Pretty Porches: A Private Pleasure

by: Lisa Clair

The joy of a summer cottage is partly to be found in fresh sea breezes, bowers of roses tumbling from arches, and sunshine in a clear blue sky. Once we’ve put our toes in the sand, we can be reluctant to return indoors. Porches, patios, decks and terraces are, with just a little bit of effort, extended living rooms, providing shelter from the elements along with luxury and comfort.

Trudy Dujardin, FASID, LEED AP + ID + C and founder of Dujardin Design Associates, Inc., is a longtime Nantucket resident, so she knows a few things about outdoor living.

“Design doesn’t stop at the doorway,” she said. “There is nothing more relaxing than a sheltered spot that has all the best of the indoors and outdoors combined, including furniture designed for comfort, tables to hold drinks and an al fresco lunch, umbrellas to shade you from the heat of the sun, and beautiful blooming plants to make you feel like you’re on vacation, even with work in your lap.”

Nantucket is known for its sea-blue hydrangeas, trellises covered with pink and white climbing roses, and summer gardens of yellow daylilies, purple coneflowers, and black-eyed Susans. In the summertime, the foyer as a transitional space has given way to the garden gate, with paths and borders providing a tantalizing hint into the nature of the home.

Marty McGowan, owner of Pumpkin Pond Farm and the Sconset Gardener, agreed that plants are a home’s first welcome committee. He even has a name for the first planter you see on the right as you enter a property: The Greeter.

“You need one or two important planters,” he said. “The Greeter should have fragrance, a floral quality, and be a teaser for what’s in the house. If you cut a bouquet from The Greeter, it should be right at home in the living room.”

His approach is to make outdoor rooms both comfortable and what he calls “edible to the eye.”

Of course, a porch, patio or deck can easily include plants that truly are edible. Kitchen herbs can be grown in pretty pots, citrus trees thrive on sunny decks, and containers can be home to tomatoes.

Vegetables and flowers easily mingle in cottage gardens, and a grape arbor can provide shade overhead. When choosing containers, Dujardin recommended extending your home’s colors into the garden, with glazed ceramic pots, ceramic garden stools and throw pillows that accentuate both your home’s exterior and interior.

Dujardin’s made coastal charm part of her signature look for years, but she also has the stature and professional credentials to back up her design decisions. Designated a Fellow by the American Society of Interior Designers (only 1 percent of the membership ever reaches this pinnacle), and named a Senior Fellow by the Design Futures Council, her unerring eye for beauty is matched by her thorough knowledge of indoor/outdoor fabrics, sisal and sea-grass rugs, and sturdy outdoor furniture. Sturdiness matters.

“The very first step in designing an outdoor living area is making sure you’re on solid footing. We’re often barefoot or in sandals outside, so steps, paths and floors should be both comfortable and secure,” she said.

Dujardin recommended a variety of materials, including flagstone, bricks, wood planks and the ubiquitous Nantucket standard, crushed oyster shells. “Once we have a solid platform, we can go to town with all the colors, fabrics and textures to bring your outdoor rooms to beautiful life,” she said. The award-winning designer known for her gently green approach to eco-elegant living loves to create multiple outdoor seating areas. A table warmed by morning sun may be perfect for your first cup of coffee (McGowan and his wife Holly have what they call a “morning porch”), and a cushioned bench can be carefully placed

to see the sun set.

But life on Nantucket means being prepared for everything from brilliant sun-

shine to dense fog, gentle breezes to hurricanes. Whether you have a covered or screened porch, or an open deck or patio, its exposure to the weather will help define what activities take place there. Rain or shine, a favorite activity for islanders is curling up with the latest book by a Nantucket author. (Try Elin Hilderbrand’s “The Rumor,” Nancy Thayer’s “The Island House,” and Nathaniel Philbrick’s “Valiant Ambition”).

Although Dujardin’s touches almost always include a recommendation to live outdoors just as you live indoors, summer on the island celebrates a casual approach. Leave the china and crystal inside, and bring out fun, colorful and inexpensive glassware, wooden bowls, or melamine trays and serving pieces. McGowan likes small side tables that can travel out to the lawn, and once made a custom hanging bed for a client with pillows done up in French mattress ticking, in sunproof colors, of course.

Lisa Clair is a freelance writer living in Connecticut who writes often on home design.