Whatever your schedule, find some downtime in an outside space that's as well-dressed as your living room.
Kick Back on a Pretty Porch
Credit: Photography John O'Hagan / Styling Mindi Shapiro Levine

In our mad-rush world these days, simple pleasures such as porch-sitting often get bumped to a distant wish list. It seems that something else always requires attention--but not for Belinda and Richard Gergel. Come rain or shine, and despite hectic days and a full calendar, they seek time to enjoy their front porch.

Comfort Amid the Commotion
The Gergels' porch is just the place for relaxing in quiet solitude or visiting with a friend. Located in the heart of Columbia, South Carolina, the 1909 Colonial Revival home beckons you to stop and admire. As it turns out, many do. "Because we are just a couple of blocks from the University of South Carolina's campus, we see a constant flow of students, professors, and college faculty throughout the day," Belinda says. "It's just neat to people-watch while sitting unnoticed on my porch swing or in my wicker rocker."

Richard enjoys this outdoor spot as well, when he can catch some time away from his law practice. With two sons, Richie and Joseph, Richard and Belinda stay on the go, managing activities and busy schedules as well as devoting their energies to the Historic Columbia Foundation, which undertakes preservation efforts throughout the city. "Still, even if it's a simple matter of opening the mail or reading the morning paper, Richard and I head out the front door to find a seat in the shade," Belinda explains. "It just connects us to our neighborhood and community."Our Favorite Tips for a Perfect Porch

  • Decorate your front porch like a living room, complete with fresh outdoor fabrics, comfortable furniture, and even a weather-resistant lamp or two.
  • Pile fluffy pillows on swings and rocking chairs for added softness.
  • To accommodate people and furniture comfortably, the minimum porch depth to aim for is 6 feet; 8 feet is recommended, and 10 feet is ideal.
  • If you have an underused porch, consider replacing some of your windows with French doors. (Consult a reputable contractor for removing the required wall area and properly installing the doors.)
  • Place potted plants and pretty flowers all around.

"Kick Back on a Pretty Porch" is from the July 2006 issue of Southern Living.