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.
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.
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.
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.