Summer Porch Summer Porch

In the shank of summer, there are few places as appealing as a shady front porch, preferably one located near a body of cool water.

We've found just such a spot and we hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

At first, you may think there isn't enough furnishing on this porch to qualify as a "Room of the Month." After all, little has been done to decorate this porch; it almost seems as if the decorator just threw out a couple of chairs and went off fishin'.

But this actually is a quite intentional look that's been created, and it may not be as easy as it seems at first glance.

Let's look at this porch with the Sheffield Guidelines to Interior Design: function, mood and harmony.

The function of a front porch is to provide a welcoming entryway to a home; the entryway ideally will present the overall mood of the home to a visitor, so it should reflect the look of the interior of the house as well. For example, you wouldn't want an ornate, elegant entryway for a home which is decorated in a spare, Asian style, just as you wouldn't want a modern, sleek entryway for a home decorated with lots of floral-print chintz.

By looking at the exterior of this home, we can see that this is a simple, summer vacation home. Chances are there isn't anything too fancy going on inside; the exterior leads us to believe that the interior is equally laid-back and comfortable.

The porch must also function as a place to sit and relax, especially in a summer home. Here, you can see that the porch has been provided with a molded plastic roof, which allows filtered light to fall but blocks the hotter rays of the sun. The owners have also planted a fast-growing climbing vine along the front edge of the porch. These two techniques combine to make the porch shady and cool.

What if you wanted to sit on the porch with a good novel? The ideal spot for this, of course, is the blue sling chair at the far end of the porch. To further the function of the porch, a small table could be added next to the chair, to provide a spot for resting your lemonade, or a place to put your eyeglasses should you want to nod off for a nap.

If you're visiting with someone, this porch also provides a good place for that. The two wicker chairs on either side of the round table allow two people to sit and talk comfortably while enjoying the view through the climbing vines.

In terms of mood, this porch is clearly relaxed and casual. It's the kind of place where you can sit in your shorts and t-shirt, bare feet resting on the wood floor, while you listen to the frogs or watch for the first fireflies to come out at dusk. The slouchy cushions on the unpainted wicker chairs, the basket of fruit on the table, and the softly filtered sunlight all work to create this mood.

Finally, everything here harmonizes. At first, this may seem obvious, since there is so little on the porch, but imagine if there was a bright plastic orange-and-pink chair; the mood of old-fashioned contemplation would be lost. There is nothing that disrupts the mood here. The muted tones help foster this.

This raises the question of whether more could be done with this porch, and we think yes. One addition that would help, and that would harmonize, would be some shutters added to the windows; if painted in a pale blue, they'd pick up the color from the cushions, the single chair, and the tablecloth, and they'd add to the country-cottage feeling. Another good addition would be a wicker footstool in front of one or both of the matching chairs.

But much of what makes this porch work so well is its simplicity, providing a perfect respite from the cares of winter.

Reprinted with permission from the Sheffield School of Interior Design

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