One of the best parts of living in the Carolinas is porch season.

A porch is the perfect place to make memories as a family, whether you’re admiring a view from your house at sunset, watching kids chase fireflies or enjoying a meal on a warm summer evening.

Hammock on Porch of Custom Home in South Carolina

Hammock On Porch Summerville, SC by Dale LaFollette

Plans for porches

Working with Madison Homebuilders and our array of floor plans lets you map out the perfect porch before construction begins. Start by thinking about how you expect to use the porch most often. Is it a spot for quiet breakfasts? A place to read your book on lazy Sundays? The venue for entertaining friends and family?

Thinking about when and how you’ll use the porch can influence the first big decision you need to make: where the porch should be located, and which direction its views will face. Most porches are accessed through the kitchen or family room, though that’s not an absolute rule (Southern Living’s 2015 Design House, for example, featured a lovely side porch that was meant to be an extension of the master bedroom suite).

Dining on the front porch.

If you plan to use the porch on a regular basis for meals or entertaining, easy access from the kitchen is a big asset. You don’t want to constantly be marching the length of the house with drinks or plates, only to have to run back across the house again when you realize you forgot the salad forks. If the porch isn’t designed as a meal spot, access from other parts of the house is less of a hindrance.

The direction your porch faces will be determined in part by your floor plan and lot. But if you have the flexibility to put the porch in multiple spots, think about when and how you’ll use the porch before picking its location.

Porch of custom home with swing and chair.

Photo by Nannette Turner

An east-facing porch enjoys morning sunlight, offering some nice warmth on cool mornings when you might want to eat outside. Facing east also keeps the porch cooler during summer months, because the spot isn’t hit by the hotter afternoon sun. Facing west gives you sunset views – perfect if you’re expecting to gather with friends on the porch swing for sundowners. A south-facing view can mean a warmer porch. Southern sunshine can make the porch warm enough to use on cool fall and winter days, but it also could make things a bit too toasty in the summer.

Screen porch design ideas

The same climate in the Carolinas that makes porches so wonderful also has an unpleasant side effect: Bugs. That makes a screen porch a more attractive option for many of our homeowners. If you decide to skip the screens, you may need to invest in ceiling fans and citronella candles to keep the mosquitos away.

screened porch with citronella candles

Think about your porch design with its core uses in mind. Is this a spot to enjoy family meals? Then your porch design might want to center on a table and comfortable chairs for eating. If the focus is on socializing or as a spot to read or enjoy drinks, comfortable chairs complemented by a coffee table or side-table work nicely. One clever furniture idea we’ve seen on Southern porches incorporates traditional fruit crates or crab traps as the base of a coffee table, with glass or part of a door forming the top of the table.

screened in porch on custom home

One great idea for porches is to focus on furniture that can be flexible. Using a drop-leaf table allows you to set it up for a dinner, or to drop it to a smaller size that makes a great, compact spot for drinks or snacks. Then you can use the porch in a variety of ways without having to swap out furniture for each occasion.

Porch decorating tips

There are a few things to keep in mind when decorating your porch. One is that you’ll want to select furniture and fabrics that are hardier than what you use inside. Even if use furniture coverings or bring some of the furniture inside when it’s not being used, porch accessories will be exposed to sun, wind, temperature changes and, at times, rain. Even if your porch is screened, don’t discount the possibility that a bit of water will get in during big downpours.

screened porch serves as an extra living room

Many folks today use their porches as extended living rooms, setting them up as a spot to hang out as often as possible. Because we’re building your house stick-by-stick and brick-by-brick, we can customize a porch to meet your needs. Looking for a spot to watch football on fall weekends? We can run power and cable access to a wall, allowing you to host the perfect tailgate. We’ll also be able to wire in speakers for a sound system – perfect for hearing the game or your favorite party tunes when hosting guests.

The way you decorate your porch is up to you, but keep in mind that you’ve got the ability to try out some ideas that may not fit with the décor inside the rest of the house.

There’s a long-time Southern tradition, centered in South Carolina, of painting porch ceilings a soft, blue-green color sometimes called “Haint Blue.” The origins of this tradition are a bit mysterious, but it appears the color was originally designed to repel “haints,” restless spirits of the dead.

custom home with haint blue ceiling on porch.

You Bet Your Garden, a popular radio show, heard from many listeners after discussing whether the blue color also repels insects. While that tradition is mostly rooted in myth, the show found that early blue paints often had lye mixed into the paint. Lye, which went into so-called “milk paints,” does repel bugs. And because milk paints fade over time, porch ceilings were regularly repainted, meaning fresh lye and fresh insect repellant.

But don’t feel like blue is your only option. We’ve seen all sorts of bright, cheery colors on porch ceilings – from periwinkle to light yellow. Go with what makes you happy and fits with your furniture.

Front porch design

Most of our discussion has focused on back or side porches. Front porches are a bit of a different case, as your front porch design is generally completed with curb appeal and decorating in mind. You certainly can include comfy chairs and a side table on a front porch. Since most homeowners choose not to screen their front porches, consider including ceiling fans in your budget. They’ll help keep you cool in the summer and can also reduce bug woes.

decorated fall front porch on custom home.

The front porch is a great place to show off seasonal decorations on a table or bench. If your porch has railings or a front wall, keep in mind that anything you use as a display stand will need to be tall enough for the decorations to be seen over the railing, especially from street level. Because what’s the fun of decorating if nobody can see it?

Whether you go with a front porch or back one, screened or unscreened, formal or casual, there are plenty of options to choose from. We want to work with you to design a porch that fits your life and your tastes. When done well, this outdoor space will quickly become every bit as much of your home as the family room or bedrooms.

If you have any questions about designing or building your dream home, contact Madison Homebuilders and receive a free plan book today!