When Martha Zamorano wants to unwind, she knows exactly where to go.
“I’ll sit out on my porch, curl up with a cup of coffee or tea, and I just listen to the birds, or watch the sky change,” she says. “I love the open airiness of a patio, and I love being so close to nature because there’s something very tranquil about it.”
Porches. As much as we love them, we often don’t use them — at least not as often as families did decades ago. At dusk, they’d gather on their porches to enjoy the cool of the night. But the 1950s brought air conditioning and television, so families were quick to retreat to the comforts of indoors.
But now, many homeowners want to occasionally leave those modern amenities behind.
“In today’s world, it’s just kind of nice to be somewhere in your house where there’s no TV blaring, no radio playing, no phone ringing — it’s just you and nature,” Zamorano says.
That mentality has led to a porch comeback, but today’s version has a new twist.
“Homeowners are now screening-in porches,” says architect Juris Laivins. “People want to recapture that sense of being outdoors, but without the mosquitoes — hence the screens. When you’re inside, you don’t hear raindrops falling, leaves rustling, crickets chirping, birds singing — and people miss that. Screened porches are a way to be back in touch with nature without ever having to go outside.”
Plus, says Peter Hajeck of Breezewood Development, “Screened porches are a great way to maximize living space. This is especially true when you consider land prices today — you just want to maximize the house you already have. You’re also increasing living space without increasing your heating and air conditioning bill.”
And in the North Texas climate, Hajeck says screened porches can pretty much be used all year, so homeowners really get their money’s worth. Plus, they add to the resale value of a home.
BEFORE YOU BUILD
First consider what rooms are, or will be, attached to the porch because you want the porch to flow with the indoor design and color scheme, Laivins says. You also want the porch to look like it’s part of your home’s original structure, so if you have an older house, your porch should match that style.
Next, hit the drafting table.
“It’s always a good idea to work the details out on paper,” Laivins says, “Now that’s an architect’s bias, but if you don’t put some serious thought into the design, the cost goes up because you have to go back and add or redo things.”
When designing your porch, Laivins says it’s important to pay attention to details such as electrical sockets and ceiling fans.
“Ceiling fans keep the air circulating,” Laivins says.
“A lot of homeowners put waterfalls just outside the porch because they add a soothing, natural sound and attract birds, so it’s scenic,” Laivins says. “Count Rumford fireplaces are also very popular for porches because they’re very efficient at radiating heat back into the room.”
And because families are starting to use these screened porches as hangout spots, electrical wiring for televisions and radios is increasingly common, and Hajeck says he’s seeing more customized porches.
“I recently finished one home that had a few large dogs living there, so we included a doggie door to accommodate that family’s lifestyle,” he says. “Those are the types of things we’re doing to make porches practical for the family that’s going to be using it.”
Although screened porches may feel like part of your home’s interior, Laivins says it’s important to remember that they’re exposed to the elements.
“Heavy rain will pour into the porch, so it’s important to make sure the floor has some type of draining to prevent flooding, and make sure you get durable outdoor furniture — teakwood furniture tends to do very well,” he says. “And air moisture can also rust some metals, so look for metal that’s made specifically for outdoors.”
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