Porch and Sunroom Decor
By Karen Parr-Moody

With a bug-filled summer right around the corner, people who have screened-in porches or climate-controlled sunrooms can take heart. Theirs is a world with one additional haven in a room that is flooded with light coming in from large screens, windows or sliding glass doors.

Today, screened-in porches are a breezy oasis from the heat. But their roots stretch back to ancient Greece. The Greek word “portico,” from which ''porch'' is derived, described columned entrances to the various temples and halls.

The porch was somewhat displaced with the advent of air-conditioning, so that by the latter half of the 1900s, architects glassed them in or created new rooms wholesale that were climate controlled. These glassed-in spaces, known as sunrooms or Florida rooms, became the screened-in porch’s logical evolution.

Porches or sunrooms can be cheery gathering spaces in which family members can eat, talk or play. One of the many great beauties of a porch or sunroom is that the décor is specific. So relaxed furniture, accessories and even artwork can work together to create a fun, lighthearted space complimented by the sun’s rays.

The casual attitude of a screened-in porch or sunroom is reflected by rattan, wicker or bamboo furniture. These retro chairs in the photo, above right, are done in a Chippendale style are made from bamboo, which was first recorded in the history of chair manufacture during China’s Sung Dynasty of 960 to 1279 AD ($498; Booth B-101).

Like so many Asian goods that found their way to Europe through the booming Chinese trade routes of the 1600s, bamboo furniture made an impression with Europeans that has lasted. It has a light weight, which makes it popular for outdoor use. But the interior designers of the Hollywood Regency style also loved to put real or faux bamboo furniture inside, by the way of china cabinets, end tables and dining room chairs. These chairs, with their casual insouciance, would pepper a sunroom or screened-in porch with some Hollywood Regency style flair.

Another cool chair for such a room is this sling chair from the 1960s (photo, above left; $950; Booth B-309). It is one of the many wonderful finds from Jason Parker Counce, a Nashville interior designer who has a booth at GasLamp.

He said he took the chair, which was originally upholstered in gold striped velvet, and had it redone in neutral linen.

“It takes on a whole new look,” Counce said of the overhaul. “So sit back and relax; it’s more comfortable than it looks.”  

This little metal table in the photo, right, has a barkcloth top that gives it a truly tropical vibe ($38.50; Booth B-512). Traditional barkcloth is actually made from bark by certain African tribes. However, Mid-Century Modern barkcloth is so named because its textured fabric has a rough surface like that of tree bark. Barkcloth has historically been used as drapery, upholstery and slipcovers; to see it as a table top is a refreshing twist. This tropical print fits into the Mid-Century Modern era of barkcloth, which also saw atomic and boomerang prints.

Lanterns made of bamboo and colored paper were first fashioned in China during the Han Dynasty from 206 BC to 220 AD. But progress in technology and people's changing tastes make for Chinese lanterns that today bear little resemblance to their predecessors. Nonetheless, lanterns such as the pink globe in the photo, left, are a beautiful, airy sight ($45; Booth B-2012). With its bright color, this cloth lamp will bring a magical and warm glow to a porch or sunroom.

Now, a gorgeous piece of glass certainly can go anywhere in the house. But there’s something charming about using a rustic demijohn jar in a screened-in porch or sunroom setting ($110; Booth B-206). There’s a casual elegance to such a wicker-cased bottle. A demijohn also speaks to a simpler time, before every bottle on a grocery shelf had a carefully designed label courtesy of some slick ad agency.

During the early 1800s, demijohn bottles began to arrive from Europe carrying an assortment of goods. These would have included such beverages as sherry and Madeira, but they also would have held all manner of goods, including indigo, pepper and bottled mustard. For today’s porch or sunroom, a demijohn would look perfectly lovely unfilled, or it could be filled with some water to hold favorite branches or flowers.

A screened-in porch or sunroom is the perfect spot for enjoying morning coffee, tea in the evening, or to simply relax and bask in the sun. Having such a room is a special kind of luxury. To play up the room, choose some fabulous vintage finds and give the space some well-earned style.

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