The simple addition of beautiful pieces of porch furniture can really elevate your outdoor space. A porch can be defined as a covered outdoor space that leads directly off of the entry or main level of a home and connects it to the greater outdoors, at the front, back or side of a house, and can be slightly elevated or at ground level. If you’re extra lucky, it may even wrap around several sides of your home.
So often overlooked and unloved, a front porch should be used and seen as an extension of the home and can be designed with as much heart as your interiors are. 'Everything we used to do indoors is making its way outside so that hosting and living, in general, can step outside,' says Mary Maydan, founder and principal of Maydan Architects. 'These outdoor living spaces are cozy and fun and reframe our way of living.'
Read on for our favorite ideas to up your porch game.
10 of the best front porch furniture ideas
‘Most people spend more time on their porches than they do inside. That’s a reason alone to make it special,’ says interior designer Ellen Hamilton. Furniture is a quick and easy way to transform this space and make it special. Think about the key bits of furniture you might require to transform your porch space into a beloved part of the home, and what activities you might want to do on your porch. From lounging and reading, to wining and dining, to even cooking and hosting friends, there is a great deal of outdoor-appropriate furniture out there to help you on your way.
1. Go for a sunken L-shaped bench
A sunken L-shape bench that blends into your front porch, like this example in southern California, is all about celebrating the blurring of interior and exterior living. 'Historically, the porch is a threshold with its own microclimate, raised above the hot ground and in the shade,' explains Peter Culley, who worked on this project in collaboration with Spatial Affairs Bureau. But here, the porch makes the most of the architecture of the home and tucks neatly against the wall and steps.
'I like to develop combinations of fixed 'architectural' custom furniture that we design for flexible use - deep benches with big cushions that can be cleared for lying down,' adds Peter. Here, the designer has added furniture that brings a muted color to the vegetation.
'Loose cushions are also really important to soften outdoor furniture and should be specified that can withstand exterior conditions but we always design in a protected storage spot for them when not in use to make sure they have a longer life,' adds Peter.
2. Stay warm with a double-sided fireplace
For a furniture addition that really brings the indoors and outdoors together and blends the porch with the indoor living area, look no further than a double-sided indoor/outdoor fireplace. This provides a window into the home, and means you can huddle around for longer outside with the warmth of a glowing fire. With the addition of seating around the fireplace of this Californian home, the outdoor fireplace makes for a cozy and unique porch feature.
'The double-sided fireplace is a highlight of the exterior window wall,' says Ken Shallcross of DNM Architecture, 'and it can be enjoyed by either side. On the patio side, seating by the fireplace makes a great spot for an outdoor dinner or an evening cocktail and it maximizes the indoor/outdoor connection of the two spaces.'
3. Add a functional outdoor kitchen
If space allows, an outdoor kitchen or outdoor cooking facility can be a nice addition to a larger porch that wraps around the home, sitting smartly on the veranda while your garden provides a space for guests to mingle while the cooking is taking place.
Your outdoor kitchen needn't be a full-scale kitchen with all the gadgets either and can range from the simple addition of n Ooni pizza oven, available from Amazon, to a high-tech barbecue, to a full cooking station from the likes of Officine Gullo, complete with surface space and a spot to artfully hang utensils on a wall.
'Outdoor cooking and dining has solved some current dining concerns with group dining but offers an experience that taps into our primal feasting history,' says Jennifer Morris, principal designer at JMorris Design who designed this space. 'My father would go out in a winter coat to grill his food! This type of cooking and eating it al fresco is so special. Luckily we don’t have to collect wood anymore and there are wonderful weather-resistant resources for cooking and outdoor refrigeration that support that primal outdoor cooking urges with modern conveniences.'
4. Protect from the elements with a porch parasol or umbrella
If your porch area isn't a space with a garden ceiling, you might want to invest in a garden parasol or large umbrella to guard you against all types of weather.
For this Melbourne project, where protection against the elements was crucial, the idea was to create an al fresco area. 'It's all about creating an outdoor living area,' explains Alfie Pezzi of Melbourne Interior design company, Studio Castillo. 'We selected the umbrella from Shelta Australia. In summer, the heat in Melbourne can reach mid to high 80°F. A quality UV outdoor umbrella will allow family and friends to continue to enjoy the outdoor setting without the fear of sunburn or UV damage.'
See how the fabric of the umbrella can complement the outdoor setting. Also consider the size of the space and choose an umbrella that will provide maximum protection, covering every inch of the space. Much like how a rug underfoot can zone the space, an umbrella has a canopy-like quality that extends over a dedicated space.
'We also look at materials such as timbers and metals and then we consider the mechanism to raise and lower the umbrella,' adds Alfie. 'Umbrella stands are important in locations that have high winds.'
5. Create an area for your outdoor morning coffee
Why not recreate the coffee table setup you might have within the home on your porch area? 'We are designing more and more outdoor living and dining spaces that carry the interior style to the exterior areas, using beautiful, sustainable and lasting pieces,' explains Susan Skornicka of Susan Skornicka Designs, who created this beautiful space that has been designed with as much love as an interior, with soft furnishings, and thought behind every element of furniture.
'Every part of these outdoor areas is comfortable and inviting, while just as design-forward as the rest of the home. We chose this rope coffee table from Janus et Cie, a company that is committed to environmental stewardship as much as it is to style. It anchors the sitting area so beautifully.'
6. Zone an area off with an outdoor rug
An outdoor rug is a simple piece that can help zone the space and create a dedicated area, much like it would do in any room of the home. It also gives the space a sense of occasion and encourages family and friends to gather in a particular area of the garden, with the addition of the soft furnishing going a long way to soften the hard garden floor underneath.
Kit Kemp's collaboration with Annie Selke makes a nice choice for a picnic rug. 'Less stiff than traditional woolen rugs, the tight weaves allow greater flexibility,' says Kit. 'They feel like cotton and wear like iron.' When tidying away, these rugs are easy to clean too. 'Simply take your rug outside and scrub stains with an eco-friendly soap and a soft brush and then rinse with fresh water. Leave the rug to dry outside or propped up in your bathroom.'
7. Create a space for conversational seating
Your porch is a great place to add outdoor seating, where guests, friends and family can get comfortable and enjoy the surrounding flora and fauna of your garden and the views from the veranda.
In terms of the choice of seating and sofas, DC-based designer Ame Gold likes to mix and match. 'Sectionals or modular pieces are requested a lot as they allow for spreading out by yourself or space for a lot of guests.'
'Big club chairs and if they can swivel to possibly see a view or turn to the conversation is also great.'
Lastly, mix it up with small benches or ottomans that can be easily moved around the space for additional seating or to put your feet up.
When planning your outdoor seating, consider how you want to set your seats. Is it around a feature, like an outdoor coffee table, or is it staged perfectly for conversation to ensue among guests? 'Consider important factors such as where you want the seating on the porch to face,' says Eugene Colberg, Principal, Colberg Architecture. 'Are you more interested in sitting and watching the sunset facing west, or are you a morning person and you want to have your morning coffee facing east?'
Consider environmental conditions too. 'In a colder climate, you probably want a south or southwest-facing porch. In a warmer climate, you want it facing north or east.'
Finally, don't forget to plan the color scheme of your seating area accordingly. You don't necessarily need the scheme to match the interiors of your home, so you can have fun with the space. 'I recently completed this porch, designed in these colors to give a coastal feel with red white and blue reminding my client of growing up by the coast of New England,' explains Ame. Accessorize with plump cushions, throws and a central coffee table.
8. Go for comfort with cozy beanbags
If you want your porch to be a space for relaxation, get rid of that uncomfortable, wooden porch bench and swap it for a beanbag, perfect for garden lounging. It's all part of this larger transition of garden spaces evolving to have a feel of an indoor living room, explains Mary Maydan of Maydan Architects.
'In the past, outdoor furniture generally included a mix of a sofa and a chaise, but now we see different seating configurations. These outdoor living spaces are cozy and fun and reframe our way of living!'
This welcoming porch space features furniture from Paola Lenti, an outdoor furniture designer who creates spectacular fabrics, suitable for the outdoors, in beautiful colors and mixes. 'Paola Lenti is my favorite outdoor furniture designer. Paola Lenti’s furniture enables us to introduce color into our projects in an elegant and sophisticated way. The outdoors wouldn’t look the same without Paola Lenti’s pieces of furniture,' says Mary.
9. Consider a porch screen for added privacy
Bear in mind that where your porch is located changes the type of furniture you should look to include. A porch in your front yard becomes a public space, whereas side and rear porches are more private locations. You might want to plan accordingly. If you only have a small porch at the front of your home, you can still create that private sanctuary, hidden away from the peering eyes of passers-by, by creating a screened-in porch.
'I have a screened-in porch and I adore it, and would highly recommend it to anyone,' says Lisa Gilmore of Lisa Gilmore Designs, whose home features the above porch space.
'This is a front porch and the street isn't that far away, so the screen is a way to make division and privacy an important part of a small porch,' adds Gilmore. She also advises to add shrubbery to avoid prying eyes. 'The key is to bring in some plant life - essential for privacy.'
10. Bring a playful element with an outdoor swing
A self-supporting swing, or a swing attached to the roof of your porch gives this space a romantic feel, reminiscent of the traditional porch rocking chair that looks out onto the neighborhood. It can also be a nice space for the family to take a seat together, a place to relax with a good book, and gives a real playful, jovial look.
This swing from Amazonas is made from extra-thick, water-repellent mattress, combining comfort with stylish design, and can be used as a rocking recliner on the ground or as a perfectly balanced floating recliner in a frame.
If you have a pergola, you can use the beam-like structure to your advantage and add a swing chair looking out over the garden. For outdoor porches with less space, go for the same effect with an outdoor egg chair, comfort thrown in with a cozy throw and cushions.
What should you include on a porch?
'No matter the circumstances, a porch should never be neglected as they all have a special function they can serve,' adds Aul Cervoni, landscape designer and founder of Staghorn NYC and The Cultivation by Kat.
Think about the little things - create a small seating area, a small vignette that gives you a space to relax and think about the small decorative things you can add to bring a warmth to the space. A coffee table, soft furnishings, seating with a cozy throw, a small rug underfoot that can go a long way to soften the space, even if it's just a tasteful welcome mat.
Finally, don't forget the shrubbery and plants. Terracotta pots of your favorite outdoor plants in groupings of three can look nice, and try and train your garden plants to creep up and along the house. Finally, small lanterns that sit on the porch with small flickering candles inside make a welcoming and beckoning addition to a small porch.
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Oonagh is a content editor at Livingetc.com and an expert at spotting the interior trends that are making waves in the design world. Writing a mix of everything and everything from home tours to news, long-form features to design idea pieces on the website, as well as frequently featured in the monthly print magazine, she's the go-to for design advice in the home. Previously, she worked on a London property title, producing long-read interiors features, style pages and conducting interviews with a range of famous faces from the UK interiors scene, from Kit Kemp to Robert Kime. In doing so, she has developed a keen interest in London's historical architecture and the city's distinct tastemakers paving the way in the world of interiors.
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