James Farmer tells us how to make the most of our porches
Photography by Helen Norman
Written by James Farmer III
Porches are a classic fixture on any traditional home. Once shady places to greet neighbors and retreat from a thunderstorm, they now serve as extensions of our gardens, al fresco dining rooms, a place to cuddle next to a fire, or the perfect spot for an afternoon nap. Author, designer, gardener, cook, and all-around Southern style expert James Farmer spills his secrets to building the perfect porch from his new book, Porch Living  (Gibbs Smith).
Above, a Maryland stone farmhouse affords views of the lush countryside. This porch is the perfect perch to soak up such gorgeous, bucolic views. Indoor/outdoor fabrics pair with garden collections—the colors of fresh begonias and an antique trowel and bucket harmonize with the striped pillow and cushion.
Leading the way from this home’s lower porch to a grassy lawn beyond the gate, a set of bluestone steps (and in turn, porch floor) melds the two spaces well. Using the same flooring material from the garden to the porch is a surefire way to make the spaces cohesive.
A porch can definitely be more than rockers and wicker. A sofa covered in indoor/outdoor fabric makes for the ideal spot to nap, read,or enjoy a candlelit evening.
Tuscan style in a Southern city, this porch boasts grand scale and thus the furnishings should as well. Large andirons project from the hearth, beckoning for a luxurious fire to be enjoyed while dining al fresco.
With the combination of fair weather and a comfy bed, what better place is there to sleep than a sleeping porch? Be sure to feather your porch nest with your plush favorites, such as pillows and plantings that make you smile.
Shall we gather? A square, painted wooden base and a thick square glass top make a wonderful table. Simple, stylish, and clean-lined, this porch nods to the past with warm, worn chairs and screening but embraces today with simplicity. Accents of green mimic the foliage just beyond this gracious spot.
Keeping the color scheme reminiscent of the landscape beyond—tree bark taupes and browns, earthy sand and sienna hues, garden greens and sky and aqua blues—balances the hybrid feel of a porch itself: part indoors, part outdoors.
Take in the view: A sweeping vista seen through a large window leads you outward from the porch and visually connects the landscape to the porch proper. With marsh views and a deepwater dock just down the pier, today’s fresh catch may certainly become tonight’s supper!
See details on the following slide.
Dining Table Details
Taking elements from nature—such as shells and petals—and weaving them around a hurricane lantern makes a great centerpiece.
Festive Porch Entertaining
Island chic is de rigueur for this coastal Georgia porch. An artful mix and playful pattern make this the ideal spot for porch living!
Porch Living Space
An earthy palette and seasonal delights set the theme for this bucolic porch. Native stone and timbers add ambience and set the tone for the architecture.
Dining Al Fresco
Flowers from the garden bedeck the table, while colors from nature inspire the setting for this porch. Views into the landscape invite you to linger at the table and take in the lovely surroundings.
Simplicity can be so elegant. Painting the floor and furnishings all the same shade gives a cool, monochromatic depth to any porch, and allows for the porch to blend into the garden beyond.