Enjoy your porch long after summer's faded. This one features all the right perks.
Warm Up—Outside
Credit: Laurey W. Glenn / Styling Leigh Anne Montgomery

Picture a tranquil porch that's just right for lounging or hosting a pleasant get-together with friends. But before you assume there's lemonade and sliced watermelon, imagine cups of hot cocoa and the soothing warmth of a nearby fireplace. That's right―porches can be enjoyed well into the cooler months.

A Chimney Out Back
There was a time when homeowners Robert and Jill Thomas could only host parties on a raised deck during warm weather. Their Tulsa, Oklahoma, home interacted little with its surroundings. Wanting a more reliable way to stay outside and under cover, the couple called upon architects Stephen Turner and Jeremy Perkins for help.

To create an effortless flow between the home's interior and exterior, the architects positioned the new back porch just beyond the family room. "We also created a wall containing the fireplace, cabinets, and a wood storage cubby to give the porch a focal point and to screen it from neighbors and the harsh western sun," Jeremy explains. They carried some of the same materials, such as white, stuccoed walls, flagstone flooring, and rough-hewn cedar beams, outside.

Perfect for Parties
The porch sports a vaulted ceiling and built-in cabinetry of matching material. "We keep a TV inside the upper cabinet to watch during football games or PGA tournaments, particularly when people want to warm up by the fire," Robert says.

On cool evenings the couple entertain friends around the raised hearth. "In the winter, we put quilts on the chairs, pull them close around the hearth, and build a huge fire," Robert says. He also keeps the wood storage cubby well-stocked by periodically adding more logs from a cord hidden out of sight. "The stacked wood is part of the presentation of the porch, assuring guests that there's plenty of timber to keep the blaze going," says Robert.

What better way to prepare for cooler weather than to set aside a place for enjoying it?

"Warm Up–Outside" is from the November 2007 issue of Southern Living.