"Porches are America's lost rooms."
-Barbara Grizzuti Harrison
Moving into a new apartment in Somerville, Massachusetts the year prior to this, one of the things I was the most excited about was the three season porch attached to the front of the building. I'd never had a porch I was able to use and had always wanted one. A three season porch was even better, because it had so many design opportunities. Initially there was some work to be done but eventually the entire floor would be replaced and a fresh coat of paint to freshen up the area. But it was evident even off the bat that the space had potential as soon as we moved in, so it was worth getting it right.
The first thing I wanted to get started on was the curtains. I felt like the sun was just blasting through the windows, and that we needed some shade. But curtains also make a space feel much more homey as soon as they're up, so I went looking for the right ones.
After some searching I found sets of inexpensive SHEER VOILE curtains from amazon that were a great size and had the right aesthetic. A walk down to the local dollar store to pick up tension rods was also relatively inexpensive, but made a huge difference right away in terms of the overall appearance and welcoming feel of the space.
Next on the docket? We needed tables and a place to sit! Fortunately we were able to actually replace our kitchen table with a new one, and the old kitchen table made its way out onto the porch. A few extra chairs and we had ourselves a little place to plunk down and relax. Now came the fun part, especially if you're like me. It was time to start decorating!
One of my personal goals with the porch was to make it feel almost like an extension of the apartment in terms of feeling like a room. And with that in mind, we were going to need a rug. A couple of trial and error moments led to a really great discovery of a LEAF-PATTERNED RUG at Ikea. Relatively inexpensive, and a color that matches just about everything. Fantastic. Rugs, like curtains, are really fast ways to soften a space and create a residential feel.
I'm a fan of filling spaces. Not to an overwhelming degree, but enough so that when you look around there are always items to notice at and pops of color. I'm not picky about where I find these, and I think once you start to develop a theme for a room, little items jump out at you when you're shopping. TJ Maxx and Marshalls are great places to find small decorative pieces. On our porch you'll find items from those stores, like the olive wooden bowl on the table, as well as other pots and containers from Anthropologie and Michaels. Sometimes as you peruse for little decorative accents it's great to think outside the box in terms of the expected use of an item. Below, a stemless wine glass also functions as a great mini planter.
I really wanted to have elements happening from the ceiling as well as resting around the porch, so different hanging pieces were added. They're all unique and each has a slightly different feel to it. The LANTERN, featured left, is from Urban Outfitters while the hanging emerald glass container and larger HURRICANE is from Anthropologie. Shopping local, I also am a huge fan of LISA KNEBEL's ceramics. You'll find her work hanging in various parts of the house and porch, as well as CHRISTINA KOSKINSKI's whose glazes really standout in a room.
There are a number of candles on the porch in various states of display. Candles are just the best, and in different more musky tones add a relaxing vibe to the area.
On a shelving unit are fun books to occupy your time. Various design books as well as coloring books are featured, along with colored pencils and markers. Sometimes a calm afternoon on the porch with a great read is just what you need to add a bit of relaxation back into your life after a long day.
This wouldn't be an Ingrid post unless of course there was some element of do it yourself-ness to it. And as my housemates and I began to accumulate our plants, we also started to accumulate Terra Cotta pots. These pots are great for a couple reasons- one, they breathe. They're porous and therefore able to allow the soil to dry really well in between waterings. Number two, they're inexpensive! Always wonderful for designing on a budget. And three, you can paint them any color you'd like- it's fabulous. And that's exactly what happened.
One of my absolute favorite colors to work with in general is gold. It goes with just about everything, and frankly it looks classy. With that in mind, we classed up quite a number of terra cotta pots in different patterns and textures.
A fun thing to do with the pots is to get a good tape- we just used masking tape- and tape off the edges and patterns that you'd like to paint around. If you're able to use acrylic paint, the tape will cut straight through it when removed and leave you with very clean lines to have fun with as you play with different color combinations and pattens.
An additional find was a small end table, from GoodWill. It was a pretty awful blue, at first but it had a great shape. A new coat of sage green paint (matte finish) and a great petrified wood ANTHROPOLOGIE KNOB and it was good to go! The table is a great little accent piece on the porch and holds various items depending on the configuration of the furniture, while adding a nice pop of color and shape.
It's no secret that I am a big fan of succulents. I think they're great. They come in a bunch of wonderful colors and varieties, and usually are pretty easy to take care of. What's not to love?
Having said that, I also love other kinds of plants as well, and on the porch you'll find plants that I've picked out as well as my housemates. Everyone has somewhat different tastes but the plants line the window sills and lend such a happy feel and aesthetic to the space. They also love the environment and are able to have larger growing seasons while out there.
One thing to be advised about, however, is when moving plants from inside to outside, they may need an adjustment period. Our porch gets a lot of sun, and when the windows are open a great deal of wind as well. This can initially burn a plant, so definitely keep an eye out for the first week or so. While the plants will most likely adjust within a short amount of time, they may need to start off in a slightly shadier area to begin with and acclimate to brighter sun slowly.
One of the benefits of having succulents as your plant of choice is their capability to very easily reproduce. If you had a chance to read my BOTANICAL ISSUE you know succulents have a will to survive that is just about unparalleled. When they're happy they will sprout new baby plants along the stem, and even if they lose a leaf or are chopped for reshaping, they will relatively quickly regenerate and start to grow new roots. It's pretty impressive. Featured on the porch are a wide variety of plants, all with complementary colors and structure.
In addition to housing quite a number of house plants, the porch had a big year of growing vegetables! A really exciting thing to try. My housemate Gaby grew a number of bell peppers and heirloom tomatoes after purchasing the seeds from a nearby garden center.
The vegetables were able to get enough sunlight while not being affected by wind damage that can afflict plants growing outside. Something to watch out for though, peppers in particular can be prone to a number of little bugs. We saw a few aphids that had to be taken care of with an inexpensive pesticide for vegetable plants. Not all sprays are equal though and in fact some are very aggressive. This can leave your leaves a bit wilted so be sure to ask about different kinds of sprays to find what is best for you and your veggies before you set out to use that spray.
We definitely had a really great first summer growing different kinds of plants and vegetables on the porch, and having the opportunity to design a new space using ideas that could be applied to just about any room in the house. There are elements to take into consideration with a porch like this, specifically for the season that the porch is not active- such as where will all of these great plants go that we've accumulated when it's time for winter? I'll have to report back on that!
But as you begin to think of new ways to use spaces in your home, definitely don't neglect the porch- take an opportunity to really have some fun with it! It's one of our favorite places to be, and absolutely worth the attention paid in getting different details and accents placed. Try to always see a space's potential and make it an area that you can look forward to enjoying for at least three seasons!