Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Front Porch Pointers

Last fall I finally converted my porch wannabe  into a proper front porch. It turned out to be one of the best worst moves I ever made, as now all I want to do is sit on it. Even in the scorching days of summer and with the house needing a good vacuuming or dusting, I find myself lured to that place to enjoy the fresh air and to idle away stolen moments in reading, reflection, and rest.

It saddens me to see so many lovely porches going to waste these days. Brought up with backyard swimming pools or barbecue grills, Gen Y-ers (X-ers?) who are fortunate enough to have porches don’t appear to know how to use them. Or maybe they just don’t have the time. But even retired Baby Boomers, who should have the time, seem reluctant to gravitate to the front of the house.

In an effort to return people to the time-honored tradition of porch-sitting, I’m suggesting the following:

1. Keep it simple.
 I love looking at the porches featured in my favorite southern lifestyle magazine. They advise decking them out with settees, usually in wicker, and accessorizing with over-stuffed cushions and colorful pillows. For an extra dose of charm, throw in a few potted plants and a chandelier. (Did I say chandelier?) Step onto one of these porches, and before you know it, you’re craving a mint julep and referring to it the veranda. But a word of caution here: This kind of charm can be more trouble than it’s worth. When I planned my porch, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted, but I knew what I didn’t want—another room to clean and take care of. I purchased simple but comfortable furniture that would withstand all types of weather and didn’t require a lot of cleaning, maintenance, or hauling in and out of doors. I also kept the number of furnishings to a minimum. The “floor” is flagstone, which means I don’t have to freak out over a few fallen twigs or leaves or the occasional splat of bird poop. My porch gives me a pleasant spot where I can unwind and not be reminded of the need for upkeep. However, it hasn’t yet shielded me from the reminder my flowerbed needs weeding. I’m working on that.

Magazine's idea of perfect porch decor

My idea...

 2. Extend a welcome.
Screens around porches are good for blocking things we don’t want like flies and mosquitoes, but they also block things we do want—waves and greetings to and from passersby. For me, that’s a big part of front-porch appeal. The market offers plenty of unobtrusive products for deterring pests (the insect kind, not people kind) without sacrificing views or closing off opportunities for quick, neighborly visits. Speaking of those visits, extra chairs should be available for guests to have a seat and chat a while. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have a pitcher of iced tea (or a bottle of wine) chilling in the fridge.

My idea of perfect porch entertaining
3. Sit a spell.
Many years ago, as a busy twenty-something, I spent a weekend visiting my grandmother in a black-dot, East Texas town. The time passed way too quickly, and as Bill and I  headed home to another hectic work week in a crowded city, I was tired just thinking about all I had to do when I got there. We passed a little frame house that listed slightly starboard and was badly in need of a paint job. But its saving grace was a wrap-around porch, where an old man sat, calmly rocking and looking as if he didn’t have a care in the world.

If you’re lucky enough to have a front porch, take advantage of it, if only for a few minutes each day. Make time to put your feet up and enjoy a cool drink.  Listen to the birds, take in a sunset, call out to the neighbors.

The image of that old man has stayed with me for years, and I think it has fueled much of my porch obsession. I can’t say for sure what he was thinking that day (maybe that he needed to weed his flowerbed), but I do know what I was thinking: That fellow knows how to use a porch.

NOTE: You might have noticed a slight change in the look of my blog. More to come in the near future!