by Rebecca Hargus
Nothing says “welcome” or “America” like an inviting and adorned front porch, and Abilene is home to many such inviting spaces. From the unique to the traditional, Abilene Scene explores a few of Abilene’s dolled-up front porches and offers tips along the way showing readers how they can dress up their own piece of Americana.
A well-defined space is an initial must for the well-decorated porch. If a porch is large, the homeowner has the luxury of defining different areas of the porch for different activities, such as chairs arranged at inviting angles for entertaining guests in one area, a hammock strung for reading and relaxation in another, or a card table in a different area for playing a lively game during family fun night. For those with smaller porches or porticos, simply defining the entrance to the home may be all that space allows, but no matter the size, a statement can always be made.
If there is room to place only a few items, homeowners should arrange things in groups of three, says Brook Johnson of Abilene’s Extreme Exteriors.
“If [the homeowner] is decorating on one side of the door, place three pots that have height differences together,” Johnson said. “If you are decorating on both sides of the door, go for balance on both sides—three pots on each side of the door, for example.”
Johnson also says height matters in choice of plants. “Look for plants that are one half to three quarters the height of the door.”
Connie Dyches of Gary’s Floral in Abilene emphasizes the need for great color in the front porch.
“Color makes it pop!” she says.
A surprising splash of color can transform the ordinary porch into a space that makes a statement. Fresh paint and trim do wonders when sprucing up the mundane. Try an unexpected color for the front door or interesting color combinations in furniture and accessories.
“Red, turquoise, and cobalt blue are the colors everyone is choosing now for that extra pop,” said Kimberly Norman-Murphy, also of Gary’s Floral.
Dyches suggests geraniums to add color.
“And make sure your plants are watered and trimmed” she says. “You can also use wreaths and change them with the seasons.”
Adding layers of texture adds layers of interest. This can be done by adding potted flowers in arrangements on steps, or by placing branches in containers near entrance ways. Pillows and throw blankets on furniture can add depth and texture, while bringing extra flair and color. Welcome signs and flags also add interesting overlay, and plaques with the family’s insignia add individualism. Mirrors work well to create not only layers, but also a sense of space and roominess to an otherwise small area.
As with mirrors, bringing other typically indoor items outside is a practice that seems to be trending now, Johnson says.
“Décor you might not otherwise think about as being outdoor décor is a great way to add interest. Lanterns are always a good choice.”
Tables with a mirror mounted above and a lamp standing beside, or a chair with a small table displaying a potted plant create focal points that guide the eyes to areas of interest. Outdoor rugs work well to define these areas, bring items together, and add layers. Coordinating fabrics that play to the eye’s sense of color and pattern can be easily found and made into pillows, rugs, and blankets. Curtains can even be made to help define the larger porch’s spaces. Baskets, vases, topiaries and statues are all items normally found indoors that can have pleasing effects outside. Favorite flowers placed in whimsical pots or the traditional fern create inviting first impressions, all the while giving hints of the homeowner’s personality.
But all new accessories aren’t a must to make things inviting.
“If you can’t afford new furniture, buy new cushions and pillows,” Dyches said. “Use spray paint on older furniture to make it look new. Finding older furniture and pottery to fix up at garage sales can make it inviting for people to come in.”
Norman-Murphy agrees. “It doesn’t have to be expensive, just keep it updated. And keep it clean!”
Keeping things organized outside also helps to keep a porch inviting. Dyches says organizational yet decorative baskets help to keep clutter out.
For those who are a bit intimidated by the idea of decorating, Dyches suggests eliciting help from a professional. Local florists and exterior designers can replant, update, and design outdoor spaces. They can also help in the placement of pots and accessories and also in the choosing of furniture.
“Take a picture of the front of your house and let a florist look at it,” Dyches says. Don’t be afraid to get expert advice.”