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How We Designed Our Covered Back Porch (+ All Of The Fun Ideas In-Between)

This back porch was never supposed to exist – it wasn’t my intention or idea, but once it was proposed (by Anne’s partner, Richard who is an architect and co-owns ARCIFORM with her) we felt it was worth exploring. I’m so glad we did. We knew that we wanted to add on this sunroom/writing room, so when Richard proposed to connect the entire house with this back, covered porch we were into it, but it took us a while to get there. This was the back of the house before:

When we bought the house they had a front porch, but the back had bushes along the exterior wall with two windows into the living room. We always knew that we wanted to open up the living room to the backyard – wanting that indoor/outdoor flow, view and of course natural light.

So we went through a few different iterations which was so fun for me, but so much work for ARCIFORM, of which I’m so grateful. Anne, the lead interior architect at ARCIFORM was so incredible during this process – she was so passionate about finding the right solution and went through iteration after iteration to help get us to where we all agreed was exactly the right design. She legit seemed to enjoy the puzzle of it all, which as her client didn’t make me feel like a burden and made it so fun to do together. What you are about to see are just screenshots of various ideas, none are flushed-out renderings.

Isn’t it just nuts?! Who’s house is this??? I think this was our first iteration, where the sunroom was actually on the back. During the design process with ARCIFORM I would just screenshot everything for future blogging, and just found this. This iteration was when the kitchen was in the living room, and our bedroom was where the mudroom is now. (That’s probably confusing unless you’ve been following along closely).

Some of the earlier ideas were clearly nixed – like painting or cladding the old 60s wing in different/darker color (and if you look closely you can see large wooden shutters on the lower windows – an idea that I was obsessed with for a while). We also nixed the hot tub. We just realized that we weren’t traditional hot tub people and it wasn’t something we wanted to invest in or prioritize in the design. We have one at the mountain house and the kids go in, but we don’t. Cut to three years later and now we have our Soake pool. It checks an empty box that I didn’t even know I had (more on that next week – reveal soon!!).

Here she moved the sunroom to connect it with the front porch and came a little into the back porch. And remember, we hadn’t lived here yet – we didn’t know how we were going to use the space. So a lot of these iterations include things like a BBQ area on the back porch or even a hot tub off of our bedrooms. We wanted a wrap-around porch at some point connecting the back porch to the mudroom porch (or in this case, our bedroom porch as the mudroom during these iterations was where the kitchen now is).

This design made sense for a bit because it was when the kitchen was right through that door and much farther into the living room – so the window would have been a pass-through space and grilling/eating out there was still really close to the kitchen (this was also before we created the kitchen patio near the future kitchen).

We ended rethinking the huge back deck. While we liked the idea of this, but this is western facing during the times of day that you want to be hanging back here (afternoon/early evening), so it gets blasted by the heat. This is when we started thinking more about the shady kitchen patio on the south side of the house, realizing that that was a great 4-7pm shady space.

Then we realized that we didn’t need the “wraparound” to the mudroom and that greenery and shrubs would be so much prettier and softer. So we nixed our main bedroom back deck (including the built-in hot tub)…

This version (above) is especially funny because this was when we had a little terrace on top of the sunroom – off of one of our kids’ bedrooms. The creative process (especially in the fantasy stage) is just so fun and hilarious. Brian even suggested a glass bottom floor (aka a glass ceiling in the sunroom). We got as far as reaching out to a company that makes them. Y’all, this was peak covid lockdown and I think we were going a little nuts and perhaps had too much time on our hands. But then we started talking about WHY we would want a terrace for a kids or guest room? This house has a million beautiful outdoor areas to hang out, and then if there was any furniture/chair/rug on it then when you are in the sunroom you’d look up and see it! And not to mention that the sunroom would have to be re-engineered (even more) to accommodate the walkable weight, etc). SO…the whole thing was canned in a matter of days, but I thought it would be fun to show you.

Here’s where we landed before construction started (not final). No big deck (just the porches) just three entrances – the back porch (which goes also into the sunroom and the family room), the mudroom porch and our bedroom exit (this was with a vintage salvaged fire escape which we never found). Of course in here there are still two things we decided to nix – the glass porch ceiling (too expensive, too modern, not necessary) and the built-in BBQ area (wrong place and too contemporary for this style of house). We wanted the back porch to be more classic. Don’t worry, the posts were engineered and added properly.

Ok so now to walk you through what we actually did:

As a reminder, that was the before – the summer of 2019 when we flew up to look at the house.

Then it took a real turn for the worst (but the blue sky sure helps).

They had to remove the plants, obviously, and most of the windows needed repair so they took some off-site to do them so that they didn’t get broken. Here you can see where they were about to add the 8′ addition to the previous addition on the right. Something I like to point out is that ARCIFORM helped us reconfigure the windows on the second floor to have more symmetry – moving one from downstairs upstair, to add a fourth.

Sometimes I can’t believe how much work went into this project. SO MUCH. ARCIFORM just did such an incredible job restoring this baby.

They cut in the opening for the huge doors, removed the windows (the two big ones became our pantry windows) and starting taking off the old gross residing. This was a fun stage to invite people over for. Those who had a design eye and had done renovation projects before were super enthusiastic and could see the potential, those that didn’t were just shocked into silence (which was super fun for me, LOL).

And then magically we had a back porch! This was the shot that I forced the ARCIFORM team to take the day after we passed our inspections to close up the walls inside (aka all rough plumbing, electrical, mechanical and engineering was approved). So as you can see the brick sunroom was added, the new windows were added to the first floor, the fourth window was added to the second floor, big posts were added to support the new covered porch, and the deck was being built.

I don’t like teasing you, I don’t. But this is already SUCH a long post and I have so much to say about how it turned out so you MUST come back Friday for the reveal (we have a different fun post for you tomorrow). Meanwhile here is another teaser, of the mudroom porch and a sweet little pup named Buttercup 🙂

*Opener and Sneak Peek Photos by Kaitlin Green


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21 thoughts on “How We Designed Our Covered Back Porch (+ All Of The Fun Ideas In-Between)

  1. This is going to be gorgeous! I can’t wait to see it. However with the outside posts, I’m always confused as to what is where. What is the difference between the back porch and back patio and where is the front.

    1. I always get confused by that as well. Assuming the entry is on the front of the house, this back porch and what they refer to as the backyard are on the side of the house. The kitchen patio is on the opposite side of the house to the entry so I’d call that the back but they do not. Maybe it’s a Portland thing?
      Happily, the floorpan that K.D. shared explains it all!

  2. Pet peeve alert! It’s supposed to be “fleshed-out,” as in not just the bones of an idea but the full form, and not “flushed-out,” like a drain or toilet. Correcting with the best of intentions!

  3. Came back to say that I just saw the Real Simple story on their website and the house looks so gorgeous!!! Seriously a triumph. Congrats!!

    1. I love the opening sentence of the article! And the art piece in the corner of the kitchen. It must be so intimidating to have your life’s work summarized like this but the piece captured the highlights of the house nicely.

  4. While this ship has sailed halfway around the world by now (and goodness knows it’s been hashed out in the comments endlessly), every time I see an aerial view of the farmhouse layout I snag on the location of the mudroom. But—and here’s the real point of this comment—I love knowing that if it were actually a problem for the Hendersons, Emily would tell us! That honesty is the backbone of EHD to me. The best!!!

    1. It makes sense though because it’s off the “back” yard, where most of the the real muddiness will occur.

  5. > Brian even suggested a glass bottom floor (aka a glass ceiling in the sunroom). We got as far as reaching out to a company that makes them.
    This actually exists?! Can you please share the company?
    We have a back deck off our living room and overlooked by our primary bedroom that I would really like to turn into a covered sunroom/porch but unless the roof was glass it would mean cutting off too much light from the living room. But if we could do a glass ceiling then we could also have a balcony/quick route to the backyard from our room. It’s probably too expensive and might look ludicrous but I’d love to know the company.

  6. It all looks amazing! Fresh, updated, and functional for how you live, yet still in keeping with the age and grace of the house. A question about reusing the old windows. We are just getting going on a major reno/addition of our 1910 farmhouse in Charlottesville, VA, and have been told by the county that we can’t reuse any original windows in new spaces. Even in rooms where there will be other (replicated but new) windows, we can’t also use an original window. It’s so frustrating – we don’t need them to open, we just love the wavy glass, etc. Was this an issue for you? Would love to know how you got approval, if so. Thanks!

  7. It’s so true, it’s astonishing how much work went into the renovation. Now, it must be a good feeling to look back and marvel about how well everything turned out despite the many possible iterations of porches and decks considered. The time and energy put into every aspect of this project is incredible and I am really looking forward to the reveal tomorrow!

  8. So glad you worked with the house’s orientation on the site. Imagine how annoyed you would have been if you’d spent a ton of money to build an enormous structure on the side of the house where you get all the hot, western sun. Super smart!

  9. Just writing to say how stunning the door color is. Love! Fun to see the process too. You’ve got to try on ideas and then slowly peel away and pivot. Thanks for sharing!

  10. When we removed the replacement siding on our house to restore the original cedar wood clap and shingles underneath I also had the experience of neighbors looking horrified at what we had uncovered. One neighbor said, “I would die if my house looked like that.” And he was dead serious 😆 It turned out beautiful after the restoration, but if you don’t have the vision it can look pretty scary for a while!

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