Porch vs Patio: Your Design and Decor Questions Answered

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Who doesn’t love having a great outdoor space at home? A space we can wind down after a long day, spend a lazy Saturday relaxing, enjoying some peace and quiet. Our own outdoor oasis without having to leave the house. Whether it’s a screened porch or one that wraps around the house, a small backyard patio, or one that surrounds a pool; big or small, a porch or a patio is a great place to sit back, relax, and watch the world go by. Porch vs patio is a topic is a discussion that can have many questions.

The terms porch and patio are often used interchangeably, two terms to describe one thing. But porches and patios shouldn’t be confused with each other as they are two different things, and because they are, there will be different approaches to both design and decor. Hopefully, this will help to answer questions you might have about your porch or patio.


What is a Porch?

Red Porch with planters and white rails

The porch has been a staple in much of the world’s architecture for centuries, first appearing on American homes in the 1700s and quickly becoming a fixture on many. Post-World War II, as the population grew and privacy became increasingly more important, porches began to lose their architectural popularity making way for back yard patios.

Sometimes also referred to as a veranda, lanai or loggia, the idea of a porch can vary from region to region but there are a few things that define the structure. A porch will be raised off the ground with a railing running around the perimeter, whereas a balcony is off the second floor. A porch is typically attached to the house at the ground floor, covered and protects from the elements for that main entry while providing outdoor space for relaxing or entertaining. Homes can have porches of varying square footage, from small and simple, covering the front door and maybe a little more, to a large wraparound porch that not only extends the length of the front of the house but wraps around the sides as well.

While you may choose an open porch, it is not uncommon to see a porch enclosed with a screen, or even windows, especially in climates plagued by insects or cold weather. A sun room is essentially an enclosed porch and involves turning a porch into an extension of the home that can be enjoyed throughout the year. It can have wood flooring, and composite decking.


What is a Patio?

Porch vs Patio outdoor patio with small table and great view

Coming from the Latin term patere, meaning to lie open, a patio is an open structure, usually in the back yard of the home. While a patio can be attached to the main house, it is also found as a standalone structure made from natural stone or concrete stone. Despite some of the large wraparound porches that can be found, patios are typically much larger and more suited for outdoor entertainment. While some may add a small gazebo or pergola to a patio as a place to escape the bugs or weather, patios are largely open and contain no roofs or pillars. This open style offers a much more versatile outdoor living space suitable for cooking, dining, and entertaining.

Which is Best, A Porch or A Patio?

There is no real definitive answer to this question. Which one is better will be based on your specific needs and wants. Most older homes will have larger front porches, while newly built homes will focus more on a back yard patio and often have a tiny front porch that is nothing more than a buffer between the outdoor elements and the main entrance. As we mentioned before, a backyard patio is much more versatile in terms of usable outdoor space for dining and entertaining. On the other hand, the right front porch can be a great place to sit and relax, enjoying the outdoors and watching the world go by. Because the two each have their place on the home, it is not uncommon to have a bigger patio in the back yard for entertaining, and a small porch on the front of the house with a localized sitting area. Which is best is relative to how you intend to use the space. The question of porch vs patio in this case, all depends on your preferences.

What Should I Consider When Designing and Decorating a Porch?


Design

If you are planning on adding a porch to your home or making the best use of an existing one, there may be a few things to consider to be sure you have a porch that is right for you.

How you are going to use your porch is going to be one of the biggest factors in determining how long and wide it is going to be. A porch that is an extension of the main entryway or will be used as a simple seating area for a morning cup of coffee will require much less space than one that is intended to be used for entertaining.

Not all climates are suited for year-round outdoor entertainment, be it bug season, or cold winter climates. A porch offers versatility through roof options, composite decking and design features such as a portico. All-season versatility can be enhanced with screens and even window frames, such as a sunroom or verandah. You may not want to install either on your porch, but it is important to know that it can be done if you intend to use it year-round. If outdoor entertainment is more of an important factor in the porch vs patio question, this may be something you take into consideration.

Do you want your porch to be a simple extension of your front entry or are you looking for something more extravagant that acts as an addition to the home, possibly even wrapping around it? A good porch design will create the right flow, connecting the inside of the home with the outside. Consider it not as a separate addition, but an extension of the room that it leads to.

Decor

Outdoor wooden deck with red chairs and rock wall

When considering a porch as an extension of the room or entry that it is coming off, the décor options can be seemingly endless, especially because the porch can be partially or completely enclosed, opening up options that would typically be used indoors. Whether you’re adding a porch to your house, or working with an existing one, there are some things to keep in mind.

Curb appeal is the most forgotten aspect of decorating a porch. Curb appeal takes into consideration the overall look of the house from a street view. We typically associate this with the aesthetics of the home itself or the landscaping. But that front porch is going to be seen from the road too. The last thing you want to do is clutter it up and make it unappealing to potential buyers. Decor should flow well with the home without being overwhelming to the eye. When it comes to porch vs patio in curb appeal, a porch can have the upper hand.

Big or small, a porch isn’t going to be used to its fullest extent if it’s not comfortable, and what’s the point of having it if it isn’t going to be used? While the size of your porch will determine the size, and amount of furniture you can put on it, it should not determine comfort. Use outdoor chairs and couches that not only invite people to sit but are comfortable enough to make them want to stay there.

One of the benefits of having an outdoor area that is enclosed is being able to use interior lighting outside. This can be as simple as having a couple of table lamps accenting the seating area, or as extravagant as installing ceiling lighting like pot lights or a ceiling fan.

What is a room without art? Take advantage of the wall space by hanging some art pieces. Art can take sometimes-drab outdoor spaces and make them feel warm and inviting.

What Should I Consider When Designing and Decorating A Patio?


Design

Some of the same things that are taken into consideration when designing a porch should be taken into consideration when designing a patio.

Is your patio going to be something used as a simple outdoor retreat for your family, or will you be using it to entertain multiple guests? You can install a bbq or install something more with an outdoor kitchen. Is it going to be a place to sit and relax, or will you be using it as an outdoor cooking and dining area? Whatever your intentions may be, knowing how you are going to use a patio is going to help to determine the kind of space you are going to need.

Unlike a porch, a patio does not have to be an extension of the house but instead can be its own area. It is often much more practical when it is. A patio that is separate from the house keeps everything away from exterior walls and helps you to maximize the space. On the other hand, if you plan on using it as a dining/cooking area you may want it close to the house for ease of access. Porch vs patio ideas like this, should always be considered.

Just because patios aren’t typically covered or enclosed like a porch can be, that doesn’t mean they can’t be used all year round. It may however take a little more work to do so. If you live in an area that gets snow in the winter, you’ll want to make sure that the patio is designed to be able to clear that snow off. Or maybe you live in an area that gets lots of rain, in which case you might need to have some extra patio space to put a covered gazebo. When you intend to use your patio can be a deciding factor in both size and accessibility.

Decor

Outdoor stone patio with fireplace wooden pergola with brown and red furniture

The right patio should be an outdoor space that everyone can enjoy, be it your family or your guests. It should be something that you want to spend as much time using as possible, and something you can be proud of.

A patio can be anything from formal to fun, from casual to tranquil. A formal dining area is all together possible but might require a separate space. A patio can be a fun space for the kids to play but may not go hand in hand with a formal dining atmosphere. If you want your patio to be a casual space for people to hang out, the right furniture in the right arrangement can accomplish that. If you want a peaceful escape without having to leave home, a patio with lots of plant life, or even a small pond can give you that escape. Whatever it may be, the right décor will be dependent on the mood you want to set.

When trying to find the right decor for their patio, most will opt for furniture with colors that compliment the outside of the house itself, be it the color of the stonework or the siding. What many people do overlook, however, is the material that the furniture is made from. Have you ever wondered why some patio furniture is much more expensive than others, for stuff that appears to be the same thing? The biggest reason is durability. Invest in quality composite decking or natural stone pavers for the flooring. Your furniture is going to be exposed to the elements, and the wrong material will quickly discolor and even start to fall apart. The right material will save you from these headaches. This is something to consider when thinking about porch vs patio and how it relates to outdoor furniture.

Is there anything more relaxing than a quiet evening outdoors? If there is, we haven’t found it. But it’s not nearly as enjoyable when encompassed by complete darkness. String lights, landscape lights, and even torches can all help to set the proper relaxing nighttime mood.

If you plan on getting as much time as possible out of your patio, then you should consider heating it. The heat will provide the comfort needed on those cool nights and can be as extravagant as the patio stones themselves being heated (especially nice around a hot tub) or can be as simple as having a built-in firepit, fireplace, or fire table. Be sure to check the regulations in your area before using anything fire-related around your home.

Wherever you stand in the porch vs patio debate, there is something about being able to enjoy the outdoors that benefits us all. The right outdoor space can provide us with our own little slice of heaven; an oasis that we can be proud to say we had a part in creating.

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