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Summertime Porch Living!

Summertime Porch Living!

Jason Oliver Nixon |


Ever since I was a little boy in Tampa, Florida, I had wanted to have a porch. In my salad days, the Nixon family lived in a sprawling 1920s-era Spanish-style home with heaps of patios and terraces but nary a covered space al fresco. John had cravings for a porch, too, that perfect blend of the indoors meets out.

Hence, two decades ago, when John and I purchased the original Madcap Cottage, a former schoolhouse from the 1840s smack in the heart of New York's bucolic Catskill Mountains, we fixed our eyes firmly on the detached former garage.

"Tear it down," my pragmatic father advised, noting the wonky roof, the tacked-on addition crafted of, seemingly, Gorilla glue and particleboard, and the floor that was anything but plumb. In fact, the floor was almost nonexistent. Throw is plenty of mouse droppings, a buzzing hornet's nest, and a large hole in the roof staple gunned with a blue tarp, and we almost acquiesced with the parental plan.

But John had a vision, and a how-to list.

“Let's make it a sleeping porch, a true outdoor living room. I see heaps of color and pattern," he said. “A wonderful room that morphs from dinner party spot to living room and the occasional screened-in bedroom. Let's prop up the roof, cement-in the floor, add some screens, and give it a kick of paint.”

Besides, the main house at the Madcap Cottage compound (oh, that sounds so "Kennedys at Hyannis!") could use just one more room to allow us to spread out just a tad in the summer and fall, and the covered porch, aka The Pavilion, would fit the bill swimmingly.

And with that our talented contractor set to work on the renovation.

At the same time, the Madcaps began scouting for vintage rattan furniture that would marry the indoors with an outdoor sensibility. We pulled together fabrics that would add a jolt of color and a strong pattern sensibility to enliven the space, we picked up an outdoor rug, and we unearthed a pair of pagoda-style lanterns that would dangle overhead and offer a taste of the Royal Pavilion in Brighton.

With the floor painted, the ceiling doused in a pale blue hue as a nod to the traditional Southern porch vernacular, and curtain panels hung over the newly installed screens, the porch quickly came together.  My mom, Lois, gifted us some wonderful rattan pieces that she was no longer using, and we trawled flea markets and jumble sales for occasional seating and side tables.

Until we sold the home, the Pavilion was a Madcap Cottage essential, and we spent heaps of time in the space whenever the weather was good. The Pavilion was a riot of color and hue, and guests who visited—including my once gimlet-eyed dad—never wanted to leave.

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