“Most people love the outdoor experience, especially when it is easy and comfortable to enjoy,” says David Buffington of Brentwood Interiors. Covered porches are a favored way to enjoy the outdoor world, he says.
Overhead shelter makes an outdoor space easier to maintain. Rain isn’t as much of an issue, and it is easier to furnish such a space with deep cushions, deep colors, electronics, and more.
“The popularity of outdoor living has fueled the increased availability of stylish outdoor fabrics and rugs,” says Buffington. “Synthetic fabrics have been used for a long time, but today’s fabrics are softer and more comfortable than the stiff and scratchy fabrics of the past. And there is a much larger range of colors and patterns available.” Rugs, too, have been much improved for outdoor use, he adds.
Reporting that her clients are investing more time and money creating beautiful outdoor living spaces is Julie Couch of Julie Couch Interiors. “Outdoor kitchens are popular and outdoor furniture has improved dramatically in the past 10 years,” she says. “There are more choices than ever and my clients are gravitating toward fully-upholstered and very comfortable outdoor upholstery, especially in screened porches and sunrooms.”
“Porches, patios, decks, and balconies are among the most cherished spaces in American homes, and we want to spend as much time enjoying them as possible,” says Jackie Hirschhaut, vice president of the American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA). “Many of us have so little time off that our backyards and balconies have become our primary refuge for relaxation.”
Couch suggests that while porches literally increase a home’s square footage, space also allows homeowners to get away from the business represented by their home offices and stacks of mail. “Since most of us spend our days inside, it’s important to have a change of scenery. And since we can have all the comforts of homes combined with the fun of being outdoors, we’re really enjoying it.”
Adding beautiful, comfortable seating, pillows, and throws to a porch is one tip Couch offers for making the most of a porch. “A place to put your feet up, a place to set up food and drinks for guests, music, candlelight, and green plants are also important in an outdoor porch space,” she says. “Add an indoor/outdoor rug, a hanging swing, and something to read.”
Homeowners are adding porches to their homes and creating outdoor living space, according to Tammy McKinney of Superior Custom Homes & Remodeling. “Within that space, we are putting fireplaces, televisions, lighting, and wet bars, as well as other amenities.
Saying that nostalgia is one reason people are attracted to porches. “Before air conditioning, a porch was the most comfortable place to entertain in the south. It provides a connection with nature and convenient access to the home,” says Bohnne Jones of Decorating Den Interiors. Screens, she adds, make a porch perfect.
Jones adds that draperies and designer fabrics, all created with outdoor use in mind, provide a home-like quality to the outdoor space.
Janis Wilson of Trees ‘n’ Trends says many of her company’s clients are expanding outdoor living space to accommodate more lounging area, squeezing in firepit groups, high-quality rugs, beautiful lanterns, and lighting, creating an inviting ambiance. “Homeowners today are interested in high-quality furniture designed to last for years,” she says. And while the materials echo the past—resin, aluminum, wrought iron, and wood—they have been improved for better appearance and durability. Wilson suggests blue fabric hues and gray finishes are popular in outdoor spaces.
As more and more Americans head outside to entertain, outdoor furniture manufacturers are meeting their needs with generously-scaled dining groups in materials and styles that are nearly indistinguishable from traditional, indoor furniture. According to Jackie Hirschhaut, wood grain is rendered in durable fiberglass, plank-style porcelain, and lightweight aluminum. The resulting low-maintenance tabletops weather the elements in style.
Homeowners who love the natural feel and beauty of real wood will not be disappointed either, as teak and other durable species like Roble continue in popularity and provide the opportunity for upper-end manufacturers to showcase their craftsmanship, Hirschhaut says.
To accommodate the increasing popularity of outdoor entertaining, many companies have added scale or expansion capabilities normally only found in indoor dining groups. Long, rectangular tables to accommodate up to a dozen guests are selling well, and some even feature extensions or butterfly leaves that fold out of sight when not in use. These collections are not designed for the eat-and-run crowd—dining chairs feature deep-cushions along with swivel and rocking motion.
Gail Adkins of Change Magic suggests that homeowners, bombarded by beautiful images of fresh outdoor choices, should consider adding a new rocker, a fancy grill, upholstered furniture, and beautiful plants. “Pamper your natural wish to expand your outdoor living space and decorate it attractively,” she says.
“We are continuing to see rugs, unique wall decor, chandeliers, and farm tables becoming staples of a beautiful porch,” says January Alexander of J. Alexander Home. “We’re receiving requests for bright colored textiles, outdoor lighting, and custom farm tables as homeowners are opting for less formal outdoor spaces and favoring casual, eclectic spaces.”
According to new research from the AHFA, more than 80 percent of American households plan a purchase of outdoor furniture or accessories this year, up from 62 percent a year ago.
There are a number of sources for porch living services and products including:
Change Magic Interior Consulting
Julie Couch Interiors
Decorating Den Interiors
Embers Grill & Fireplace Store
Gibson Furniture & Patio
Grahams Outdoor Living Center
J Alexander Home
Lynn’s Patio Shop
Merridian Home Furnishings
Superior Custom Homes & Remodeling
Trees n Trends