In 2018, Vienna-based designer Laura Hildebrandt was hired by repeat clients to remodel the lower level of their Alexandria home. Part of the wish list was to add a new 336-square-foot screened-in porch to the back of the house.
“They wanted an outdoor hangout with a vacation vibe for their family (the couple has two daughters), as well as a place where they could hold larger parties, spilling into their backyard,” she says.
Working closely with architect Felix E. Serrano and builder Superior Construction, Hildebrandt ensured that the built-from-scratch porch would meet the family’s needs.
“There are designated spaces for eating and lounging, including a mounted TV for watching shows,” she continues.
Perhaps the best feature of the porch, which is furnished in element-friendly aluminum and durable Sunbrella fabrics, is the special flooring.
“We used the same porcelain tile (that looks like wood) as we did inside the basement—and it is heated from below! Not only does this allow for a seamless transition from indoors to outdoors, but it enables the porch to be used throughout the cooler seasons,” she adds.
Working with a base palette of navy blues and neutral grays, Hildebrandt introduced fun accessories in zesty orange, including a mix of indoor-outdoor pillows, for a festive look. The full screening, of course, adds protection from insects, and the ceiling fan circulates cooler air on extra-hot days.
“For now, the family is really enjoying it—and they look forward to hosting many parties once it is safe to do so,” she adds.
“My client loves that she has a year-round sunroom, but it was dated and dingy with respect to its decor,” says designer Carrie Miller of Lapis Ray Interiors when speaking of the 280-square-foot sunroom she updated in McLean.
Once paneled in dark wood with slate flooring, it was not a welcoming space in the colder months, despite its baseboard heating. Miller first focused on the sunroom’s good bones, which include a cathedral ceiling with exposed beams.
“I knew if we could brighten the space, with all those windows and French doors, and lovely views into the gardens, it could be a special space,” she says.
As inspiration, Miller referenced the Open City coffee shop housed in the Baptistery at the National Cathedral. She brightened the overall palette, painting everything in a delicious, creamy white. She also carpeted the space, making it more welcoming.
“The homeowner likes to host her friends and family, including her grandkids, so we went with an intimate, entertaining vibe for furnishings,” Miller continues.
Using the homeowner’s existing vintage, glass-topped table, Miller added clean-lined chairs for a sit-down lunch or tea.
“I also selected a cluster of swivel chairs and central ottoman, which is perfect for gathering while social distancing,” she says.
The palette of green and cream compliments the outdoors, and Miller layered in cozy throws to complete the all-season vibe.
“The baseboard heating makes it work for winter, and there’s lots of cross-ventilation for the warmer months,” adds Miller.
Festive and Fun
“With everyone spending more time at home, having a comfortable, functional and stylish outdoor space has quickly moved to the top of our clients’ wish lists,” says Suzanne Manlove of Arlington Home Interiors.
Manlove was hired in 2018 to refresh a large porch for a young family in Bethesda, Maryland, and since then the finished space has proved invaluable.
“Our clients have three kids (aged 9, 10 and 12) and they wanted a place for hosting family gatherings and entertaining friends, as well as having outdoor movie nights,” she recalls.
The original porch was dark and gloomy, with lots of unfinished wood. First thing Manlove did was brighten the space by painting the walls, trim and ceiling boards in a lighter palette.
“Our approach with the furnishings was to make it modern, streamlined and practical, with a mix of materials and textures,” she continues.
A sectional creates a comfortable seating area—defined by an indoor-outdoor rug—opposite a large, mounted TV.
“It (the sectional) is waterproof, so accidental spills or wet bathing suits aren’t ever an issue; everything is outdoor-safe and easy to wipe clean,” adds Manlove.
Behind the seating area, a dining table has lower-profile bench seating to keep clear views of the leafy backyard. The table also provides a place for schoolwork in the open air.
“We also gave the clients’ old sideboard new life on the porch,” she says of the piece that stores durable Melamine dishes and doubles up as a bar.
When Vienna-based Andrea Maaseide of Studio 320 began to rework this 200-square-foot sunroom last year, her clients were not using it much, despite the lovely woodland views outside in the backyard.
“They (a husband and wife) loved the light in the room, but were tired of its outdated furniture and decor,” says Maaseide. “He’s a big wine enthusiast, and they wanted us to update the space for relaxing alone or hosting friends. Their must-have was temperature-controlled wine storage, so creating an elegant wine-tasting room became our inspiration,” she continues.
Maaseide began the redo with a custom Stark area rug, a lighter paint palette and floor-to-ceiling drapery, creating a sophisticated space.
In keeping with the wine-tasting room concept, a pub table and his-and-her leather bar chairs with chrome frames were added as part of the furniture scheme, which also includes four comfortable armchairs encircling an ottoman with nail-head trim. Above the latter hangs a pierced-metal statement chandelier.
“The ‘chat circle’ was key to us, as the homeowners like to entertain a couple at a time; it makes for a perfect conversational setup,” says Maaseide.
The desire for creating a calm space drove the quiet palette of creams and browns that blend with the decor elsewhere. There is also a pair of wine refrigerators sandwiching a credenza where the glassware is kept.
“Spaces like these provide a terrific connection to the outdoors,” adds Masseide. “Even when the weather isn’t ideal, you can feel like you are part of your landscape.”