November 16, 2012

My Pinterest Porch

One of the things I was most excited about when our new house was built eight years ago was that I would finally have a screened porch.
Photo from This Old House website.
Not my porch.  Not even close.
I imagined a big lazy ceiling fan slowly circling above, cushioned rustic chairs all about, and lots of plants. I planned to live on the porch all summer, maybe even entertaining guests out there on hot days.

What I failed to take into account was that the space was only 14 feet long and 7 feet wide, tucked into a back corner of the house. The builder did not put in full length screens, just screened windows, as you can see in this photo, so it became simply a narrow unheated room, not really a summer porch.


For years Jim has had to listen to me whine that it felt like being in a railroad car. The windows are too high to see out of when seated, and the space is not wide enough for much furniture unless it is lined up along the wall.

Now we are finally going to re-do the porch, and I am searching Pinterest for ideas.

Right now I have kept some furniture on the porch, but the area is mainly a storage depot where pots of tender plants live in winter. I call it The Warehouse.

In summer, with lots of houseplants, and early morning sun streaming in, it looks nicer, so then I call it My Conservatory.
We are not gong to expand the footprint of the room -- that's beyond our budget, so it will remain the size and shape of a railroad car, 14' by 7'.

But we'll take off the vinyl siding that covers the interior walls and use something nicer, like cedar planks. The floor will be covered in terra cotta tiles, maybe brick. The windows will be dropped down considerably so you can see out to the deck and garden more easily from inside.

But how to use this porch? What can I do with such a narrow space? What would you do with it?

One concept is to forego any furniture at all and make this a work station for my plant activities. I'd call it The Interior Potting Shed.



We could brick the porch floor, add a floor drain (um, sure), and then put in a dry sink table for potting and washing.  Zinc topped.  Double sinks, actually.  Plants and containers strewn about. Tools hanging on the walls.  As they say on Pinterest, Love, love, love it.

We can't put plumbing out there, so I'd have to make do by bringing the garden hose in through the door when needed, but there is a faucet close outside the back door. (C'mon. It's a fantasy right now, and in my fantasy dragging the hose in through the door works just fine. Perfectly fine.)

Here's the same idea again, complete with stone potting sink, and this windowed nook appears to have the skinny, cramped dimensions of my porch. How beautifully it transforms this space into something interesting and useful and full of light and life. I'd call this My Cottage Greenhouse. More love.



Or I could dispense with all the plants and greenery, and keep my porch spare -- just a couch, a chair and a lamp. I would read and relax there, and I'd call it My Zen Retreat.

At Idyll Haven, a blog written by Sue, a fellow Connecticut blogger, it looks like her porch is about the same size as mine, and she has done exactly that. She has created an uncluttered space for sitting, and kept the furnishings and any plants to a minimum.



The full length screens are essential to open up the narrow area. Glass topped tables lighten up the tiny space. You can see her porch is tucked into the corner of her house as mine is. These pictures are so helpful for me to see how I could translate what she has done to my problem space.


I am wandering around Pinterest to get more ideas for our porch re-do. Before I go much further, though, I have to make a decision about what I want the porch to be, what I actually want to do in it.

A lush, plant filled work area with no furniture -- like a potting shed or cottage greenhouse? Or a sitting area for one or two people -- a zen retreat, uncluttered and simple?

How do you use your small screened porch?
 

33 comments:

  1. Well, I don't have a small screened porch, I have a small, unscreened back porch, which has room for a couple of chairs, some plants, a table with two more chairs, and a little plastic storage bin. When the weather warms up I sit out there sometimes with a book, and in the evening we occasionally eat a light dinner out there.

    Do you already have a potting bench somewhere in your garden, or on your patio? If you already have a potting bench, I'd vote for using your porch as a Zen Retreat, furnishing it sparingly like the one at Idyll Haven. I like your plans for redoing the siding with cedar planks, and the floor with tiles or bricks.

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    1. Alison, I like how you have your open area for so many different uses. I do have a potting bench outside and it works great, except it is out in the elements. I'd love a covered space. And we have a deck for sitting outside, and a patio for more sitting and a gravel garden around the other side with chairs --- so I have outdoor space already for my glass of wine or coffee. But, with a zen retreat right off the kitchen I would use it all the time I am sure!

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  2. I just wish I had your "problem" of a small cramped space to fume over. :) I think I would do as your blogging buddy has done, IF you would use it like that. It might be more useful as a conservatory. On the other hand one end of my living room looks like a conservatory and you can't go in or out the patio doors at this time of year. It would be wonderful to have a room where I didn't have to worry about getting water, leaves, dirt etc on the floor. Not that I worry too much about it but my DB does.

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    1. Lisa, there is something very attractive about the look of plants massed in a "conservatory" --- even yours surrounding the doors to your patio! That's how mine developed naturally, it just looked good with all the plants out there. Wouldn't it be great to have a brick floor and a drain in your living room : )

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  3. You definitely have great ideas and some things to think about, Laurrie. Once you get the full length windows I suspect you will want to be able to sit on your porch. My favorite time is either early in the morning with my coffee (my porch faces east) or after dark with a glass of wine. The fountain off the porch can be lit with a small spotlight from under the overhang.

    I'll be looking forward to see what you create!

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    1. Sue, thanks for the inspiration I got from your porch! I do think the biggest issue is opening up my porch with full length screens. But I want to have the convenience of a winter porch with glassed windows so I can store plants and we even use it for food storage when temps are cold, which I couldn't do if it remained screened floor to ceiling in winter.

      Do you have glass storm windows for your porch? My husband is against having to haul full length storms on and off, do you do that?

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    2. Mine is strictly a screen porch. No storm windows although at one time I did toy with the idea of having them made. The snow blows in from the north end. I have heavy plastic covers for the furniture. Occasionally I toss food out there if I'm having a party but only for short periods of time.

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  4. I would have to vote for the zen retreat option. After a long day working in the yard, I would love a sheltered space from which to view my garden, feet up, with icy cold cocktail in hand. Perhaps you could still have plants but in hanging baskets, which would free up floor space. I know some folks who have some economical little plug-in base board heaters on their 3 season porch so they can sit out in all but the dead of winter, easier than running ductwork!

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    1. Julie, I love the idea of a space heater for extending the season of sitting on the porch. My biggest dilemma is whether to go with full length screens, essential for making this more "sitting-friendly" or keep the sash windows (although lower) so I could close them and use the porch in more seasons.

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  5. I love the idea of a tiny space for sitting with the best of indoor(no bugs) and the best of outdoor(surrounded by light and garden!

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    1. Barbara, I spend a lot of time sitting outside on the deck and patio, but when evening comes I do need to escape into a place where the bugs can't go!

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  6. Laurie,

    Don't envy your choices. I'd go for a hybrid of what I'd call your indoor/outdoor screened-in porch room. Now you'll have longer windows, you could design both spaces to complement each other and make the space look larger from inside. I'd go for the interior potting shed with a twist. I'd buy one of those dark green french bistro sets. Have table and chair outside and keep one inside for newspaper reading etc. Then I'd come up with a color theme. Blue with the bistro set green would be nice. Then get blue glazed pots of varying heights and width for use indoor and out. Try different sizes of dwarf alberta spruce for outside pots for winter interest.

    Hope this helps.

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    1. Patrick, what a great suggestion to tie the in and out together. I love your detailed thought process on this, right down to the rich color combos I could use!

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  7. I would create a reading/napping area with a fainting couch. When I wasn't reading or napping I could look out over the garden, wine in hand, and enjoy the fruits of my labor.

    You really make me wish for a screened in porch. What a delicious dilemma!

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    1. Heather, I really like the idea of a fainting couch on the porch. The heat and humidity in summer often make me swoon, and I do need a place to collapse.

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  8. We have a front verandah, long and narrow. I still would LOVE to make it into a screened porch because of the bug problem we have. (We live next to a creek) But we do use it from spring through fall for lunch time meals or afternoon tea. There is an electric outlet...where DS plugs in his computer to save batteries when he visits. There is a porch swing as well.

    I have a potting bench outdoors (in another area)and like it that way. No indoor mess to tidy up! As for plants, who needs white fly, muddy shoes, moldy smells and tools indoors?

    My friend had a gorgeous greenhouse in her former home. It was a constant worry with cleanliness, opening and closing for ventilation, pruning plants and sanitizing pots. That convinced me to wait until I had a full time gardener and housekeeper before yearning for a greenhouse. I'm still waiting.

    Obviously I vote for a room to relax in, not a work room. You can work anywhere, but a designated area of calm is a real treat.

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    1. Marie, a porch swing on a long front verandah must be wonderful! You make a good point about the difficulty of keeping a potting area / greenhouse clean, especially for a room right off my kitchen. I may have to completely rethink that option.

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  9. I love your space! I am sure it will come to you..both options are wonderful and your inspiration pics are right on! You really can't go wrong with either. I personally like working with small spaces because they push you to be creative. Dropping the windows will give you such a beautiful view on to your garden!

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    1. Nicole, you are so right about small spaces making design choices more creative. You have to really think through how to use a room that is small or oddly shaped.

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  10. I don't really have any suggestions -- our back porch is screened in, narrow but long. It serves as a cat motel (with heated beds), a mud room and a place where we store a lot of outdoor stuff.

    I like what Sue did with her space.

    I hadn't heard of a fainting couch before -- that sounds like a good thing.

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    1. Sweetbay, a place to store outdoor stuff is definitely what I need, but not right off the kitchen. And the cats here think that making the porch their catered motel would be just fine!

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  11. I have a front porch but not a screened porch. I like the potting shed idea. Maybe if you replaced the windows with french doors it would seem more open. I'm looking forward to seeing what you do with your space. :o)

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    1. Tammy, I do think the single biggest improvement to this porch will be lowering the windows, or even putting in full length screens.

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  12. Laurrie, you don't know how long I have wanted to have a sunroom or screened porch just like that first photo, complete with wicker furniture! Though I've often hinted to my husband, I don't think it will ever happen...sigh. I like the photos near the end--a Zen retreat for reading sounds so nice, though in reality I would probably stuff it full of plants in the winter,too. Whatever you decide, I think the floor-length windows will make a world of difference--you can really enjoy the view of your garden that way.

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    1. Rose, I really like the uncluttered zen retreat look too, but I fear that I would then immediately fill it with plants, pots wintering over, and miscellaneous stuff that would make it look too small. I think there is a discipline, or art, to maintaining a clean, unfussy look.

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  13. Nice to dream of the possibilities. I think I'd go with floor to ceiling screens. If it's what you've imagined from the beginning, if you're anything like me, you won't be satisfied until you achieve your vision! Can't wait to see what you decide.

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    1. Cat, you are right, I did imagine floor to ceiling screens at the very start, then tried to re-imagine this porch's function once it had those higher windows. The windows are a lot of the problem!

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  14. Can you lengthen the windows, and then decide? When you see the new space, the light, the view, etc, inspiration will come, I'm sure. I just wish I had an enclosed porch of any kind (although obviously, the one in your first picture would be my first choice). Great idea to look on Pinterest for examples of what other people have done with similar sized spaces.

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    1. Lyn, that would make sense, to do this in stages so I can evaluate what will work. But I am so impatient! I want it all done at once, and when we get the contractor here, he'll want to do the whole thing (this is not a project we're going to try ourselves). I agree about the first picture -- that's the porch I want too.

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  15. I love the idea of it becoming the interior potting shed, but only if you have a sink with running water! A small but relaxing retreat is very appealing, especially with the elongated windows and screens. I don't have a porch at all. It is the one thing I missed when we moved to our current location. Our first house had a large screened in porch, complete with swing, ceiling fan, and views of dogwood trees. I still dream of it.

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    1. Deborah, your former porch sounds exactly like what I want. Too bad you don't have it in your current home. You are the first to like the idea of the interior potting shed. But I agree it would need plumbing, and that's likely a non starter.

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  16. I was stymied by the same decision when I converted my screened in porch into a sun room. Like yours, mine was built onto the corner of the house and is fairly narrow. When i did the conversion, I chose not to close in the exposed ceiling (it's all unheated) but I did have my carpenter build in window seats all along the windows on 2 sides, mostly so my cats could have a better vantage point for viewing. I only regret not having him adding hinges to the top so it could be used for storage.

    For a while, I daydreamed about putting a desk in there for writing or working, but I think I like relaxing there better.

    Still, this room is my favorite retreat in spring and early summer. Somehow, it gives you a tucked away feeling where no one can find you. I have a small but comfortable upholstered lounge in there, a single small round folding table where I can put a reading lamp and radio, a bamboo rug and that's about it! It's sparely decorated with soothing neutral colors.

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    1. You are right about the feeling a small corner-situated porch provides --- it does give a "tucked away feeling". I like that, and need to work with the coziness of the space, while still getting more of an open view out into the garden. I like your idea of cat shelves along the windows!

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