Small but mighty, this porch has really come through.
Small but mighty, this porch has really come through.

But, sadly, in the two decades we’ve lived in this home, rarely have I spent more than 10 consecutive minutes relaxing on my porch.

Invariably, as soon as I’d sit down, the phone would ring, one of my children would need a ride to practice, or another interruption would curtail the peaceful interlude I’d hoped to have.

And so our porch sat there, unused for decades.

And then the coronavirus pandemic hit.

How the pandemic made my porch more important than ever

Once COVID-19 compelled us to hunker down at home, our day to day ground to a frightening halt. Suddenly, my family of five was home together all the time, indefinitely.

As weeks dragged into months, we sought out less-inhabited areas of our home, desperate for a bit of solitude. Searching for a new, quiet space led me back to my front porch.

Unfortunately, over the years, I’d neglected the very thing that made me fall in love with our home. Leaves, old newspapers, and sporting equipment were piled in the corners. Spiders were making more use of this area than we were. Luckily, no big fixes were required, and after a good sweeping, power washing, and window cleaning, the space looked better than it had in years.

While I would’ve loved to have done some serious online shopping to transform my porch into a Pinterest-worthy oasis, the economic downturn made me cost-conscious, and I decided to hunt around my backyard to make do with what I already owned.

I moved a small table onto the porch and began working out there. Aside from a few curious birds and squirrels, it was delightfully quiet compared with inside our home.

My new outdoor office

My new outdoor office                                                by: Liz Alterman

As summer rolled around, we were eager to reconnect with our neighbors. Because indoor dining wasn’t an option and most of us weren’t comfortable venturing into one another’s homes yet, we set up a larger table on the porch and put a fan in the window to keep air circulating.

I joked with our guests, “Pretend you’ve been seated in the porch section of a restaurant—just don’t expect great service.”

Embracing the outdoor dining movement

Embracing the outdoor dining movement              By:Liz Alterman

This space was so pleasant compared with my mosquito-filled backyard, I began inviting friends there to join me for drinks. Even as a thunderstorm blew through town, we were able to sit out there sheltered and dry. It made me wonder: How had I not been doing this for years?

Before long, even my kids recognized the charm of our porch.

My son enjoying fresh air and a private reading nook

My son enjoying fresh air and a private reading nook

Adding some comfortable furniture and other touches has made porch time more pleasant as well.

As Emilie Baltorinic, an interior designer at Living Space, points out, “It’s the first thing you see when you get home, and the last thing you see when you leave, which means it should put a smile on your face.”

With that in mind, I added plants for a burst of color.

Seasonal plantings provide a warm welcome.

Seasonal plantings provide a warm welcome.            

By rotating furniture to fit my needs, I’m making the most of the porch, and it seem as if I’ve added a whole new room to my house. Hoping to make the most of this space even as the weather cools, I turned to designers for their advice on how to decorate my front porch so it’s as comfy as can be. Here’s their advice.

Bring interior comforts outside

Add a focal point to your porch with a rug.

Add a focal point to your porch with a rug.

Kriss Swint of Royal Building Products recommends covering up that cold floor with an outdoor rug (Amazon.com, $31.99).

“Layer rugs for a cozy look and added texture,” says Swint. “Consider using a patterned outdoor rug on top of a durable jute rug. The top layer will add a pop of color to your exterior, and the natural fibers of the jute rug help to add texture. Select rugs that are made for outdoor use for easy cleaning.”

Baltorinic suggests adding extra pillows and a heavy blanket to enjoy this space even when there’s a chill in the air.

Hang porch curtains

Waterproof and fade-resistant, these curtains are easy to hang and remove.

Waterproof and fade-resistant, these curtains are easy to hang and remove.

“Keep cold winds out and lock heat in by hanging outdoor curtains,” says Swint. “They also create intimacy and privacy to your space. Choose outdoor fabric or use waterproofing spray on fabrics like cotton or burlap.”

Light it up

Hang these lanterns or set them on the table.

Hang these lanterns or set them on the table.

The first sign of winter is it gets dark before dinnertime, notes Julia Turner, design director at Rings End.

“To encourage you to use your outdoor space after nightfall, invest in more than the standard porch light,” says Turner. Use string lights, solar lights (Amazon.com, $23.99), or even candles to light up outdoor space.

“There might be enough sun to power a string of lights draped along an eave or criss-cross through a container arrangement,” Turner adds. “You can also choose path lights available in different styles for bringing light to an entryway.”

It’s a shame it took a pandemic for me to rediscover my porch, but now that I have, that’s where you’ll find me.