Spring is on the way. The leaves are popping, flowers bursting and outdoor living is on our minds. But, along with the enticement to get outside and breath in that freshly perfumed air come some unwanted guests too…daytime flies and evening mosquitoes are the worst, and pop-up showers can put a damper on your plans to enjoy the best nature has to offer. The answer to solve all these problems for many a Berkshire homeowner is simple…the screened porch.
Over my past 20+ years as an architectural designer in the Berkshires, I’ve found a screened porch is probably the most-requested feature in nearly every home I design. Whether an independent addition, a broader renovation or new construction, the importance of providing a space that’s both open and airy while avoiding the undesirable elements is always a good investment.
Relatively speaking, a screened porch is a cost-effective way to gain the additional space we seem to need throughout the good-weather seasons. Since they don’t need a full foundation, insulation, pricey windows and doors, or heated like the rest of the house, the per-square foot cost can be significantly lower and the construction schedule shorter. That said, a porch can range in size and level of finish almost more than any other element of a house, so your imagination need have no limits except budget. I’ve seen every scale of porch from an enclosed second floor balcony off a bedroom to a full two-story porch replete with fireplaces on both levels.
Three-season porches are a next-level option, too, with screened panels that interchange with glass or Plexiglas to effectively extend the seasonal use. I designed my own porch by creating the walls with Combi-view screened doors fixed in place, and have since used this technique on a dozen other porch solutions. The pre-fab doors come with simple hardware that allows panel change-out with tempered glass or screens as the weather warms and vice versa. We’ve had Thanksgiving dinners on ours with the addition of a space heater and get a full nine months or more of use out of it.
HERE ARE FIVE PRO TIPS To HELP YOU PLAN YOUR SCREENED PORCH LIFESTYLE:
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
SCALE AND ROOFLINES
SIZE AND FUNCTIONS
LEVEL OF FINISH
ELECTRICAL and LIGHTING
Location. Typically, a screened porch should have easy access to the kitchen, is usually on the back of the house for privacy, placed so as to capture any views without blocking those from your main living spaces, and near your grilling area. Think about where you will catch good cross breezes, and whether the location is sunny or shady. If you have a pool, the porch can double as a pool house, or it can be a guest crash pad when the kids bring home their college friends.
Scale and Rooflines. How does the porch relate to the look and style of your house, and how will the water drain off in those summer downpours? Generous overhangs go a long way in keeping rain out, but sometimes gutters are required.
Size and Functions. Will your porch be mostly a dining space, or would you like to have a large seating area for entertaining and napping? Plan it with real furniture in mind, as the options in outdoor furnishings have greatly expanded.
Level of finish. The options are limitless. Do you prefer rustic, modern, minimalism, or a fully trimmed-out and painted interior? Decking options vary, too, from stone and tile to mahogany, cedar, synthetics, or my current favorite, Thermory (a steamed ash wood chemical-free product). As you typically don’t have walls to focus on, don’t skimp on your flooring, both from a durability and an aesthetic perspective. And ceilings really set the tone. Exposed structure adds to that “porchy” feel; low-maintenance materials, like painted bead-board with shiplap paired with cedar shake walls, lend a more finished look.
Electrical. Don’t forget electrical needs, like waterproof floor outlets, cove lighting or chandeliers and sconces that add to the ambiance you want to create. A damp-location ceiling fan can help out on those occasional hot August nights. Some of my more romantic clients use real candle fixtures (protected by glass hurricanes) for that warm evening glow, but, in any case, veer toward the warmer 2,700 k. bulbs. Fixed rod chandeliers do better than ones on chains — there will be wind. There’s nothing quite like the look of a screened porch, filled with loved ones enjoying a worry-free evening and glowing like a lantern in your back yard or garden.
So go ahead, get bit by the porch bug, not the mosquito!
Robin Schultz, who has an interior design practice both in the New York metropolitan area and in the Berkshires, has created a new home that combines warm welcoming grand rooms with cozy intimate spaces.