Great Escapes: All-Weather Materials

Using temperature- and water-resistant products gives this backyard design a long-life.


A Weather-Resistant Porch Design

Carefully chosen materials give this outdoor space long-term durability.

Photo by: Image courtesy of Terracotta Properties

Image courtesy of Terracotta Properties

Carefully chosen materials give this outdoor space long-term durability.

With this teak-furnished patio in Atlanta, the design-build team at Terracotta Properties have updated and retrofitted the South’s long and storied veranda tradition to accommodate a modern, active family that savors its downtime.

“You actually could live, morning to night, in this outdoor space with its surrounding features – it’s adjacent to a grill, a pool and a fire pit,” says Ili Nilsson, a founding partner and managing member of TerraCotta. “That multipurpose, livable quality is typical of most of the porches we design, whether they’re screened or covered, or free-standing gazebos.”

This alcove, which is around 200 square feet, previously had been a “completely bare, partially covered and partially private transition space,” says Nilsson, who worked with a color palette and furnishings informed and inspired by the rest of the French chateau revival house. These design elements should be relatively easy and affordable to duplicate or adapt in other settings, Nilsson  says, explaining how and why she chose them:

1. Surfaces and Colors

“We were working with a simple, stucco finish with clean lines and metal fenestration as opposed to more elaborate, traditional architecture,” explains Nilsson. “It was painted in tan and cream, which we repainted in oyster, trimming the doors in caviar black to reflect the European style of that era. We stained the concrete floor to even out imperfections, and we painted the ceilings gray with a hint of blue. Blue on porches is very traditional in the South, a Charleston feature that spread across the region, so all of these colors are an upscale hat-tip to the European and Southern roots of the house.”

2. Mirrors

Rather than a static piece of art, opt for long mirrors to pull the outside, with all of its changing colors and light, into the space and complement the verticality of other pieces, creating a rhythm. You can see the fire-pit reflected in the mirrors.

3. Weatherized Materials

The drapes were custom-made because they needed to be taller than conventional sizes, but you can use traditional drapes made from Sunbrella fabric, which resists moisture and mold. These drapes do not close all the way; their real purpose is to enhance the vertical lines of the space, Nilsson says. Area rugs are woven from nylon yarn. “Indoor/outdoor rugs used to be very brittle and plastic-feeling, but recently they have really improved to feel lush and soft underfoot, with a greater variety of saturation colors, so as long as their patterns are not overwhelming, they’re a must-do to soften up outdoor spaces, especially concrete floors,” Nilsson says. The mirrors are framed in wood, not metal, which could rust, and the pillows are outdoor grade, available at Pottery Barn and other retailers.

4. Wood Furnishings

The teak furniture was designed by Smith Hawkin, which used to be available only through the trade, but now the company offers specific lines available through retailers at a fraction of the cost, Nilsson says. Other furnishings are made from distressed wood sourced from Home Restoration, which, because it already looks weathered, will only enhance the overall effect as it ages.

Amenities for Atmosphere

TerraCotta opted for a wood ceiling fan, relying for light on dimmable recessed fixtures in the ceiling for a simple, old-fashioned look with technological ease. “The speaker system allows music to flow from inside to outside, with its own volume control independent of other speakers, so you’re not always running inside to adjust it,” Nilsson says. “I really recommend adding speakers to a space like this; they are available at Lowe’s or Home Depot and easy to install. For a small amount of work and money, say, around $200, you can really add to the enjoyment of a space. The coffee table – perfect for holding party appetizers or morning pastries – sits next to the eight-person dining table to create a feeling of sociability.

“We encourage all of our clients to consider planning their outdoor space for multiple activities for all ages,” Nilsson says, noting that this home’s occupants have four grandchildren who “treat this small, intimate space like their weekend resort.”

So this Southern patio accommodates more than just rocking chairs and mint juleps.

“But you do want electrical,” Nilsson says, “because you never know when you’ll want to plug in the blender. That’s another must.”

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