The Perfect Porch
By Jill Fales
The collective American conscience is madly in love with the front porch. Sharing a glass of ice tea with a friend on a hot summer day, a sleeping dog on the steps, a first kiss on the porch swing. Many of our romantic associations come from film and TV, yet we can make our front porch an area to create real memories this summer. Eve Lowey, interior designer shares her wisdom and examples from her own front porch to help you make a warm and welcoming area for you and your guests. So grab your ice tea and get ready to learn about all things porches with Eve.
Q: I love wrap around porches. For those who opt for them, what are the top must haves?
A: There are really not a lot of wraparound porches in Southern California. This is because we typically have our garages in the front, so there isn’t space for a wraparound. If you are lucky enough to have one, it’s a pretty big deal. I see the front porch as a place for lounging and as an activity area. I like porch swings. They are so much fun and great for lounging. If you have a wraparound, you also have room for a couple of seating areas. A love seat-type bench with occasional tables, a game table with checkers or chess and a couple of side tables to place drinks on makes a great place to hang out.
Q: Loggia vs. porch?
A: Many homes actually have a loggia more than a porch in our area. You often enter through a courtyard, and the loggia is where the roof covers the front portion. In order to be a “porch” you have to step up to it. I did one that was for the OC Philharmonic House of Design in 2009. It had braided ficus trees, a carved stone statuary, a wooden sculptural piece that was in a crosshatch-type pattern and we used petrified wood as a side table. Also, if you have a yard or courtyard, the porch or loggia is a great place for having covered seating, so you can watch your kids play in that space.
Q: What are your thoughts or advice on adding a porch to an existing home?
A: Make sure to keep scale in mind when you do this. Whatever you create should look like a natural extension of the home. It will also depend on your home’s elevation. You need an architect to design it – don’t just hire a contractor to turn your ideas into reality.
Q: Share some unique ways you can say “Welcome.”
A: When guests are coming, make sure that you are creating an inviting space before they ever come in. Outdoor candles in glass jars placed along your walkway and on your porch help people feel like there is something special happening. Also, no one likes to come to a dark house! Seating helps make your porch feel like a place where people live. People like that! It’s not a sterile feeling.
Q: What plantings (hopefully California friendly) are homeowners opting for on porches?
A: We love natives! Succulents are a great choice arranged in planters and in the garden, and they require little watering and are perfect for our drought-like weather. There is such a variety of colors and textures – from your traditional cactus, to aloe, to flowering ones like Zwartkop. My porch has succulents that are arranged in a wreath that doesn’t close the loop. They are easy to use and you stick the succulents into the mesh/felt material to create your own design. It frames my door. The front of my home and entry are also covered in ivy that has been grown and trimmed into a grid pattern. I think that a big blank wall is too much, even if it’s completely covered in ivy, it can still seem blank because it’s all one color. I like the look of the grid because it feels like outdoor art. Don’t overlook a lot of potted plants and flowers, too.
Q: What are some WOW factors?
A: People think if you just had one thing that it will somehow just make the porch. Think about the composition of your porch and what elements reflect who you are. I think water elements are wow factors. Wall-mounted ones are great in your porch area. Your front door can also wow guests. I just had my front doors refinished. After a while, wood can lose its luster and you need to think about how that will look to guests. Think about the architectural style. For example, if you have a cottage-type home, use wood decking; Mediterranean styles look great with stones in the front entry area.
Q: What about accessorizing?
A: Having some kind of seating in your front looks warm and inviting. It’s great for staging things like placing candles or seasonal decorations, but also as an everyday use for placing groceries on or packages. Think about a little bench seat. I have two benches. One out by the driveway because it’s so long. The other is under a window near the porch. It’s really become something we use all the time. Also, think about putting out the “Welcome Mat.” In my entryway I have a bright and modern Chilewich rug (available at Studio Chameleon). They are made of tufted “shag” vinyl with a vinyl backing and don’t shed. The mats are good in all weather, quick to dry and will even resist mold and mildew. Also, they are soft and come in great colors and patterns, making them perfect for either a contemporary or traditional style home. The ones with bold stripes pair well with a more traditional exterior.
Q: What ares some cool lighting choices?
A: Sconces and carriage lighting is a must. Make sure the lighting is warm and inviting, not harsh. It should work together to create a comforting glow. I have my entry lighted with sconces and placed in different areas. They are not just over the garage, but also in other places to create a lot of ambient lighting. If you are having a party in the evening, use votives in the entry and line the walkway if it’s dark. I recommend finding outdoor votives and placing them in a glass or stone container.
Q: If your porch is big enough, what are some ideas for entertaining – anything from the pitcher of ice tea to enjoying a meal?
A: Like I mentioned, make it a comfortable place to hang out, like having blankets and pillows. I love bringing people outside for a glass of wine after dinner to relax. For meals that can depend on the porch, as with most outdoor entertaining, don’t make it too fussy or complicated. Finger foods, skewers and items that are able to be easily balanced since you will likely not have a table to sit at are most practical. Also, don’t be afraid to bring out the good stuff because it’s outdoors. If you are dealing with adults, using glass and china helps to create the feeling of the porch as an extension of the home and makes your guests feel special.
Eve Lowey is a well respected interior designer in Coastal Orange County and president of Chameleon Design which offers commercial and residential design services to clients. She is also the owner of Studio Chameleon, a retail showroom and online store selling furnishings, fine arts, gifts and jewelry at 1733 Westcliff in Newport Beach.
Visit Eve’s website www.chameleonoc.com
or follow her blog – www.studiochameleonblog.blogspot.com