- Make your front porch a welcoming place where you’ll want to relax, work, and spend time.
- Rugs, plants, furniture, and lighting are all ways to make your outdoor space feel warm and inviting.
- Structural additions like columns or ceiling fans can have a huge effect on how you use your space.
Designing a comfortable outdoor space has never felt more crucial. “The outdoors are the new indoors,” says Brigette Romanek, designer and founder of Romanek Design Studio. When we take advantage of all the space we have at home by making the most of our backyards and porches, it offers us another oasis to enjoy.
Kim Gordon of Kim Gordon Designs says your front porch should “beckon” visitors and be easy to access and take advantage of. “Furniture has to be flowing correctly,” she says. “If there’s a piece of furniture in the way, you’re not going out there.”
From wrap-around dream porches with tons of space to the small, underutilized patio in the city, here are 15 tips from pro designers to decorate your outdoor space.
Utilize chic lighting
Create welcoming lighting for your outdoor space. “Lighting is so important,” Romanek says. “There’s nothing like a perfectly lit evening. Whether it’s the magic hour permeating, or a warm, inviting energy outside, there’s nothing like it.”
“The lighting has to be dimmable,” says Gordon. “It’s always the most underrated thing. If you can put the light on a timer, it goes ‘ding,’ it’s like a little doorbell reminding me to go outside and get my eyes off the computer.” She suggests outdoor lamps as well as string Edison lights. “They are LED, so they don’t use a lot of energy.”
Place a bistro table on a small porch
For those with a front porch and not a lot of space, get a bistro set. “Immediately when someone says bistro, it’s going to be a table that’s small in diameter,” says Romanek. “It allows you to have cups of coffee on the table, small plates, and seating. It’ll give you that sense of being in the French countryside right on your front porch.”
Add a multipurpose table
A minimalist addition to a porch that adds elegance is a table, work cart, or even a bar cart. It won’t take up too much space and offers plenty of possibilities to propagate plants, work on projects, and place outdoor decorations. Look for a versatile piece you can move if you need to rearrange the porch.
Make it eclectic
Add some simple, stylish macrame pieces for eclectic, cottagecore energy. Aim for stylish elements like macrame plant hangers that you can attach to a tree or a hook on the ceiling of your outdoor space. If you have a wall, try for a woven macrame sacred geometry art piece like a dream catcher.
Features an outdoor rug
The quality and durability of outdoor rugs make them an easy way to class up the porch. “Modern outdoor rugs are spectacular,” says Romanek. “If you wanted to put a rug on your porch, you could do that with some pillows that tell the same story. There are so many different ways you can go, to make it unique and make it your own.”
Grow your own herbs
An herb garden can be fit into almost any outdoor space. And you’ll always have the herbs you need, freshly picked from the porch. “There’s something really lovely about tending to this outdoor space,” says Gordon. “It gives you this connection, a reason to go out there, to be caring for the plants.” She recommends a low, off-the-ground planter or hanging pots. Bonus? “Herbs smell pretty,” says Gordon.
Columns are often load-bearing and found on older homes and wrap-around porches. But they add another element of design — drawing your eye up and giving the porch a certain symmetry. Non-structural columns can be added for decoration. Wrap them with string lights or hang plants from their rafters. If you’re able to safely add them in construction, or simply take advantage of preexisting columns, do it.
Create a color story
Don’t shy away from indulgent in a pop of color. You can match your door trim to your rug or welcome mat, choose furniture in bright, bold colors, or buy colorful planters in order to tell a story in the space. Find your favorite palette of colors that blend together nicely.
Beat the heat
Adding fans to the porch can extend its use throughout the seasons. You can build them into your porch’s portico if it has one, or place freestanding ones around the seating area. Just make sure they’re rated for outdoor use.
Add a porch swing
A porch swing offers a moment of relaxation and a picturesque space for photos. It creates a cozy spot to read or enjoy your morning coffee, and you can affix one directly to your porch’s overhang or buy a freestanding one. Decorate the swing with some pillows or a side table. A porch swing is such a statement piece that you don’t need much else.
Center comfortable furniture
Creating a seating area on your porch is the most important aspect. “Every single surface is a place where you can do something fun or cool or interesting,” says Romanek. “If you have the room on your porch, a nice seating area is great. Whether it’s built-in, a movable couch, seating space is essential.”
“Spend some money on the seating,” Gordon says. “If you have no space, it’s all seating. I like a lounge-bed or large sectional, I don’t mind if it’s outdoors. I’m not going to say that a small space shouldn’t be eaten up by the couch . It can be delicate, but make it all about lounging.”
Use elevated outdoor fabrics
Fabrics can help make your porch feel like “an extension of your interior,” says Romanek. “With all the different performance and outdoor fabrics that are available now, it’s easy. Those fabrics used to clearly look like outdoor fabrics,” she says. “Now, you can mimic fabrics outdoors, even down to a velvet.”
Grow plants for privacy
Front porches often encourage interaction with neighbors, but if you prefer to keep the space more private, you cannot go wrong by adding more plants. Higher planter boxes and plants can create a pretty barrier for more privacy from nearby neighbors. Gordon suggests gardenia or “any type of plant that smells beautiful, like blooming jasmine.”
Make it work-friendly
Keep the space clean and bring out some extension cords so you can get work done on the porch. “If you’re going to be out there with a computer, you best have electric cords,” says Gordon. A Wi-Fi extender can also work wonders to ensure you maintain internet access.
She also recommends a citronella candle to reduce pests. “I cannot tell you how many times you have a porch, it’s dusty, and you think, ‘maybe I don’t want there because there could be bugs.’ Anything like that will keep you from going out there.”
Rely on statement pieces
This wooden farm table and bench is a statement piece that Romanek loved from a recent design in the Hamptons. “It’s just two pieces, but it speaks volumes,” says Romanek. “They say welcome, sit down, take a load off. They really do bring value to the home. They bring an immediate sense of calm and inclusivity.”
There are many ways to make your porch interesting, welcoming, comfortable, and a place you’d like to spend more time. “If I have the opportunity for a porch, it’s really about getting the most out of it,” says Gordon. Don’t forget the details like lighting, color, texture, and even scents, and your outdoor space will become a feast for the senses.