on the porch.

We headed back to her home with our goodies and in a few short hours her never used porch was transformed into a beautiful and usable space.

We hung the blinds and lifted them high enough to allow the natural light in and low enough to afford a private space for her to enjoy.

A quick walk through her apartment led to our gathering pieces of furniture that she would not need after our ‘redo.’ We added these to her porch d├ęcor. We took a little used microwave cart from her kitchen, painted it, inserted inexpensive accordion style fold out wine bottle holders and added it as a wine cart.

Candles and more candles were placed on the tables; two large silk trees were added to complete the cozy atmosphere. Suddenly her unused porch (an urban blight was her description) was transformed into one of the most enjoyable spaces in her home.

Beauty is where you create it!

Early morning hours were spent sipping coffee and reading the paper; evening found her popping wine corks with her friends; sharing cheese and bread over candlelight.

We spent about $200.00 to arrive at this transformation. She became very familiar with her community simply by spending time outside on her porch!

Everything is possible if you allow yourself to explore what you do have, what you can affordably acquire and how it can be used to create the space you desire.

The first order of business is to define the space. Where is it, what activities can it be used for and what would you like it to add to your life.

The small front ‘stoop’ (this is typically a small concrete pad with a tiny roof over it) may feel very limited to you.

However, you must decide what you want the entrance to your home to say to the outside world and how much it can add to your lifestyle.

The stoop is either going to become a part of your entry; or it will be the entry stopping point for the space you create.

If you elect to simply use it to welcome guests, power wash or paint the stoop and step(s) in a color that works with your exterior color.

If your front door is not the door of your dreams, paint it and shine or replace the hardware.

Add something at the front of your home that makes it distinctly yours. Large pots or yard decorations or plants alongside the stoop extend the eye beyond the small stoop and help you say this is a special place.

Another solution is to head out to your best home improvement spots and pick up paver stones that are very inexpensive. These come in many sizes, shapes and designs; find one that gives a hint as to what is inside the door.

Pick up a couple of packages of black plastic in the paint department of Wal-Mart for under $8.00 while you are out. (Other stores have this plastic but charge twice as much)Add a few bags of sand, mulch or gravel to your list.

Back home you will need to walk off and layout a section of your front yard to create your new space there. Once you feel comfortable about your idea, locate a good rake and remove rocks and large protrusions to create a somewhat level foundation.

Lay the black plastic down across the area you will be using and secure it. (I used long nails several times!) You can trim the paper with a box cutter if you want curves in the design.

You can cut and X into any area where you would like to plant a bush or flowers and dig the hole and plant the addition.

Lay your paver stones out, placing them in a pattern that works for you; then open the bags of sand, mulch or rocks and spread them across the entire area, allowing it to penetrate between the paver stones.

You can add $0.97 outdoor solar lights around the border to create a lighted terrace that leads to the stoop. Add large plants, the seating of your choice and suddenly the front stoop had been transformed into a beautiful entry with outdoor space to enjoy your community. Total costs for this project is under $100.00 if you have available furniture to use outside!

If you have a large porch, clean it and spray or power wash to remove grim that accumulates from wind and weather. You can easily paint it to match your exterior colors if you believe that will help to create your living space.

If not, look at some of the products that can withstand weather, like the inexpensive woven mats. You can separate a small table and chairs from an additional seating area by placing the mats under the table.

Humans are visual creatures. Space looks and feels completely different to us if the eye is broken by a change in color, texture or patterns. It likewise extends what we perceive as the space in any area by the final break point such as a wall or, outdoor, where the design stops.

Use this to your advantage. Create breaks with this technique or extend space by avoiding them.

Porches are a little more secure than an open area.

You can add overhead lighting to create any atmosphere, hang lanterns for effect or even place very attractive, faux wood tables or other weatherproof accessories that are very attractive out on your space.

In every instance, lighting, flooring and placement of the furniture alter the appearance of your space and transform the look and feel you will derive from it.

Treat your covered front porch exactly as though it is a part of your home; changing only the things that require weatherproofing.

An enclosed front porch should be treated as though you have acquired a parlor!

Lanai’s or enclosed patios are typically much larger than porches. Many span the entire length of the home, and are usually located at the rear of or on the side of the home.

If you are one of the lucky people who have sliding glass doors that can be opened to expose the screens behind them; you have the best of both worlds!

Your space can be treated as an indoor space with respect to fabrics and accessories. Glass enclosed porches or lanais can hold wooden tables for games or an outdoor eating experience, an array of overhead lighting to set any mood and can be draped with any material to create a private space when desired.

Tile is usually a good choice on lanais. It can be cleaned easily and works to extend the feeling of an extension of the home.

Enclosed lanai’s can be used for real plants or trees since they provide controlled sunshine levels and protection from the elements. They work equally well with silk trees and plants! Even if the lanai is not large, try painting the floor a complimentary and restful color and add textured rugs to create a restful place to share meals and visits with your friends.

Another inexpensive idea is hanging curtain rods from the ceiling with wire. You can use bamboo poles as rods and grapevines twined through them to bring the outdoors in; add fabric shower curtains and liners to protect them from the weather. These can moved freely to create privacy or allow sunlight in.

Add miniature Christmas lights were strung along the top of the wall, creating a romantic and enchanting space to entertain.

Those tiny lights and candle light combine to provide enough light to take a boring ‘patio/lanai’ space to a romantic fairyland.

Ceiling fans are perfect for lanais and covered porches. Choose one that helps to define the look you want to create.

If you have a screened lanai or patio, you can create a living space that offers weatherproof seating without having to choose the typical outdoor lawn furniture with plastic cushions.

Add special tables; you can paint a picnic table to an island theme and bring the beach home. Use these to create a beautiful, casual and user friendly space for entertaining.

Children love the picnic tables while the adults preferred the bar tables. You can take any table that fits your ideal, picked up from a thrift store or yard sale and create this look. Find favorite photos, glue them down and apply 2 or 3 coats of poly to weatherproof the finished product.

Add a grill and some wood pieces for conversation areas, trees and plants and your friends will walk away talking about your incredible space!

Outdoor lanterns, low level solar lighting at the center of a group of trees and plants and paver stones can be added to the exterior of base of your patio. This extends the eye to enlarge the area.

Privacy fences can be added but they break the space completely, creating a closed room effect.

Look for large boulders to stack and create an interest point. You can also head to your lumber supplier and pick up two pressure treated 1 x 6 inch boards and several pressure treated 1 x 4 inch boards.

Create a base from the six inch board, nail the one inch pieces into angled slats and then attach the other six inch board to the top. You can spray with Min Wax stain and anchor the wall to the edge of the patio.

You have created privacy, a place for the vines to trail and climb and still have an open feeling in your space.

Most people prefer to paint the patio slab as opposed to tiling it. Your patio is exposed to outdoor wind, rain and snow allowing dirt to pile up and stick to the grout.

Outdoor lanterns mounted to the exterior wall of the home help set the mood in these spaces.

Now, invite the outside in to create special memories to cherish!