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13 Gorgeous Outdoor Living Areas
The best of Cottage Style's open-air living rooms
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Pretty porches are a hallmark of cottage-style homes. Boasting fresh breezes and sounds of nature, these outdoor rooms are the perfect place to relax and enjoy a good book, or gather with friends for a casual dinner. Thoughtful decor choices let the spaces mesh with their surroundings and interior rooms for an easy indoor-outdoor flow.
This WaterColor, Florida, home’s side porch entry—an architectural feature inspired by Charleston Single Houses—is the first sign that indoor and outdoor, casual and exotic, are free to mingle. Designer Georgia Carlee made this area feel like a room with chunky wicker armchairs, billowy linen curtains, and a wood-burning brick fireplace. The porch is a favorite spot for the homeowners to gather, watch sunsets, and chat by the fire. A boldly painted bench and bistro chairs provide flexible seating for impromptu meals, board games, and lounging.
Shazalynn Cavin-Winfrey, an interior designer in the Washington, D.C., area, naturally took the reins when it came the renovation her family's cedar-shake-clad cottage in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains. Her goal: preserve the cottage’s rich history while introducing 21st-century comforts and conveniences. To ensure they kept the cottage’s character intact, Shazalynn drew design inspiration from the woodsy surroundings. “The blues come from the sky. The greens come from the trees. The flora and the fauna—they’re right outside the front door,” Shazalynn says.
Outdoor fabrics and plenty of plush pillows make this porch ideal for outdoor living. “This is where we spend most of our time in the nicer weather,” Shazalynn says. “A lot of napping goes on here—cocktailing, too,” Shazalynn says.
Although petite, the front porch of Tracy Abanin and Bill Wills’ Tallahassee, Florida, home abounds with personality thanks to pops of cool blue hues found on the painted shutters and door, a vintage wicker chair with peeling paint, and a plant stand overflowing with hydrangeas.
Tracy shares decorating ideas and tips on a blog, fleamarkettrixie.com. There, she offers details on how she furnished her screen porch for less than $100 and shows the progress on the kitchen she and Bill remodeled with more creativity and ingenuity than money. “I try to think outside the box when I see things,” Tracy says. “I get a nice, pretty look but haven’t spent much. It’s satisfying and gratifying.”
The entire screen porch was furnished for less than $100, using flea market bargains and a “rug” made from a vinyl-flooring remnant turned upside down and painted.
Furnished with mod wicker seating and lushly overflowing containers, the screened porch of this Tybee Island, Georgia, cottage is an ideal spot to cool down after a day at the beach.
On the main level, walls of 1×6-inch horizontal cedar planks and tongue-and-groove panel ceilings meld with cool slate floors reminiscent of the original concrete of this family home. A crisp white palette reflects the past, while airy beach hues and a few punches of bold color bring the spaces to life.
In architectural deigner Louise Brooks' Long Island home, the ethereal color choices to the unfussy furnishings and features were chosen to amplify the generous play of sunlight flowing through abundant, view-focused windows. “White is my favorite color,” Louise says, “and we just added some sea-blue turquoises in the kitchen and bedroom for a coastal feel.”
Her good friend and interior designer Lynn Morgan supports Louise’s aesthetic. “In this particular house, it’s the views that were the inspiration,” Morgan explains. “You look out to their beautiful terrace overlooking the water and the boats. It just called for serenity. We decided to keep it white and maybe do some coastal gray colors. It’s really what the rooms called for.”
A tall wall of Bermuda shutters provides shelter, ventilation, and privacy for this outdoor dining spot.
Mere walking distance from the Gulf of Mexico and on 6 acres of wooded land, this cottage in Santa Rosa Beach—a “Florida cracker” in local parlance—recently underwent a stunning transformation. Every room, from the wraparound porch to the airy living room to the tucked-away studio in the backyard, was washed in the attitude of the outdoors. “I never get tired of these colors,” homeowner Sherry Sandquist says of the blues, greens, and grays that fleck her home.
The Sandquists added their wraparound screen porch while remodeling. Pillows, tables, and shelves with tints of gray and blue can draw the eye in.
Though Harbor Springs, Michigan, is an active, water-oriented community where residents spend sunny days swimming, building sand castles, boating, and bicycling, interior designer Carrie Blanck eschewed common symbols of nautical kitsch in this cottage. “Nothing says a house on water needs to go overboard with anchors and boats,” Blanck says. “Those kinds of clichés can be overdone—just a touch is great.” Case in point: the cottage’s jaunty navy and white porch. “It’s probably the most nautical public space in the house because of its color palette,” Blanck says, “yet it’s not actually nautical—navy and white is simply a classic combo. On a porch, it looks great with flags for the Fourth of July, and it looks just as great with pink and yellow flower baskets the rest of the summer.”
To spruce up the space, existing maple floors and narrow fir beaded board that climbs nearly every wall and covers most ceilings, too were given fresh coats of paint. Blanck adorned vintage wicker furnishings with crisp new navy and white cushions. Glossy gray flooring masks sand and dirt; a blue ceiling deters birds from nesting.
Nowadays, wonderful words come to Elizabeth Beeler when she describes her Birmingham, Alabama, home: inviting, interesting, enchanting. But she’s also quick to point out that it was the worst house on the block when she bought it. The 700-square-foot Spanish/Mediterranean bungalow, built in 1931, had been vacant for some time and fallen into disrepair. But Elizabeth, a magazine stylist and interior designer, fell in love with its authenticity and charm.
Elizabeth turned the tiny front porch into living space by hanging curtains, stenciling the concrete floor, and adding rattan chairs and striped cushions.
Taking dreams and translating them into spectacular realities is an everyday matter for Amy Mattingly, an Atlanta-based interior designer. Specializing in hospitality design throughout her professional life helped her transform this beach home in idyllic WaterColor, Florida, into both a family vacation destination for her husband and three children and a rental venture.
A large screen porch stretches across one side of the home. With the fuss-free style of a vintage lake cottage, this multipurpose area is the preferred spot for taking in stunning water views, enjoying meals, and bonding over board games or conversation. Nautical-inspired accents such as iron lanterns and vintage oars add a layer of sophistication while remaining true to the location’s coastal culture.
As Friday afternoon nears the Moesch family shifts into weekend mode at their vacation home on Tybee Island, Georgia. “We make sure all the bicycles are working and have air in the tires,” Julie says. “Then we fix cocktails, grill out, and chase the sunset from porch to porch.”
Painting porch ceilings an ethereal shade of blue is a coastal tradition. Deck chairs wear teal-green stain. The secondhand wicker table and new Adirondack-style chairs meld summery styles.
Breezy & Bright
To artfully balance a love of tradition and a desire for fresh, family-friendly design, interior designer Carrie Blanck looked to a single color. Never bland or boring, an energizing thread of blue runs through every room in this remodeled Harbor Springs, Michigan, home. No space, inside or out, is left untouched. Walls, furniture, soft goods, and accessories come alive with shades of cobalt, cerulean, teal, and more.
On the front porch, bright white columns and wicker furniture set the background for interior designer Carrie Blanck’s energizing mix of aqua and azure cushions. A powder blue ceiling and a denim-tone rug play with the cool-hue palette.
This family’s 1978 Dutch Colonial in Raleigh is filled with projects that have been featured on homeowner Brittany Bailey’s blog, Pretty Handy Girl.
The best way to enjoy Raleigh’s temperate climate is away from the mosquitoes on a screen porch. Outfitted with a mix of DIY furnishings featured on Brittany’s blog, the space is one of the family’s favorite places to relax, entertain, and work.
As the owner of her own design firm, Holly Shipman knew how she wanted the Grayton Beach, Florida, home where she and husband Gary live to look and feel. “Our beach community is teeming with incredible architecture,” Holly says, noting the area’s acclaimed new urbanist towns. “I wanted a blend of the courtyard houses of Rosemary and Alys Beach and the modest concrete cottages of Old Grayton.”
Holly worked closely with architect Tammy Massey to craft a home aligned with the natural setting and tough enough to hold up to three dogs and lots of visitors. A fresh translation of traditional precedents, the two-story home features graceful proportions and old-world craftsmanship. Classic stucco, timber framing, deep overhangs, and a metal roof give the exterior heft. The rambling floor plan creates a mostly one-room-deep home with abundant windows and French doors that merge indoors and outdoors. Floors of river-recovered pine with a dark-honed finish lay a soothing foundation, while a steeply pitched ceiling injects airiness into the open living and dining area.
Gracious outdoor rooms wrap the home’s exterior, presenting an open invitation to linger and relax. The covered dining porch faces the bay and provides the perfect spot for alfresco meals and soul-stirring sunsets.