Living in the Midwest, we all eagerly wait for the warm weather months to arrive. It's such a relief to finally ditch the heavy coats and soak up the beautiful summer sun after a long, cold winter. In Minnesota, having a screen porch is almost a necessity to fully enjoy the summer evenings without any pesky bugs bothering you.
For many people building a new home, the screen porch is something you hold off on to help with the initial budget. That is exactly what we decided to do when building our home with S&S 3 years ago, but this year we were ready to finally get that porch built! As a member of the S&S design team and resident blogger, I'm excited to share my personal journey with you - from the first design meetings with the team to the finishing touches.
1. Decorating your outdoor living space:
Prioritizing the design of your furniture layout before starting the porch design process is crucial, as it determines how you can comfortably spend time in your space. In my case, I had to factor in a fireplace and decided to position a couch on one side and two club chairs on the other. I opted for pieces from Crate & Barrel that were constructed using solid mahogany. The Ashore sofa and armchair's ocean-like appearance was achieved through heavy wire-brushing and a grey wash finish that accentuated the grain and created a weathered-driftwood effect. I went with black Sunbrella cushions that are made from water-repellent polyester and feature removable covers with UV protection. Although I initially considered white cushions to create an airy feel, reviews indicated that they stained easily, so I opted for black. It's crucial to conduct thorough research and read customer reviews before making any purchases.
I purchased the throw pillows from Pottery Barn, and they are all designed for outdoor use. My intention was to create a light, airy atmosphere, which is why I opted for white pillows to complement the black chair and couch cushions. The white pillows have playful tassels, while the black and white cabana stripe pillows are a staple in my decor. Initially, I considered pillows with intricate designs, but I ultimately decided to keep it simple. I realized that the patterns were detracting from the modern vibe I was aiming for. I included some outdoor blankets from T.J. Maxx to create a comfortable atmosphere for summer evenings.
I wanted a round coffee table to balance out the straight lines in the room. I found the perfect one at Crate & Barrel - it's called the Sayulita Outdoor Coffee Table. This table is inspired by Mexican ceramics and architecture, and adds a unique sculptural touch to outdoor entertaining. What's even better is that it's named after a town I used to visit frequently when my parents lived in Mexico, and I adore the texture and organic finish on it. It's always special to find pieces that hold sentimental value. I added the side table that coordinates with the coffee table. I usually don’t like everything to match perfectly, but for this small space, I thought the repetition in the pieces worked better.
I recently incorporated a bar cart that has been stored in my basement for the past three years into my outdoor entertainment setup. Since it is not designed for outdoor use, I will only bring it out when I have guests over. I believe it contributes to the laid-back atmosphere that I am striving for. The bar cart is from Wayfair, and it does have wheels, so I can easily roll it in and out.
To complete the porch's look, I added some greenery to it. I strongly believe that adding plants to any area brings it to life. I bought my planters from Crate & Barrel and used a plant liner as the material is porous. For the plants, I purchased palm plants from Ikea and placed them in the planters as suggested. To give the impression that they are planted, I added black rubber mulch around them.We received a lovely closing gift from Style & Structure - a stunning succulent plant in a concrete planter. It's an ideal addition to our contemporary porch.
2. Choose the right type of porch for your lifestyle:
When it comes to porches, there are numerous options available, so it's important to choose the one that best fits your lifestyle. Depending on personal preference, some people may prefer a screen porch, while others may opt for a 3-season porch with glass windows for longer usability. For me, I knew a screen porch was the way to go. Growing up with one, I had no desire for actual windows as it would defeat the purpose of enjoying the outdoors without being bothered by pesky mosquitoes.
We also added a deck with a staircase leading to the backyard. Our house has a walk-out basement, so the porch is located on the second level at the back of our house. We are thrilled to have a new space to enjoy outdoor activities and a designated area for grilling.
3. Are you adding a fireplace?
Having a fireplace was a top priority for us. Initially, we had our hearts set on a wood-burning fireplace, but our installers suggested otherwise. Trusting the expertise and experience of professionals is crucial when making important decisions. While the idea of an open wood-burning fireplace was appealing, the fact that our porch was two stories high posed a significant fire hazard, especially with strong winds. Fortunately, our installers presented a brilliant alternative that I grew to love even more. We ultimately decided on an open gas fireplace that gives off the same cozy atmosphere as a real fireplace, but with the added convenience of a switch for instant ambiance.
I absolutely adored our fireplace design - it's the centerpiece of our porch! It took a bit of time to decide on the perfect materials and design, as we wanted something both modern and organic. We found inspiration in images of tapered plaster fireplaces, but wanted to put our own spin on it. Ultimately, we went with a sleek black finish to contrast against the white walls inside our home. Our stucco expert was just as thrilled as we were to see the finished product. He used a Venetian plaster technique to apply the stucco, and created a custom color to achieve a truly organic look with lots of dimension. The end result is truly incredible!
(Floating Limestone Bench)
One significant design feature of our fireplace was the limestone bench with a live edge that appeared to be floating. However, the bench weighed a whopping 600 lbs, posing a challenge as to how to make it float. To address this, we had our steel experts create a custom bracket that can support double the weight (1,200 lbs). The end result was flawless, and the bracket is entirely hidden from view.
4. Choosing the materials:
With my house exterior being white with black windows, I wanted to incorporate something to add contrast. After much consideration, we decided to go with a black board & batten exterior for the porch. Although a white porch with black windows or a natural cedar look were also appealing options, I desired something bold and dramatic. I’m usually on the other end of helping with design decisions, but being in the client’s seat, I love that the S&S team was able to push the design boundaries with me.
We decided to maintain the classic cedar porch aesthetic for the walls and ceiling of the interior. The contrast of the dark railings and fireplace against the cedar is breathtaking. Additionally, the scent of cedar creates a sense of being surrounded by nature.
We opted for a low-maintenance flooring material from Timbertech for our deck. The French White Oak shade from their Landmark Collection closely resembled our indoor white oak floors, giving the impression of a seamless extension from our living space to the outdoors. The end result was stunning.
We ultimately decided to stick with a black shingle roof for our home, just like the one we currently have. While we had considered a black metal roof, but the cost was simply too high for our budget. Although I love the aesthetic of a metal roof and the sound of rain hitting it, we realized we wouldn't see the roof often unless we were in the backyard. Sometimes, you have to make compromises in order to stay within your budget. We may consider adding metal roof accents to our home in the future.
5. Lighting, electrical and gas lines:
When I was planning the lighting layout for my porch, I had a clear vision in mind. Growing up with a porch, I knew exactly what issues I wanted to address with my lighting design. Firstly, I wanted a fan for those hot summer days, but without a light. I've never been fond of the way fans with lights look, and they don't provide sufficient lighting anyways. Secondly, I planned to install four recessed lights to ensure ample illumination when required. Lastly, I aimed to incorporate sconces on various switches to enable us to adjust the lighting as needed.
We had thought about installing ceiling heaters, similar to the ones seen at hockey games, to keep our porch warm during the fall months. However, our fireplace experts advised against it, as our open gas fireplace already produces a substantial amount of heat. True enough, we haven't used our fireplace much this summer as it heats up quickly. Nevertheless, it will be a great addition for chilly evenings once they start up again (shhh, you didn’t hear me say that).
Stair lighting was something that was important to me. One day we will have more backyard activities for the kids, like a bonfire and hot tub, so you always need to be thinking of the future. Being able to light up the stairs is something that can be done later, but I’m so happy we did it while we had the electricians on site. It actually looks really great from the porch at night.
(Gas line to grill)
Along with the gas line to the fireplace, we also added one to the deck for a gas grill. These are great things to prepare for so you aren’t ripping anything thing up later.
When planning the electrical outlets, we took into consideration the potential uses of the space. You always have to have a certain amount of outlets for code, but there are other things you may need them for. We decided to install an outlet above the porch doorway, which could accommodate a future television. Although I'm not in favor of having a TV, my husband and three boys may outvote me sooner rather than later.
We hope that our five tips on designing a screen porch have been helpful to you. Ultimately, the way you live in this space is what matters most, so trust your instincts and design it to meet your needs. Take a deep breath, sit back with a drink in hand, and enjoy your dream porch! Cheers.
Check out the video of us getting the porch ready for the photoshoot.