Ah, summertime – and the pleasant prospect of sipping iced tea on the porch. But you’d never relax there in a wooden rocker with your feet on a needlepoint stool, right? Savvy homeowners know that outdoor rooms require decor that can withstand the elements – not random pieces you’ve dragged up from the basement.
Indeed, designing for your porch or patio is arguably trickier than designing any room inside your house. You’re walking a tightrope to make it elegant yet comfortable – and durable so that you’re not buying new furniture every spring. Don’t despair! We’ve got what you need to master this space. Check out these seven tips for stylish porch decor that won’t rust, tarnish, melt, or fall apart.
1. Be wary of metal
The first lesson in the science of porch decor is to choose metal pieces carefully, particularly if you live in an area where the air is salty. You can have some metal, but only if it’s rust-resistant, such as wrought iron, or has been treated with Rust-Oleum. But everything else opens you up to problems down the road.
“This includes screws, frames, hardware – anything will oxidize, rust, and discolor quickly and destroy the design,” says Kimberly Paulus, interior decorator and owner of Dec Den Interiors Fort Bend County, in Texas.
2. Acrylic and high-density plastic is king
So if metal is out, what is in? Acrylic’s the answer! The clear plastic that looks like glass is the darling of porch design.
“Don’t let its airy appearance fool you – it’s actually an incredibly durable material and a great contrast to traditional wicker, rattan, and iron,” says Bea Pila of B. Pila Design, in Miami. And the translucent factor allows your gaze to travel easily to the yard or garden, she adds.
Carole Marcotte, the design genius behind Form & Function, in Raleigh, NC, prefers outdoor furniture made from recycled high-density plastic products.
“It’s widely available, practically indestructible, and comes in lots of colors,” she notes.
Wicker, while fine, is a cleaning nightmare. “Pollen settles into all those nooks and crannies, so I’d rather have low-maintenance furniture,” she says.
3. Know your fabric facts
Look for these key words when shopping for outdoor pillows and upholstery: waterproof, washable, and mildew- and fade-resistant.
“Acetate-based fabrics are perfectly durable and made in such a way that you can’t tell the difference between them and indoor versions,” Pila notes.
Outdoor fabrics will last a good while, especially if you store them inside when it rains, Marcotte adds. “Or they can be left outside indefinitely on a covered porch.”
4. Ceiling fans will be your salvation
You can’t always count on a natural breeze, so consider a ceiling fan to stir up the air and cool off your space during the dog days of summer.
“A fan can help extend the useful season of your outdoor space,” Paulus says. Plus, not only does a fan cool the air, it can also keep mosquitoes from landing on your guests and push barbecue smoke into the yard.
And whether you want design that’s elegant, rustic, or somewhere in between, the looks are endless.
“Today’s homeowners can choose from a vast selection of styles, including brushed bronze, distressed walnut, and more,” says David Gray, sales manager in the professional division at Lamps Plus.
Really want to cool things off? Consider a misting fan or system that can be set up along your porch ceiling or pergola.
5. Find the right floor coverings
“Carpets made from synthetic fibers like nylon, rayon, polyester, or acrylic are generally waterproof, stain-resistant, and easy to clean,” explains Craig Jenkins-Sutton, co-founder and president of Topiarius, a gardening and landscaping design firm in Chicago.
You’ll want to look for a rug that’s 100% polypropylene and has a tag that says it’s UV-stabilized, which means the rug will resist mildew, mold, and fading.
Have a wood porch or deck?
“Look for floor coverings made from recycled plastics, as they trap less water and are less apt to cause wood to rot than natural fibers,” he advises.
6. When it comes to art, sculptures survive
If you want to go all in with your outdoor space and add some art, choose wisely: Your decorative touches will have to endure some wind and rain.
“Canvas pieces will suffer outside, so I lean toward sculptural works,” Pila says.
Traditional materials include stone and steel, though glass is a good option, too. “You can also take a dramatic piece of driftwood or petrified wood and place it on a pedestal,” Pila adds.
“Metal wall hangings, metal mirrors, ceramic candle sconces and garden sculptures will all weather well on a porch or patio,” Marcotte adds.
7. Weigh it down
Flimsy candlesticks and plastic platters won’t stand a chance when the breeze picks up. Instead, look for accessories that have weight, Paulus says.
“Clay pots, even if they’re hand-painted, will stand up to the wind,” she notes. Stone planters, metal lanterns, and heavy decorative trays also fit the bill.