Photo: Annie Schlechter; Styling Rachael Burrow

Grab a good book and a cocktail—it's prime porch season. Richmond-based designer Janie Molster shares 10 secrets for outfitting the easygoing spot for every idyll, plus we've rounded up all the products you'll need to transform your porch into a stylish outdoor escape.

By Caroline McKenzie

Whether screened-in or open-air, a ground-level veranda or an elevated piazza, the best porches morph into all-day living, dining, and even napping rooms. The key to keeping them beautiful year-round, says designer Janie Molster, is using materials that stand up to salt air. Here's how she turned a simple porch along Virginia's Fishing Bay (take a tour of the gorgeous waterfront farmhouse here!)  into a 24/7 escape that will last season after season.

1. Weather-resistant materials are worthy investments.

"Outdoors, the wrong materials can turn shabby fast," says Molster. For a corner of the porch, she chose a zinc-topped table, which does not rust, with a cedar base. (This type of wood tends to resist decay even when left unfinished.) She paired it with chairs made of powder-coated aluminum, an electrostatic finish that's hardier than paint.

2. Balmy days need good breezes.

Even on the water, fans are porch essentials for good air circulation. Choose damp- or wet-rated ceiling fans in hues that blend with the architecture, or outdoor wall-mounted options in powder-coated or copper finishes.

3. You can't beat well-made wicker for merging style and substance.

This set came from mismatched pieces that once belonged to the homeowner's grand-parents. To create unity, she painted them all the same hue, which was inspired by the bark on the property's numerous pines.

4. Contrast is king.

Break up matching sets by mixing in furniture made from varying materials and finishes. Here, a pair of smooth Indonesian teak side tables play off the more textural painted wicker.

5. Hardworking pieces pay off.

The sofa is actually a daybed (piled with a mix of vintage and new pillows) that adapts as well to Sunday brunch as it does to a slumber party.

6. Porch walls need art, too.

Look for pieces that can handle a bit of weather, such as this chart map of the Piankatank River, at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. It's mounted in a glass frame, which makes it easy to clean.

7. A little greenery goes a long way.

A pair of ferns strengthen the connection to nature and pop in a burst of contrasting color.

8. Ambient lighting makes outdoor magic.

"Porches should be planned with both day and night in mind," says Molster, who opted for hardwired bronze sconces versus overhead fixtures, and then installed dimmers to ensure a soft, campfire-like glow for playing cards or sipping cocktails.

9. Nothing beats porch sleep.

A pair of cots outfitted with gauzy throwbeds (thin microfiber-and-feather cushions that stretch the length of the bed) create a comfy spot for alfresco snoozing. "Cots are pretty in their simplicity, but are also easy enough to fold up and stash away if you need the floor space," Molster says. With rattan side tables and a pair of peacock chairs, the area doubles as a cozy lounge.

10. Curves are welcome.

Rugs like this one, with a swirling abaca weave, help round out the straight-and-narrow horizontal and vertical lines found in porch railings, floorboards, and rafters. "Plus, they are great for adding warmth," notes Molster, who painted the floors a cool blue-gray.

Related: How to Create a Relaxing Outdoor Living Room:

Get the Look!

Want to outfit your own porch for dining, sitting, and sleeping? Spot-on style meets low (or no!) maintenance in our summer guide to indoor/outdoor all-stars:


Rattan and hardwoods like acacia and teak are smart bets for long-term durability.

Shop the Look (from top to bottom): Palecek San Martin Outdoor Sofa, $6,077Safavieh Malibu Daybed in Antique White/Navy, $750Serena & Lily Avalon Daybed in Natural, $1,198

Dining Chairs

Powder-coated metals are rust and fade resistant.

Shop the Look (from left to right): Varick Gallery Port Morris Side Chair in Blue, $62CB2 Rex Open Weave Chair, $70West Elm Soleil Metal Bistro Chair in Turquoise, $199


Natural metal finishes like copper and brass develop a beautiful patina over time.

Shop the Look (from left to right): Laurel Foundry Modern Farmhouse Lois Outdoor Sconce, $400 (small); E.F. Chapman for Visual Comfort Linear Lantern Short in Antique Burnished Brass, $840Arroyo Craftsman Westmoreland Outdoor Sconce in Verdigris Patina, $322

Ceiling Fans

Damp- and wet-rated fans can withstand moisture and humidity.

Shop the Look (from top to bottom): Minka Aire Simple Ceiling Fan in Flat White, $280, for retailersHunter Lindbeck 52-inch LED Indoor Outdoor Brushed Slate Ceiling Fan with Light, $219Minka Aire Gauguin Indoor/Outdoor Ceiling Fan with Light in Bahama Beige, $470

Photos by Annie Schlechter, Styling by Rachael Burrow