Design & DIY

Colin and Justin keep it easy and breezy with their screened-in porch

Photo by Paul Orenstein

Updated August 15, 2018

If you, like us, are a human buffet for buzzing mossies, then cottaging during bug season can be rather irritating. Head-to-toe mosquito suits aren’t sartorially elegant, even if they do confound the nippy critters that leave your legs like sticks of pepperoni. (Take it from us: Bugs love whisky-marinated, pale Scottish flesh.) Thank goodness, then, for the screened porch.

This indoor-outdoor heaven is a godsend. Ours, however, pre-reno, was possibly the worst room we’d ever seen. Leaking plastic ceiling? Tick. Baggy, elderly mosquito screens? Tick. Peeling painted concrete floor? Tick, once again. Initially, we thought we could patch the ceiling, tighten the screens, and then simply paint the floor before hitting the stores for new furniture. How wrong we were! Our contractor, Dan, keen to repair the water damage, removed the plastic ceiling, took a deep breath, and called our names, a sonorous lilt rising in his voice. As deathly silence descended, he delivered the bombshell that changed everything. The ceiling timbers, he said, were utterly rotted. Dan’s words? “She’s gotta come down. Every stinking bit of ’er.” Cue wrecking ball and tears. Jeesh.

Turn reno disasters to your advantage

The screenroom before the competed reno … Photo by Paul Orenstein.

Replacing the screened porch was a serious investment of time and money that we hadn’t planned for. But we took advantage of this misfortune: A new space meant we could easily adjust the layout. We decided to replace the old window between the basement family room and the porch with a second set of doors. In so doing, we created another path to the porch besides the one through the new downstairs bedroom. Ta-dah! Privacy and better flow overall. Now, the porch has three main zones: a living area in the centre and separate eating nooks on either side, arranged to take advantage of changing light.

Use natural materials where possible

We established good design connectivity by choosing a granite floor. A natural material that’s abundant on our lot, granite blurs the lines between indoors and out. Plus, it’s cool underfoot during summer, and it’s impervious to rain and rot, great news for long-term maintenance. To balance the harder aesthetics of stone, we added wood trim around the windows and panelling on the main wall to help the large space feel cozier.

Think beyond traditional screens

Newley installed “memory vinyl” screens. Photo by Paul Orenstein

Traditional screening can be a drag because you have to store plywood panels in the warmer seasons and then pin them back in place as winter takes hold. We aspired to a window treatment that looked as good as traditional screening, but without the attendant hassle. Enter Sunspace’s WeatherMaster system, a design that combines screen and weather protection in one seamless package. Framed “memory vinyl” panes are laid in front of traditional screening, creating a wind and water barrier. When the clear “screens” are closed, snow and rain can’t penetrate and, best of all, they look like glazed panels.

Add some finishing touches

To enhance the outdoorsy feel, we specified weatherproof wicker sofas and chairs that, unlike real wicker, will last and last, even when exposed to the elements. What’s more, now that the market has lots of choice, the cost has come way down. Expect to pay about 30 per cent less for faux wicker than for the real thing. Even better news? It’s easy to maintain: Just wash down with water and dry naturally. For design punch, we embellished the scene with custom toss pillows made up using outdoor fabric. They are a cinch to keep clean; simply wipe with soapy water to dispatch the odd wine, coffee, or tea spill.

The finally renovated screenroom in all it’s glory. Photo by Paul Orenstein

And so it begins: Months of lazy breakfasts, endless book reading afternoons, and relaxed evenings of parties, martinis, and song. Bliss! Thanks to our beloved screened-in porch, the only thing that might still bug us is the thought that we might run out of wine. Happy summer; the party starts here!

Colin & Justin will be back with a brand new documentary show, Great Canadian Cottages, coming this Fall only on Cottage Life

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