Furnishing a porch and designing a patio

Our new house has major issues with its outdoor space, and this is an area where I have no vision.

We have a lovely porch — the usable part is 7 x 19 feet — that has nothing on it. I’d love ideas for what to put on it. It has the hardware for a swing.

What’s on your porch that you love? What’s your dream porch? I’d love links to furniture.

Our small backyard is very ugly — right now there is weedy grass, no patio/deck. I know that I need to hire a landscape designer, but I’m curious what other people like and dislike about their patios. If you were to do it again, what would have included or left out? What percentage of the backyard should we turn into grass vs. how much turn into patio? Suggestions for outdoor furniture? One of my main concerns here is resale value – while we don’t have children, I want to make sure that this backyard is attractive to families with kids.

Right now I don’t have a budget — I’m just looking for ideas.

On our covered-but-unenclosed front porch, we have a painted wooden rocker (thrift store find) plus an all-weather bench from LL Bean. Both are about equally comfortable.The wooden rocker is classier, but a maintenance headache. It also blows over in high winds (which the heavy high-backed bench does not). The following bench is similar to what we have:

7 X 19 is a pretty good size.You should be able to fit a small circular table at one end for dining out. You can keep a few small chairs outdoors around the table, or to keep things uncluttered get a lightweight set to move in and out as needed.

I agree with @tk21769 about the circular table with chairs at one end for dining. Actually, 7 feet wide is pretty narrow, so an oval table might work better. At the other end, you could put a loveseat-size couch with a few comfy chairs facing it and a coffee table in the middle. Just make sure that wherever the doors are to the inside and the outside (if the latter exists) isn’t blocked by furniture. In our old house, we had a screened-in porch; we put green Astro-Turf on the floor for a carpet. (The wood floor was pretty ugly.)

For the backyard – which you characterized as small --just be careful that you don’t overbuild. For resale, you’ll want to leave some backyard area available for swing sets and the like. When we moved into our new house (not new, but new to us) we added a large deck with steps down to the backyard, plus a patio with a hot tub. I refer to that project as “DH’s Folly.” Of course he used the hot tub a lot the first year we had it. In subsequent years, not so much. If I had it to do over again, it certainly wouldn’t be on my list of things to do. (Actually, now that I think of it, it never was on my list of things to do!)

There’s been a big shift from yard to defined play spaces and outdoor living, possibly because so much of kids’ play time is structured these days. (Too bad, IMHO.) They play games and sports at school, spend a lot of time with video stuff, etc. As long as there’s room for a swing/play set and some safe runaround space. I honestly think that if I wanted kids to play outside more, I’d think about power outlets and a covered area where they can leave their electronic stuff so it won’t get ruined in the rain. And frankly, from what I see, people care as much about room for the dog to chase a ball.

Nice thing about a swing is everyone wants to sit in it. Kids love it.

Bad thing about a big table is you don’t use it unless you have a specific group of people who come over a lot, whether that’s friends or kids. Then you can size it to that group. But otherwise, I’d rather have a few smaller tables. They can be pushed together.

We had an umbrella but never used it. If it’s really hot and/or sunny where you are, I’d think about some sort of more permanent shade.

Is your porch screened/glassed in? Or is it strictly an outdoor porch - awning over it???

We treasure our “outdoor” space. We have a sunporch that has sliding glass doors but can be used year around (in Ohio). That space is an extra “family room” space for us. It is bright when the sun is out, breezy when we can open the sliders but also is shaded by very large pine trees.

We have a large deck that runs the length of the house in the back. Our oval outdoor dining table and umbrella gets used as many nights as weather allows us. My husband loves a wrought iron glider for sitting, talking on the phone, etc. But the one prized possession on the deck for the whole family is a wrought iron chaise lounge/cushions. We fight over the opportunity to read on it, lounge with laptops, nap with the pup, etc. It was a great investment and a little “luxury.”

We then have ground level patio space. There we have a firepit that is surrounded by a teak glider and adirondack chairs, shade flowers in the summer. Nice and shady there so another favorite place to sit and chat.

I say thing about what your family likes to do. Do you like dining outside? Would you do work outside? What times of day will you spend out there?

Families overall will want some grass space, but I think liveable, usable deck/patio space to be a real plus.

Our porch is in the front of the house – facing the street, with a roof but not enclosed. It is as far away from the kitchen as it could be – we’d have to traipse through the dining room living room and entryway to get there – so I don’t see us ever eating out there. If we want to eat outside, we’d go to the backyard. We don’t eat outside very often – I find it to be a hassle. We do have a large table and chairs for the backyard, which we use for the couple times a year we entertain. We’re not into grilling, either.

So both places, porch and backyard, are more places to sit outside, comfortably – read a book, enjoy the sun, watch people walk by.

From the sounds of it, unless you think you will change your habits, you aren’t going to spend much time outside to warrant spending a lot of cash on updates/upgrades. But a chaise lounge might still be great for either the front or back for lounging. Put a little side table by it to set your book and glass of iced tea on. :smile:

On our front porch we always had a table and chairs. (Past tense, because last year we moved into a house without a front porch, but with a great backyard deck.)

We didn’t necessarily eat many meals there (too far from the kitchen) but it was the perfect place to hang out with neighbors/friends who happened to be passing by and stayed for a glass of wine. Because I loved reading the Sunday NYT on the front porch, I had a large wooden arm chair with a footstool. In the summer/fall/spring, we had colorful pillows on the chair; I often put out a colorful tablecloth from the south of France I found at a garage sale.

The porch faced west, so it was shady enough to put out all my houseplants, big and small: all of them were kicked out to the front porch for the entire summer. (They loved it.) The greenery instantly made the porch look lush and inviting - in fact, it looked like a lived-in room. I installed roll up shades to keep the hot late afternoon sun from baking the front porch, giving the area not only shade but also extra privacy. Our neighbors – all of whom had front porches too – decorated theirs variously. One placed a colorful outdoor rug, another had colorful outdoors art attached to her exterior walls.

I miss my front porch and how it led to a different - easier, more spontaneous - social life. But now I have a great backyard deck and a nicely landscaped back yard. My one regret? That there’s any grass back there at all. It’s a hassle to mow it, and a waste of water, IMO. One of these days, I will replace the lawn in the back with more brick walkways and low-maintenance perennials.

I like a wicker sofa on a porch with cushions. Swings are nice. Seven feet isn’t wide enough for much of a table.

We are putting a screen porch on our house which will have a mosaic table like one of these: http://www.jordanjewel.com/

Our south facing porch is wonderful in Spring and Fall. There is a pergola sort of top with struts that allows vines to grow across. In the summer, one end has flowering vines on a trellis that filter the sun, but the middle section, which is not shaded is nearly too hot for bare feet. The other end is in the el of the house and is where we have a grill and dining table. The cooler trellised end has a few wicker chairs and small, mismatched tables. I love to sit out there, but on really warm summer days, despite the fact that I live on the coast of a northern state, the porch is too hot. We used trex synthetic wood when we rebuilt the decking and I think it absorbs the heat.

One other thing that I love: wind chimes with rich, mellow tones. Today it is cold and windy. There is still a lot of snow and I feel no motivation to go outside. I can hear the wind chimes and feel hopeful that Spring may actually arrive soon!

If you really want to splurge on a chaise, get a self-adjusting chaise, like those by Homecrest.
For example: http://www.homecrest.com/products/chairs.aspx?id=182

Lighting is my first priority. Lights to line walk ways, and to uplight trees for a romantic feel. We have an interior courtyard after you walk in the property. One part isn’t covered and has a fountain…the covered part has couches and chairs, and a table with chairs. Memo: we have teak furniture…rather high maintenance. But in summer metal furniture outside can be HOT. Backyard has a barbque area…some grace and cement…outside furniture (teak again…a headache) and fountains. Again lights make a HUGE difference. And while I haven’t tried again, I know that solar lighting can be used as well.

I have a teak glider that is usually on the front porch.
I actually don’t maintain it every year, but I just sanded it a little & oiled it.
That’s what they use on pleasure boats and while you do need to maintain it, it doesn’t rot, and a little sanding & oil makes it look like new.
It has cushions and pillows, but you don’t need them.
I also have table, chairs & umbrella, that are cast aluminum, currently black, but someday I will paint them a color.
They are in the back yard.
We have solar lights on the paths and around the pond and the waterfall.
It can be helpful to consult a designer so that you don’t overwhelm your plantings or make your yard less secure because the lighting causes shadows that obscures detail.

I have a small shady backyard that has no grass. OP, you don’t mention your climate or whether your back yard gets a lot of sun or not. If it’s shady, don’t even bother trying to grow grass - there is no shade loving grass that tolerates a lot of foot traffic by humans or even canines so it will become weedy and muddy.

We have a lot of irregular pieces of slate that are fitted together and can adjust to the places where the tree roots come up (we have a magnolia which has very shallow roots, maple trees have shallow roots also). There are planting beds along the perimeter and a fountain in the center. There is plenty of room for chairs, benches, BBQ stuff etc. Kids who visit have lots to play even without the grass.

I love the fountain. I can hear it from the kitchen and it is very soothing and attracts birds who come and take a shower. I have to top off the water every week or so and we live in a relatively rainy climate so if you’re in the desert, I wouldn’t recommend it. We also have wind chimes and the combination of all the sounds is lovely. Our shady yard is nice, but the fountain and chimes really make it come alive.

I would recommend what ever is lowest maintenance for you and suits your lifestyle. Don’t worry about future owners, you just moved in! Think about what you would do in your yard. Think about what windows you can see your back yard from and what you would like to see when you look out.

I have a book, Gardens for Pleasure, by Brodee Myers-Cooke, that I love to look at for garden ideas. It is from Australia so many of the plants could not be grown here but it still is quite inspiring.

It has plans for - the listening garden, the fragrant garden, the tasting garden, the night garden, the bird garden, the butterfly garden, the tea garden, the reading garden, the resting garden, the bathing garden, etc. Yes, the bathing garden with it’s outdoor shower right in the center!

I love wicker for porches. We have Lane Venture wicker which is real wicker with a special coating that makes it more weather proof and it has sunbrella cushions. Despite living in a very snowy, more northern climate, its held up well for at least a dozen years now. We cover it in the winter but it is left exposed the rest of the year. We have a chair, rocking chair, to side tables and a love seat glider (everyone’s preferred seat). A few ferns hanging from the ceiling, a planter or two filled with annuals. It’s a nice little oasis. We’ll sometimes eat lunch out there, cocktails, just go read a book, take the laptop out, etc. Since you have the hooks, a porch swing would be a lot of fun.

Thanks for the comments. I live in the northeast, so the outdoor spaces only get used 6-9 months of the year. The backyard faces south but doesn’t get that much sun. I have the blackest thumb around – give me a plant and it dies – and I absolutely hate gardening – so I want the most least-maintenance plants possible. I’ll be paying for someone to deal with them anyway.

I’ll look up the Lane Venture wicker.

I’m definitely planning on hiring someone for the backyard. I just need to give them some guidance.

We have a loveseat glider in sunbrella material (for easy maintenance) and a side table on our front porch. Those are the only furniture pieces, because I prefer to keep clutter to a minimum there. We also have a large deck in the back right off the kitchen. For a deck requiring railings, I highly recommend aluminum and tempered glass panel railing - it opens up the space to the rest of the yard, and when you sit down, you don’t feel caged in. On the deck, we keep our grill, a roll up umbrella that opens above the grill, a patio heater (Mr. really wanted one), a table with chairs that can be brush-washed, and a hammock stand. I also have a few pots where I plant stuff that needs to be protected from slugs.

we have several decks facing in all directions:
our outdoor furniture is 2 comfortable chairs and 2 lounge chairs and 2 bar high chairs from OW Lee:


we got them 15 years ago and they are lasting very well. we ordered on line because locally they are twice the price. we got them because they were high wind furniture. the first week we were in our house the old furniture we had flew into the air and across a yard. we are in a high desert area. the small metal tables I got from target and spray painted them to match.
the south side is warm in the winter - I put a black metal bench I got from home depot on that side it feels just right at noon in the winter sun.
the east side is great for dinner in the evening or eating outside at sunrise a coffee and roll.
the north side has nothing at the moment.
the west side is nice in the morning and for sun bathing.

chairs you can move around and regroup are nice.
the bar chairs we use to look at the stars at night with a small high table for drinks.

we have a gas outdoor fireplace but they make really nice ones now that do not have to be builtin. we have a strict fire burn code here.

wood is too high maintenance here and falls apart after a few years. your area may do better. we have no rust worries or mold worries but your area may have both. the seats are getting older now and I just turned them over and they are fine.

we seem to gravitate the most to the nice chairs (2) right outside the kitchen door and it has about a 5 feet over hang. with a small table between the chairs.

no real plants but a large blue clay turtle and a few pretty large glazed pots with rocks and dried flowers.

We have metal furniture, I believe by a company called Plantation Patterns, that I love. It is totally maintenance free. The only problem I had was a little bit of rust on the chairs that I left to get covered in snow one winter. After that, I just kept the chairs closer to the house so they wouldn’t have snow sitting on them for long periods of time.

Each chair glides and rocks a bit which is nice, and we have a small two person glider too. We had to replace our umbrella twice but the furniture will be around for a long time. I like the look of wicker and outdoor cushioned furniture but I’m not willing to deal with bugs, mold, mildew or even water.