What is your front porch saying about you? If you’re like a lot of people, it’s probably not saying a whole lot. All too many homeowners slap down a welcome mat and call it a day, neglecting to give the space the design consideration they've given to the rest of their home.
But here's the deal: Your front porch is one of the key elements that contributes to the curb appeal of your home and gives people a first impression, whether they're driving by or walking up to ring your bell. Plus, when the weather is just right, it can be a great place to hang. So why not pep it up a bit?
"The closer people come to your home, the more they should get a sense of your taste and lifestyle," says Donna Garlough, style director for Wayfair and Joss & Main. "A great porch will set the tone for what guests will encounter when they get inside—playful or formal, grand or family-friendly.”
Here are some tips and tricks to help you maximize your front porch's potential.
1. Pile on the plants
“Every porch needs greenery,” says Lisa Melone Cloughen of Melone Cloughen Interiors in Morristown, NJ. She suggests mixing a variety of urn and planter-style containers and using a variety of plants in different colors, textures, and dimensions.
“Consider mixing taller plants with ivy and moss spilling over the sides,” she says. “Bold color combinations, such as orange and purple, look really great too. Perch a mix of succulents on a table or chair to add to the visual interest of the space."
Love color, but don’t want to go crazy on the interior? Your front door is a great place to play with paint. Christopher Grubb, president of Arch Interiors in Beverly Hills, CA, says while black and red are always good go-tos, other unexpected colors are more than acceptable. “Why not express yourself with a navy, deep burgundy, or a bold green? It immediately makes a statement."
Leigh Meadows-McAlpin, a designer with Dwelling Interiors and Design in Charleston, SC, says that beyond color, you should also make sure the front door style is consistent with the architectural style of your home, and in good condition. "Make certain that the paint or finish is not peeling or chipping. Check the hardware (knobs, knocker, mail slot, hinges) to see that it all coordinates and is properly polished,” she says. "Great door hardware can really make a grand statement, for not a lot of money.”
Many of the designers we spoke to suggested rugs as a way to brighten up porches.
“We can’t overemphasize how much of a difference a rug can make on a porch,” says Deborah Holt of Sunnyland Patio Furniture in Dallas. “It complements patio furniture, it feels great on bare feet, lets your guests know you’ve got it more than pulled together, and it’s a great way to hide any scuffs or scratches your porch might have," she says.
Beyond its utility, lighting on your porch is also a design element you can play with to show off your home's aesthetic. “Options include gas lanterns flanking your front door, copper pendant lights hanging from the porch ceiling, or architectural stair lighting,” Meadows-McAlpin says. "These all add a warm, welcoming glow to your front porch façade."
Make the porch a place to linger by adding a comfortable place to sit and enjoy conversation. Depending on how much room you have, options may include a small bench or two, rocking chairs, or a porch swing. “Be sure to add a couple of side tables or garden stools for a place to put your favorite book or a glass of lemonade,” Meadows-McAlpin says.
One thing people seldom think about changing are the actual numbers on their house—most still display the original ones the builder installed! But new numbers can contribute a lot of personality with minimal effort.
“I like to pick styles that reflect the age and style of the home, such as crisp sans-serif numerals on a midcentury house, or a traditional post-mounted mailbox in front of a colonial home,” Garlough says. “I live in an 1860s Victorian row house, so we went with gold house numbers on the windows and an ornate iron mailbox that gives the front stoop a very vintage feel.”
Wreaths with mixed foliage—from faux boxwood and magnolia to twigs and cotton bolls—can be kept on your door all year. "Of course, it’s nice to change your wreath out once or twice a year for variety, or you can just add a few seasonal garnishes, like faux flowers in the spring or shiny ball ornaments come winter,” Garlough says.
Once you decorate your porch, make sure you don’t forget about it, and regularly clean the furniture and items that are left out to endure rain, wind, and other rough weather. Christina Kretschmer of K+V Homestacking puts it simply: "Dirty furniture is not inviting."
And as with most things in life, moderation is key. "Keep the focus on the entry, and avoid overwhelming your porch with too many miscellaneous accessories," says Meadows-McAlpin.
Your long-neglected porch might just become one of your new favorite spaces.