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On the Porch: Making Your Porch a Destination

Country life was foreign to me, yet it drew me in. It imprinted my soul in a way I still don’t fully understand.

My Magical Summer

I still remember the glorious summer we were sent to live with my grandparents while my mom finished her last college class. She was going to be stuck on campus for a few weeks that summer, so my brother and I stayed with family in rural Oklahoma.

Although that small town might have appeared run down to the casual observer, it was so different from my everyday city life it felt almost mystical. Even the food they served—fresh cantaloupe and blueberries—seemed exotic to me.

It was my first plane ride, and I was ready for the adventure. As I exited the plane, my best red and white polka dot dress floated in the air, as my Mary Jane shoes tip tapped down the jet way. My carefully plaited pig tails bounced stiffly.

Once we arrived at Grandma’s house, I unbuttoned my starched dress with the crinoline slip leaving it in a heap. I pulled on a thin, faded sundress from an older cousin. As the city clothes came off, I felt as if I were shedding the shackles of my rigid city life. I felt a freedom I had never felt before. Shoes weren’t necessary because we went barefoot almost everywhere.

Instead of the skyscrapers, subways and sounds of honking horns, there were cows, horses and sky. It felt so surreal to me that I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a unicorn walk by.  There were even mini-dinosaurs walking around during broad daylight. Someone else might have dismissed them as horned toads, but I knew they were related to Godzilla in some way. I captured one and began what can only be described as a one-sided relationship. “Ted” had commitment issues, but I was willing to look past that.

Country scene in the summer
photo by

I remember the hay’s smell when it rained and how the dry grass felt as it crunched under my feet. We climbed trees, chased rainbows and lived carefree outdoors. My arms, normally fair with scattered freckles, turned biscuit brown. My long hair tangled and knotted, and I began to resemble a wild creature.

We met my Great Uncle Leo who wore an eye patch. We were told he was an Indian and became terrified he would scalp us in our sleep. It turned out Uncle Leo hadn’t scalped anyone in years, except annoying children, according to my cousin Darrell. There were tales of Great Aunt Bell who married an Indian chief. She was one tough cookie, and at one point she killed a man who made the mistake of breaking into her house. And let’s not forget Aunt Theda who had a car accident with Bonnie Parker the female gangster of Bonnie and Clyde fame. The town’s bank had been robbed by Pretty Boy Floyd. It all sounded wild and exciting.

There were creek side family picnics with homemade ice cream, fresh tomatoes and fried chicken. We slept outdoors under the stars and explored a world of make-believe.

Country life was foreign to me, yet it drew me in. It imprinted my soul in a way I still don’t fully understand.

After dinner the adults would linger at the table laughing, and everything felt right. As the sky faded to black, we kids would get quieter hoping the adults would forget about calling us indoors for the evening. Fireflies came out to play drawing us farther and farther from the house. The world felt safe. We wanted everything to stay exactly as it was.

It didn’t. We grew up. I went to college to become an engineer. I no longer had time for fireflies; I became too sophisticated for country pleasures.

Then one day it all changed. My dad died suddenly. In that instant, I became a little girl again longing for the comfort of simpler days on the farm with my cousins. Even now I spend much of my life trying to recreate the childlike wonder and freedom of that magical summer.

rockers on the porch in Round Top Texas
photo by Anita Joyce

Making Your Porch a Destination

I’m not trying to recreate the look of my grandma’s porch but the feeling I had there. I want my family and friends to know that same sense of belonging, freedom and comfort. A porch is not just an outdoor room; it’s the gateway to the imagination. It represents liberty yet safety, acceptance and adventure. I want it to be THE place to be.

Here are five ways to make your porch a destination:

  1. Comfortable seating
    Add seating that’s comfortable. It can be a rocker, a bench, or even a bed. It just needs to be comfortable. You want a space that draws you outdoors, and that allure starts with a good place to sit. I love to use a daybed along with rockers and other chairs. I’ve even converted a few cribs into benches.

    daybed on back porch with day bed
    photo by Anita Joyce
  1. A place to eat
    Is it just me, or does everything taste better outdoors?  It’s a bit more work, but people love to enjoy a meal outside. We’ve got several outdoor tables for different times of the day and seasons. For example, the table on the front porch is great for breakfast or lunch when it’s chilly outside because the sun streams in to warm you. In the summer the front porch is too warm, so we move to the back porch where it’s shadier and breezy. We also have tables down by the creek where we can enjoy the sounds of babbling water.
  1. Lighting
    After dark you’ll need some light, and I love to use candles. Since it is usually breezy, I prefer to use hurricane glass around my candles so they stay lit. I’ve also used Chinese lanterns and string lights. You can find string lights that use batteries or AC power.
  1. Pillows and throws
    Pillows make the space more comfortable, and they look cozy. They’re inviting. A throw can add color and interest to the space. I strongly recommend bringing them in at night when they’re not in use. One morning I woke up to find the entire contents of one pillow strewn across my front lawn.

    table on porch in Round Top Texas
    photo by Anita Joyce
  1. A place to serve food and drinks
    It’s so welcoming to have drinks set up for guests to serve themselves. I use an antique ironing board as a sideboard some days. Other days I place drinks in buckets filled with ice under our cedar trees.
  1. All weather decor
    Just because the porch is outdoors doesn’t mean it can’t be as lovely as an indoor room. I like to bring much of my decor to the porch so it feels as inviting as the living room. I have artwork on the walls, a coffee table and chairs. The artwork is an old window screen that holds flowers, and the coffee table is an old beat up trunk. Everything has to hold up to the elements or be brought in every night. Our back porch becomes a wind tunnel at times, so I have to think about how things will handle the wind.

Whatever you do to make your porch special, just go outside and embrace the awaiting adventure—or you could just take a nap.

article and photos by Anita Joyce

Anita Joyce has a city house in Houston, a country house near Shelby and a flair for French style. The former engineer is a wife and mother as well as a self-taught photographer, interior designer, blogger and online entrepreneur who founded in 2011. Today that site alone has 80,000 unique visitors per month.

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