Butler County Times Gazette
  • Through the Front Door: A guide to graceful outside living

  • Spend some quiet time by yourself perusing catalogs and websites to see what sparks your interest.
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  • Good morning to all of my lovely readers!
    I bet you are just as ready as I am to take life outside and enjoy the warm sunshine and bright blue sky! The chance to enjoy nature has to be one of the most wonderful aspects of taking life to the porch or the patio. Having a cup of coffee on the terrace and listening to the chorus of birds in the leafy trees is about as delightful as life gets. Squirrels chasing one another up and down trees with the agility of a Cirque du Soleil performer can make a smile swipe across your face like nothing else.
    Start with a Clean Slate
    Yes, I know, gorgeous: Cleaning is the pits. But cleaning is an important aspect of preparing our outdoor space for life again. Winter left behind its trail of grime along with missed fall leaves and stuff that, quite frankly, is a mystery. So bring out the power washer (or a great hose with a fireman-like nozzle) and start cleaning all those nooks and crannies. Don’t you just love spraying the hose? I don’t know why, but it’s one of my favorite simple pleasures—must be a childhood thing! Once that patio, deck, terrace and porch are squeaky clean, you can freshen up the furniture pieces. This could merely be a good hosing off or wiping down, or maybe just removing the protective covers. And life outdoors begins again.
    Think of Your Space as a Room
    Whether you’re dealing with a small terrace, a large patio, a wraparound porch, or screened-in porch treat the space like a room. As with a room, consider a divine exterior rug for starters. Then, consider new furniture, new furniture placement or fresh cushions. Spend some quiet time by yourself perusing catalogs and websites to see what sparks your interest.
    Anchor Your Room with a Rug
    The polished look a rug lends to an exterior room is magic. They are available in so many places, from the Internet to discount stores, so finding them is a snap. The price point is incredibly friendly, so you can even consider one for a sunroom or screened in porch.
    But can these rugs really handle the spring/summer rain and hail that Kansas can deliver? Yes, many outdoor rugs are manufactured from polypropylene, which is extremely durable. Plastic, bamboo and other recycled items can make up exterior rugs as well—imagine having our landfills void of pop bottles and milk bottles! Instead, you have a lovely, durable outdoor rug. Now that is a win-win situation for the world and your tootsies! Cleaning exterior rugs is a breeze: Just hose them off and let them dry in the sun.
    Page 2 of 4 - Exterior rugs are so durable and inexpensive that you might even think about using them in the kitchen and family room. I am telling you, no one will know and I certainly promise to keep your secret!
    Have Fun with Fabrics
    Over the past decade, exterior fabrics turned the corner and now lush beautiful prints and brilliantly saturated hues just beckon you outside. I can remember when these fabrics all felt like canvas and resting your face on a chaise lounge’s outdoor pillow for an afternoon nap was out of the question. But now, outdoor fabrics are as supple as fine interior fabrics, in choices that include velvets, damasks, jacquards and even sheers. These fabrics are also ideal for use in the busiest rooms in your home—for example, as chair cushions for the breakfast table, charming valances framing the kitchen window or the window seat cushion in the study.
    Most exterior fabrics are sun-resistant and stain-repellent, and they can be cleaned with a mild soap and water. You can even hose them off—and you know how I feel about playing with the garden hose! Some of the Sunbrella brand fabrics can even be cleaned with a mild bleach solution (now that is some serious and reliable fabric). So take a trip to the nearest fabric store and take a peek. You might even start day dreaming about a new cushion for the porch swing or new decorative pillows. What about a wonderful fun and festive tablecloth for the new table you just ordered? And don’t get me started on the trims that are now available for that oh-so sophisticated exterior room. Look for quick-drying marine-filled cushions, which can save the day from an unexpected rainstorm prior to the big party outside. As I mentioned, outdoor living catalogs are just packed with page after page of marvelous ideas to enrich your life as you sip lemonade on the terrace.
    Focus on Furniture
    If you are in the market for some new exterior furniture, the resources are as plentiful as the variety of price points. Target, Walmart, Sears and, of course, the big box stores offer some amazing pieces. Shop early, though, as the selection can become limited very quickly. I always advise a buyer to consider the weight of the table and chairs—remember, pieces can go airborne in a good strong Kansas wind.
    Frontgate always offers the crème de la crème of extraordinary outdoor living. You’ll find virtually everything you need to move life right outside in an elegant and chic manner. Another wonderful company is Grandin Road, which features benches in the yummiest colors ever, birdbaths, porch swings, flower boxes and the most whimsical exterior accessories you will find. Call 1-800-491-5194 for a catalog or visit HYPERLINK "http://www.grandinroad.com" www.grandinroad.com today! Some items will need assembled, but the joy these pieces bring will be well worth the effort. When you order furniture online, from any source, be sure to inquire about possible delivery charges.
    Page 3 of 4 - Accessorize with Flowers
    Once you have your wonderful room set up, then the real je ne sais quoi opportunities begin—the flowers and foliage! Think pots and pots of amazing fragrant posies for the porch or patio. With the water restrictions in place, yards may take a backseat for the sake of the city. So be thoughtful and careful with your flowers and plant selections. Talk with the nursery or greenhouse and make your purchases are based on posies that don’t need much H2O. Here is a little tip I use all year long: When someone walks away from a glass of water at the table, or a pitcher of water that was not finished from dinner, don’t toss it down the drain. Give something a drink, whether it’s a houseplant, outdoor plant or the birdbath. Be mindful—our water is precious.
    Look Up!
    If you’re working on a porch, let me leave you with an interesting tidbit I learned during a trip to Louisiana some time ago. An old Southern tradition is to paint your porch ceiling blue, and the tradition is being shared with new generations and making its way to the North. What follows is information from the magazine Stir, published by Sherwin Williams Paint and reprinted with permission:
    Many theories surround this use of blue, from fooling spiders and wasps into thinking the ceiling is the sky, to blue being a sign of good luck, to the color extending daylight, to scaring away evil spirits. Blue ceilings are popular and have always been popular in the South for centuries. People continue to paint their porch ceiling blue because that’s what Grandma did.
    But many Southerners suggest that blue porch ceilings originated out of the fear of haints. "Haints" are restless spirits of the dead who, for whatever reason, have not moved on from their physical world. Haint blue, which can also be found on door and window frames as well as porch ceilings, is intended to protect the homeowner from being "taken" or influenced by haints. It is said to protect the house and the occupants of the house from evil.
    Some people swear that blue paint repels insects, leaving a porch bug-free and pleasant during those long summer evenings and afternoons. Most credible sources discredit this belief. However, this belief could be seated in historical truths. When blue paints were first used on ceilings, they were usually milk paints, and those paints often had lye mixed into the composition. Lye is a known insect repellent, which would explain why insects would avoid nesting on a painted porch ceiling or ledge. As milk paint has a tendency to fade over time, giving it a rustic look, people would usually need to repaint their home every year or few years, covering the existing coat with a new coat of paint (and fresh lye). Many people choose to paint the porch ceiling blue simply because of the way it makes the room look and feel. Blue is a calming color, so using it to paint an area of the house that’s intended for relaxation makes sense.
    Page 4 of 4 - For those of you who find information like this fun, here are some Sherwin William paint colors for the porch ceiling:
    SW 6471 Hazel
    SW 6505 Atmospheric
    SW 6944 Pool Blue”
    As for haints, it makes for a good story. And I believe that is all it is—a good story.
    I will be here next week with something new for us to visit about. Let me know if you add a blue ceiling to your porch! I'll pop over and have a look!
     
    Jan Colvin has been a professional interior designer for over 25 years (Allied ASID). She accredits her mother Pat Robinson and Lucille Chase for her intense interest and love for design. 
    She has taught interior design at the college level and operated her private design business since 2001. Look for her new book soon!
    Jan welcomes questions, which will be answered in her columns. Send your questions to: jan@jcolvininteriors.com

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