In Québec, where I’m from, we have an old ballad titled “En veillant su’l’perron”, loosely translated as “While Sitting on The Porch”. In the song, a newly-married woman reminisces about the summer evenings she and her husband spent, as youngsters, sitting on the porch, kissing and talking about their family life to come.
Then she goes on to imagine how their own future daughter will hang out with her boyfriend on the porch one day, while her parents quietly watch through the window. If you’re curious, here’s a video (1957!) of a very young Dominique Michel singing her first hit. She is now 81 years old and is still very active in Québec’s artistic scene as a comic and actor.
I bring up this song despite it being in French because it illustrates something about porches: their connection with both public and private life, the way they bridge our public selves (young girl and boy dating, not caring if the world sees them; the public nature of a wedding) and our private identities (the older married woman staying inside, watching her daughter go through the same experience). I think the song is an amazing expression of the nature of verandas, this transitional place between outside and inside, between public and private lives.
Verandas: not quite inside, not quite outside
In my experience, verandas are eminently social spaces, especially in an urban setting. During hot summer nights, people sit on their front porch and chat with their neighbours and passersby on the street. Friends come to visit, have a beer or some ice cream, listen to music or talk about anything and everything.
However, there is still an expectation that one should be invited to come on the front porch of someone’s house or apartment. It’s not like you can just walk up and hang out. So despite its public view, there is still an expectation of privacy when it comes to verandas: you can see us there, but you can’t come up without our permission, as it is still our home.
I think this is why, although you can just put out any cheap set of plastic chairs, you should take your veranda decor just as seriously as your inside decor. The way your veranda looks is still a reflection of your own tastes and personality… and there isn’t much personality in white plastic chairs.
Veranda trends: natural and harmonious
As a way to transition between the inside and outside of the house, it’s normal for veranda design to take its inspiration from the materials and colors of the house itself. Thus, styles are elegant and traditional, with a lot of wood, stone, wicker and metal. Beachside verandas will use a lot of white while urban verandas can be more colorful.
For example, this veranda in a forest setting takes its inspiration, obviously, from wood. The sloped roof, the floor and the chairs are made of wood. This space would get some sun during most of the day, making it a perfect spot for a sunny breakfast or reading your favourite book. I just love how everything seems in harmony here.
This back porch is ingenious in its use of colors. The wood of the chairs is the same as the wood on the side of the house, and similar to the stone around the wide window. The hall-style benches add a rustic touch, and the candle lighting must make evenings there ever so romantic. Here again, there’s harmony between outside and inside.
Even porches in an urban and elevated setting can have great style. This example from New York shows that you can still have a touch of nature even in the city of all cities. I love how this porch is framed with greenery and how the colors of the furniture harmonize with the wood flooring. The elegant metalwork is stylish but not gaudy. The view of Central Park ties everything together. What a great place to have your coffee and newspaper in the summer!
What do you do while sitting on the porch?
What do verandas mean to you? Do you enjoy having an outdoor space in front of your house or do you prefer staying in the privacy of your backyard? Tell us your veranda story!