Decorations and Decor · Parties and Visits · The Creative Corner

Make Your Porch a Summer Room

Illustration of a summer room front porch with a porch swing, rug, two chairs, and a small side table with a table lamp, reading books, and a plant.
Inviting furniture, outdoor lamps, and a few good books make a popular warm weather spot.

Doesn’t this scene make you want to curl up with a good book or that project you’ve been hoping to start? This is a perfect illustration of a porch used as a summer room. Before air conditioned houses and apartments people moved outdoors in warm weather. Houses were hot, and people needed alternatives.

Not only were houses hot, but they could also seem claustrophobic in warm weather. The very house that seemed so cozy during the wintertime might feel oppressive during the hot summer months. Changing curtains and pillows from winter to summer fabrics helped. The best result, however, came from moving meals and entertainment to a whole new area.

Living and dining outdoors

The porch became the summer living room, and sometimes the warm weather dining room as well. Breakfasting on the porch could be delightful in the right weather, not to mention weekend luncheons and weekday dinners.

Black and white photo of a wooden table and chairs on a tile outdoor patio floor. A light hangs from the ceiling and an open arch leads outdoors.
A small but effective outdoor eating area.

A visitor who stopped on a nice day rarely made it into the house during the summer months. The hostess didn’t lack in hospitality or manners. She entertained in the most inviting area possible. Drinks and snacks made their way from the household kitchen to the front porch for relaxed, breezy socializing.

A porch with screens fitted to porch openings was ideal, but not everyone had those. Usually the porch had some kind of roof or covering. You see that in all the examples shown here. To be cool, an outdoor oasis needed to be out of the sun. Even a good awning could provide that at the right time of day.

Inside of an enclosed front porch of a 1920s home. Two large windows to the left sit above two chairs and a small table. In the middle of the room a table for four sits. The table is decorated with a flower arrangement.
An enclosed porch offers space to get away and relax.

Furnishing the outdoor space

All rooms need furnishings and the outdoor summer room was no exception. Furniture included comfortable chairs, couches, and a small but sturdy occasional table. Sometimes the table was made of wicker, while other times one of painted wood took its place as book and lamp-holder. Even if the porch included a ceiling light in the center, a table lamp or two gave a nice touch of comfort to the outdoor room. (Be sure to keep it unplugged when not in use if it’s outdoors. Summer storms can be quick and violent, as we all know.)

An indoor/outdoor mat or rug often found its way to the porch for the summertime as well. It helped to contain dirt tracked from the street and made the area look a bit more homey.

Fabrics used for porch cushions and pillows needed to withstand the season’s changing weather then as they do now. Today you can purchase beautiful pads for outdoor furniture, or make your own from a fabric like Sunbrella. Fabrics of the Twenties included stripes in greens and browns, heavy denim weave fabrics in colors other than denim blue, and bright plastic-like oilcloth.

Porch decorated with wicker couch, two chairs, and two small tables. Trees and foliage appear in the background.
Festive stripes and wicker furniture decorate this porch room.

Most of all, the colors of a porch decorating scheme were bright and inviting. Small spots of red, yellow, and black might offer a welcome contrast to more cooling colors like greens, blues, lavenders, or grays. A red and gray pillow on a gray chair, for instance, is very vintage. And quite welcoming.

Take a look at your own outdoor space and see how it can become a vintage-style living room. If you want something to serve your first porch guests, you’ll find these Sweet and Savory Sandwiches quick to fix and easy to serve.