The covered platform near a house’s front door has been called many names: porch, portico, veranda, stoop, lanai, piazza. But whatever you call it, this architectural phenomenon is distinctly American
It was the New York native Andrew Jackson Downing who helped popularize the front porch as essential to American homes in his 1841 landscape gardening treatise. Houses on rivers such as the Hudson and the Connecticut would benefit from two fronts, he said: the riverfront, of course, but also the front porch facing the neighborhood.
Only so many of us live on rivers these days, but the front porch is much more common. And it’s still true, as designer Andrea Houck says, that “creating a welcoming home begins at the front door.” If you have a long porch, or a wraparound porch, for example, then you can welcome guests with multiple seating arrangements. But even if all you have is a five-square-foot space off to the side of your townhouse’s front door, you still have room for style; just choose your furniture and accessories well.
In South Florida, fall is a pleasant time to use the porch.
The foundation of all porches is a place to perch and watch the world go by. “If it’s a long porch on a Craftsman-style house or even some of the Colonials, have a seating group of chairs by the door,” Houck says. Trex Outdoor Furniture’s recycled-lumber Yacht Club Rocking Chairs can be lined up in a row or angled in a pair around a side table. Or one can just rock solo on a smaller porch ($330, seven colors, www.trexfurniture.com).
Just as classic as the rocking chair is the porch swing. “People still love the swing. That’s very Southern,” says Houck, who grew up in North Carolina. Ballard Design’s version, the Sunday Porch Swing, comes with cushions and pillows to encourage lingering (pre-order to ship in February, $799, www.ballarddesigns.com).
If you can’t hang a swing, try a glider sofa such as Grandin Road’s Retro Squares Sofa, which comes in turquoise, blue, lime, red, or white ($499, www.grandinroad.com).
A fourth option is the bench. Put Studio Murmur’s modern No. 9 Sofa, made of recycled milk jugs, by the front door, and then “at the end of the porch, you can add another bench in another direction,” Houck says, to create two seating areas ($927, www.yliving.com). For a more traditional look and a lower price point, try the wooden Fretwork Garden Bench ($344, www.wellappointed.com).
Victoria Neale, an interior designer in Washington, agrees that creating different zones is the way to go. When doing so, she says, don’t forget a cocktail or tea-style table to set drinks on. World Market’s White Lili Punched Drum Stool doubles as drink stand and extra seat ($60, www.worldmarket.com).
The next layer to a cozy porch is a rug. Rugs “help ground the area . . . in the same way you’d plan a living room,” Houck says. Make sure you choose an indoor/outdoor rug, though, which will be designed to hold up to mildew and leaf dust. Safavieh’s Square Graphic Flatweave Rug in black or orange would dress up any porch ($109-$379, www.horchow.com).
Houck says Moroccan-inspired accents such as the Cabana Geometric Rug can help modernize Colonial-style houses ($300-$600, www.pier1.com).
Don’t have room for a rug? “For smaller spaces, a doormat can add style,” Houck says. We like the doormats from Garnet Hill’s fall collection ($34, www.garnethill.com).