Sunday, January 20, 2013

Porch Talk: Screened, Open, or Glassed-In?

Imagine that you've arrived at a garden party, and all of the guests--yourself included--are Totally House Obsessed.

Eventually you will start talking about porches. 
Glassed-in advocates will add the word "sun" to "porch," elevating it to a light-filled space that can be used 365 days a year--and the homeowner never has to sweep pollen.

Open porch enthusiasts will sing the praises of curb appeal and year-round charm. These spaces are sunnier. Doric columns add timeless elegance. No windows to wash. No screens to replace.

Screened porch aficionados love simple pleasures: a billowing curtain; the smell of grass; the tinkle of windchimes. These porches have built-in charm. They're close to nature, yet they're protected from mosquitoes. Best of all, the owners don't have to wash windows. 

We can't decide what to do with our back porch (except we want to add skylights, so the interior spaces will be brighter). 

It's a narrow porch, with a pea-gravel floor.

The first time I saw the porch, I imagined it with arched, floor-to-ceiling windows. 
I imagined an outdoor living space beside the pool. 

When the remodeling began in other areas, I began to mentally carve up the porch. My mind's eye saw French doors in the dark breakfast room. They'd open onto the old porch, and we could enjoy red velvet pancakes in a sunny, roomier spot.

I wouldn't have to enclose the whole porch; we'd still have room at the other end for a small porch of some type, open or screened.
But this would chip away at square footage.

During the last year, I've imagined the space in many ways. 
Do I really want to carve up this small space? Would a wide open sunroom feel too wide? Would it be too hard to decorate? Long and narrow rooms are a challenge. 
I've also considered leaving the porch alone or adding screens. 

Back and forth I go, making countless lists. Studying the pros and cons of open vs. screened vs. glassed-in. All have virtures; all have drawbacks.
One minute I'm headed in this direction:

An enclosed porch could be a multi-purpose area. Now that Bandwidth is living with us, we need a bit more elbow room.

My mother has struggled with arthritis and illness; she has advised me to think about the future. Maybe Will and I need a porch that won't require constant cleaning.

Yes, a glassed-in porch is a strong contender. 

But I cannot ignore the virtues of an open porch.

My previous home was a turn-of-the-century "Four-Square," and it had porches galore. I would flop on the wicker sofa and read. But I also spent a lot of time cleaning these spaces. 

I love this space, but it's a good bit wider than my porch.

I can't overlook the charm of a screened porch. They are a part of my Southern upbringing, a place where memories converge. You don't have to drink lemonade and sit in a rocking chair to sense the romance on a screened porch. These cozy spots are the best transitional living places--you're inside and outside, all at once. The mesh protects against bugs and nesting birds. 
Lunch on a screened porch is magical.

It's a place to just be.
But that's what porches do best. 

Motorized screens might be an option for some homeowners, but not for me. I have Bad Motor Karma. If an object requires electricity, I'll jinx it. 

Marvin Windows offers folding glass doors, but I'm sure they're beyond my budget. And I can't ignore my Bad Louvered Door Karma.

A quick search of  proves that many of us are porch obsessed. We put welcoming flowers in our urns and hang pretty wreaths on our doors. 
All porches speak to us and our guests. 
A front porch says, "You're home" or "Glad to see you!"
A back porch says, "Life is slower here. Put your feet up, dahlin. Rest a bit."

Which type of porch do prefer and why?
1. Screened
2. Open
3. Glassed-in
4. Combination

all images via Houzz

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  1. Beautiful inspiration! We've had that same discussion, many times! For now ours is screened and we do love it. Honestly there is nothing better, Spring through early Winter, than enjoying am coffee and pm dinners on the screened porch. Only downfall is keeping it clean with the pollen, dust, etc. Much prefer screened over open due to bugs, etc. Maybe one day we will glass in but experiencing the sounds, smells and breezes of the good outdoors with the benefits of nice!
    Can't wait to see what you choose...

  2. I have to say I'm in love with #1 Screened Porches! I live in NC and our first house had a lovely screened in porch and I spent many, many hours on that porch. I love that the bugs cannot get to you, because here in NC they are awful! Any choice you made would be awesome, but my vote is for a screened porch. Good luck! Can't wait to see photos!

  3. Your post today got me dreaming! I would love to someday put a screened in porch off the back of our house. I would want the outdoor fireplace and the screens to keep the bugs out. Big sigh...someday!

  4. I would say glassed unless you don't mind humidity and then I'd say screened. I know you'll make the most tasteful decision.

  5. Open, my small little patio off my French doors of my condo is wide open. My backyard, however, is like a nature preserve beyond the narrow lawn. Obviously, from my photography standpoint I'd opt for open, but I see beautiful columns on your porch. Columns would ground it and give it it's due. Square columns. But that's just what I'd do. I'm literally loving following all your projects.

  6. Our home had a wooden deck the previous owners built off the back of house and it was in such poor shape for years. I hated it. The year before we retired we decided to rip it out and build a new one. It's just hubby and me so we didn't need another room (with walls and windows) and we don't care for bugs so we opted for a combination screened in porch with a side open deck. We love it. Now screened porches are a little more work to clean and keep clean as pollen, dust and dirt aren't kept out as they would be in an enclosed wall and window porch. However, if you need more living space perhaps an enclosed porch is your best option. But I'm glad we went with the screened in porch. We can't use it all year but we look forward to Spring and sitting out there. I'm sure whatever you decide it will be just right for you and your family.

  7. so enjoyed your collection of pics, excellent research~ i think climate and bugs speak volumes about your space... i live with horrendous winds, and in the summer the wasps make any form of eating or drinking impossible to relax for even a moment before fear of anaphylactic shock... i may have temps reach 117 too, so no desire to add more sunroom heat... for me, its all about location location location. you know best how you want your space, cool breezes on your skin, or toasty sunrooms in winter, do drone bugs ruin your pleasure or do you screen off one area to be bug free and easy peasy moments. as for visuals, they are all excellent, but for me wind, heat, cold and bugs set the terms...

  8. Michael Lee, I'm for a combination so it can be used year round. Ours is easily converted from glassed in space to screened in space. We use it all year long. Only regret is that we love it to be a larger space. ;-)
    Good luck with your decision. I like the idea of sky lights on your ceiling. We have a room above our sun porch, but we were able to put in a sun tunnel over on one side.

  9. We adore our screened in porch even though it is nothing fancy and barely big enough to hold our wicker set. Glass would be nice, but I like hearing all the birds and listening the wind chimes.

  10. What lovely living spaces. I like any way to enjoy the out doors without dealing with biting bugs.

  11. Screened! We have a front open porch, but our back porch is screened. We have wood knee-walls and about 2 ft. of wall between each huge screened section. No one ever wants to leave our porch and it's been copied by many people, in our area (my husband is a carpenter & our son is a contractor). We live in Minnesota and use it 8 months out of the year~

  12. As you know, we have a sunroom (lots of windows), open verandas and a screen porch. The sunroom gets hot - in the winter! I have the fan running today. The cats love it, but it was hot while I was cleaning awhile ago!

    My vote would be either a)enlarge the breakfast area and screen the rest or b) screen the largest part and leave the part by the kitchen (? right side of picture) open.


  13. I'm all for the screened porch. You could add some curtains that could help block out some of the dust/pollen. I've seen some lovely images of porches with curtains on the web. Here is one of my fav photos:

  14. Our Florida veranda was enclosed within the pool cage until Charlie knocked it down. My husband opted to go screenless and I have disliked the porch ever since. Of course, the view of the river is beautiful and unhampered by beams and screens. But the dirt and pollen that collects on the floor and furniture, not to mention the bugs, dragon flies, lizards, and cats that arrive uninvited into the house, are not pleasant. I like to thrown open the french doors and sliders when the weather is cool enough, but even in January there are mosquitoes to worry with. Hubby wants to glass in the porch, but I'm holding out for screening! It stays clean enough, we're close enough to nature, and yet protected from it! I vote screens!

  15. Screened! -- The best of both worlds. We love ours. Sally

  16. Love, love, love these photos. I'm from the deep south - screened for me please.

  17. We added a sunroom 2 yrs ago. It was the best investment ever! I am able to enjoy the room, year round. We installed a heater/air unit that is perfect when we have the extremes here in Middle TN. While I would have loved to have had a stick built room, we went with one of the pre-fab companies. The triple paned windows are better than anything on the market that a traditional builder could offer us. Large sliding windows allow for a screened in porch when weather permits. My plants also love the sunroom and the Christmas cactus and violets are in full bloom.
    Beckie in Brentwood, TN

  18. I love porches. Sometimes I wish we had expanded our back porch and screened it in. I don't think it's big enough for that, at the size it is now, but we've discussed it.

    My all time dream porch is the conservatory in the second photo.

  19. Hi Michael Lee! Oh, what lovely porches to dream about. I know yours will turn out wonderfully. I love glassed in ones and screened ones and open ones! :) I know, I'm no help at all. Maybe glassed in with a few windows that could be raised to get some breezes! :)
    Be a sweetie and thanks for popping in to see me,
    Shelia ;)

  20. I've been pondering the same thing, but after living with ours open since July, I think we are going to screen it. Too many critters down here in the South :-) All are lovely options with great benefits!

  21. Mine is open, which is great for enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells of our lovely gardens, but I do wish we had screened it, so that the mosquitoes wouldn't come and join us! As you said, a screened porch is the best of both worlds, because you are inside and outside at the same time!

  22. They are all lovely to look at, but I vote for screened. Bugs and bees are my first consideration and varmints such as racoons/squirrels are the second. We had an open porch in one house and racoons ripped the cushions on the wicker chairs!!! Not nice!!! All windows and glass make for a hot house in very hot weather. A combo would be one neighbor has 8' sliding glass doors all around. Best of both worlds.

  23. In part it depends on the location. Here in Illinois, I would want glassed-in, so it could be heated and used all year. In the south, I would want screened in with I could enjoy it without bugs. I love an open porch, but they do get dirty and they really don't feel like living space to me. We have a deck and we didn't even use them this summer, it was too hot and then it was too cold. There is no wrong answer...but the older I get, the less I want the flies and mosquitos at my picnic!!

  24. Many beautiful inspirations! Hard for me to say, because I like them all for different seasons/reasons. Probably glassed in with the capability to raise windows when weather permitted.

  25. We have a screened porch and a sunroom and I have to say I love my sunroom the most. It is 44 by 12 and at one end I have a table and chairs and at the other end a sitting area. We put skylights in the roof to provide sun into the den area and we have the kind that open and has screens on them so we can open the skylights as well as open the windows (they have screens we can put on them as well). We had heating and air run to that room and we use it year round. The screened porch is nice for a good portion of the year, but we have heavy pollen in the spring and do not use the porch until all that is gone. In the summer it gets too humid to use it except at night (we live just south of Birmingham, Alabama) so we use the screened porch mostly in the fall. I think the best decision we made was to have the sunroom added on and treated just like another room in our home as far as the flooring and heating/cooling goes. We did put a couple of ceiling fans in as well and have to use those some in the summer. But our lot has so many trees that they provide a tremendous amount of shade so we do not have to deal with extremely hot temps. Good luck with your decision!

  26. Glassed in, hands down.

    We live in Florida, and you really can only enjoy a porch year around if it's screened. I had open porches on our first home, and I had all sorts of cute seating on the front porch. And we rarely used it. TOO hot. TOO many mosqutoes. It got dirty easily. Things got rained on if you didn't move them back and even if you did.

    I have open porches in St. Augustine (four of them), and they get dusty and need to have the walls washed and the floors and doors and windows fairly frequently. I have someone who cleans them and as pretty as they are, they can be a pain. I only like the ones upstairs, too, because I prefer upstairs porches. I won't screen them because of the architecture of the house. Lots of gingerbread to wreck.

    I grew up with a screened porch, but I'm not keen on them on the fronts of houses. I like them better on the back. But still, think dirt. Screen porches get really dirtty, too. To that end, we are going to glass in the back porch on our retirement home. I want to use that space for entertaining, and it has a great view of the backyard. But Florida heat dictates indoor spaces. Thats what my contractor and I agreed on recently. I'm outside more in St. Augustine due to the breeze. It's glorious, so that is one thing I do love.

    What to do? Glass it in! If you want to screen off a tiny airy with a hammock or a porch swing, do that, too, but glass in most of it and screen the other.


    Sheila... who has always lived with porches or balconies of some sort.


  27. We have a huge screened porch on the back of our home now and it is not usable here in Tennessee except for about 4 months of the year. Summer is too hot and bugs are terrible, winter is too cold, spring the pollen is bad, so basically fall is the only time we really use our porch.
    Friends of our did the outdoor fireplace (spent over$30 thousand) and said it is lovely to look at but a big investment not to be used very often. They said the mosquitoes are a big problem for them also.

    We have friends in Brentwood Tn and they have a sun room and love it, they do get to use it year round. She grows wonderful herbs for cooking on her sun porch 12 months of the year.

    Anxious to see what you decide to do, I am sure it will be awesome.

    Mary L

  28. Glassed in for sure. I think with your artistic, romantic style- you would make it look beautiful. And you'd really get the best of both worlds when you opened the windows on a beautiful day.
    And after all, I do believe it is what the Crawley's would do...which would therefore make it your best decision. lol :-)
    (Or maybe ask yourself what one-liner Cousin Violet would say to the delimma - therein would lie your answer for sure...ahem.)
    :-) L~

  29. Glassed in for sure. I think you could make the space beautiful with your romantic style - and you'd have the best of both worlds by just opening all the windows on a beautiful day.
    And I think it's what the Crawley's would do as well - therefore making it your best decision. Lol (Or maybe just ask yourself what one-liner Cousin Violet would have to the delimma and therein lies your answer.)
    :-) L~

  30. First, I have to laugh! Your house sounds like mine--I am thinking about the next project as soon as I make the decisions for the current one. How did your bathroom turn out?
    The first question I ask myself when I am starting a new project is--what is it that I see myself doing in here.This helps to narrow down your options. Will you be using this space as a getaway for a quiet nap, or eating breakfast on a summer morning, or maybe having a cocktail in the evening?If there are two things, can the space be divided to accomodate both?
    As far as whether or not to close it in, and how. I would ask what is the exposure?Do you get morning sun here or afternoon sun?Afternoon sun with a glass enclosure could be very hot. If this is the northside of the house, it could be cold or chilly in the winter.Are there any shade trees?
    Hope that helps set you in the right direction.As for design and details , I think you will do a wonderful job with the ideas you are thinking of . I look forward to seeing how this space turns out!--Cyndy

  31. I have had screened, glassed in and open. I loved my screen porch the best. It protects you from bugs but is easier to clean than an outdoor porch and of course can be used in rainy weather. My sun porch which had beautiful full length windows on three sides would be too hot from all of the sun. The porch was original to the house so it had AC and heat but was still too warm in the summer. We did love it in the winter though. Whatever you do will be beautiful.

  32. I am a lover of sunrooms....We had a screened in porch with a brick wall one third of the way up in another was 15 x 60...a huge room in the back of the house....I kept battling pollen and cold and we enclosed it with windows...the best thing we ever did...we used it all year round and i was able to furnish with any type of furniture I wanted...We also had the HVAC put the ac/heat vents out there...We could enjoy the "outdoors" by using the outdoor of both worlds...Just loved all of the different types of sunrooms and porches!

  33. The porch faces west, but the garage blocks so much light. Best I can tell, the porch gets slices of light. If we enclose it, I'll shop around for the best price for UV windows. I'm thinking about enclosing, mainly because the porches at my last house wore me out, and the glass table on the new (old) porch gets filthy in days. As for function, one of our homes had a sunroom (arched windows with screens), and I finished the wood floor with a white glaze. I wrote most of my first novel in that room. Many happy memories!

  34. We currently have an open porch. We live in NC in the country and have really enjoyed it a lot. We are considering enclosing it and have had the same dilemma in making our decision. I am really wanting a screened porch, but the pollen here is nasty. It is like yellow baby powder everywhere! I love the breeze blowing through and our weather is mild enough to enjoy a screeed porch for 8+ months each year. I did see a porch once that was enclosed, but had huge windows all around that could be opened. So, you could actually heat and cool the area and use it year round. It was beautiful and when all the windows are open, it is very much like a screened porch.

  35. Great post, thanks for the mention! We prefer screened porches for sure :) Phantom's motorized retractable screens appear at the touch of a button and disappear when you don’t need them. Perfect for indoor and outdoor living spaces, these custom made and professionally installed screens give you fresh air, shade from the sun, protection from insects or a bit of privacy. Check out more at!