This is my story of designing our renovation of a century-old lakehouse in Ontario. Each month, I’ll offer a new chapter on the challenges and solutions, and a peek at our progress. You’ll be able to see the actual house come together on new episodes of our video series The Lakehouse.
It was always in our plans to rebuild the original screened porch on the back of our lakehouse. I’ve never had a screened porch. I’ve visited friends’ cottages on buggy evenings and sat in theirs, happily unaware of the mosquitoes lurking beyond. Here, at our place, there are these tiniest of bugs called midges that swarm every time we open a door and are so thick you have to avoid swallowing them. I’m told they’ll soon disappear, only to be replaced by blackflies, mosquitoes, deerflies and the occasional bat. I can hardly wait.
It’s late May when I write this and the midges just evaporated! The screens are almost all in, the furniture has arrived, the rest of the bits and pieces are coming someday, and I can hardly wait for it to be done!
For months, I pondered what decorating style of screened porch would best suit our house. I looked at many inspiration shots and was always attracted to dark interiors with traditional off-black painted wicker furniture. But something held me back. I couldn’t imagine that scheme in my head for this house. So I parked that vision and decided just to worry about the envelope of the room.
Although the original structure needed to be totally rebuilt, the scale and classic lines of the porch were perfect, and it was important that the architecture of the exterior be maintained. We set out to rebuild the room with new wood-clad columns and corbel brackets, new custom screens using the finest grade of “TuffScreen” mesh from
Phantom Screens, a new custom-made wood and screen door complete with black coil hinges and traditional black thumb latch hardware.
Our cottager friends said that the screen door MUST slam shut with that distinctive noise that is
de rigueur for a proper porch. I added that to my wish list along with new wood-framed screens, but I was quickly told that wood frames were a bad idea. The size of the screen panels would require the stability of one-inch-wide metal frames. I accepted the metal — reluctantly — and asked that they be powder-coated in a custom color to match the oiled bronze hardware on the French doors. (They look great, by the way.)
We opted to clad the walls with the same fir used throughout the house. Over this past year, good wood became progressively harder and harder to source, and the irregular color of the boards we were able to get bothered me at first. But then I grew to like the striped effect and especially after our master stainer, Dariusz Felis, worked his magic using a clear sealer tinged with a few drops of stain mix.
Once the new walls were up, the style of the decorating grew organically from inside the house. Since the screened porch is so clearly visible from the living room, I realized that it was important the look be calm and neutral. We painted the new wood floor in a soft parchment color that I chose from
Benjamin Moore’s huge architectural paint deck. I took my time carefully going through dozens of colors, only to land on Pashmina, the exact same color we used on the exterior window trims. Funny how that happens.
All along, I thought that the vintage wicker love seats and chairs I had collected over the years would be sent for repair, painted and fitted with new seat cushions for the porch. But then, Covid came and our painting shop was shut down and, anyway, it was time for a new look, probably in teak, with woven accents and the same vintage textiles that I like to use in all my rooms.
Since everything still has to happen online for now, I wasn’t going to experiment with brands I didn’t know well. I looked to two brands of outdoor furniture that I know are great quality:
Gloster and Kingsley Bate. I’ve owned furniture from both brands and I know that, with proper sealing and cleaning, the natural teak frames will look great for years. I don’t like to let my teak fade to a pale silver, so I’ll coat the frames with Gloster wood sealer to keep them looking like they do today.
Kay sofas, lounge chairs and matching ottomans for the screened porch, along with the Bay coffee table and Blow low side tables with glazed coffee-colored bases, all from Gloster, through Fresh Home & Garden, here in Toronto.
Photographer: Noe DeWitt, Otto
Designer: Redd Kaihoi
I chose Gloster’s
Clipper dining table from Hauser, plus two classic market umbrellas to go with two loungers from Kingsley Bate for the front terrace. I’m still working on choosing dining chairs. I like the wishbone-style chairs from Rove Concepts, except that the arms are too high to tuck beneath the tabletop. Any suggestions?
The colors of the furniture we chose for both the front and back porches all work together. If I could offer one single tip for decorating your house, it would be this: you should be able to move any piece of furniture, rug or accessory from one room to another and know that it will always work. It means that your style choices are consistent, and it allows you to play, moving things around on a whim, finding new combinations in each room to keep things fresh and interesting. I’ve picked a
sweet trolley on wheels from Sika Design that can move from the living room to the porch, and a woven outdoor rug from Casualife.
Finally, lighting. The wall sconces that sit high over the French doors are the same vintage farmhouse sconces that we used on the back exterior of the house. The smaller, decorative wall lights I chose are fanciful and perfect to dot the two walls. They’re not rated as exterior lights but, then, this room isn’t really outside, is it?
It is? Really? Gee… I guess we may have to take those sweet lights down come winter and put metal plates over the electrical boxes. Oh wait. The ETA on those lights is November. This is the way it is right now with most things we try to order!
I’m not going to think about that now. I just had the joy of sipping my morning coffee, lingering over
The Sunday Times crossword on our new, not-yet-finished screened porch for the first time, not a bug in sight! The sun was warm coming through the screens, the filtered light was soft and the air, fresh. Now I understand why people love their screened-in porches.