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Before and After: Big Box Meets Local for a $550 Porch Makeover in Portland, Maine

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Before and After: Big Box Meets Local for a $550 Porch Makeover in Portland, Maine

June 24, 2022

It’s my second year living full-time in Maine, and though my partner and I moved here in part for more outdoor space—and though our apartment has a generous wooden porch surrounded, in summer, by a canopy of green—somehow I let the first year go by without doing anything to it. By the time this spring rolled around, the porch was in rough shape: Winter had taken its toll, the few pots I’d left outside had cracked and broken in the cold (rookie mistake), and one corner had become storage for anything we didn’t want inside (disused chairs, bags of potting soil). A shame when you consider that the porch accounts for about one eighth of our entire apartment.

This month, I decided to make good on my plans to be outside as much as possible, but to do it, the porch needed some attention. With a furnishings budget of $550, hand-me-down and shopped-from-around-the-house finds, and a few details from favorite local gems, the porch is now where I have my coffee in the morning, work in the afternoons, and read with a glass of wine before the sun goes down. Plus, most everything’s easily packed up and moved when cold weather rolls around again.

Before

Let&#8\2\17;s get the &#8\2\20;before&#8\2\2\1; photos out of the way first. Here&#8\2\17;s the porch in mid-spring, full of potential—it&#8\2\17;s on the second floor and surrounded mostly by green—but sadly makeshift.
Above: Let’s get the “before” photos out of the way first. Here’s the porch in mid-spring, full of potential—it’s on the second floor and surrounded mostly by green—but sadly makeshift.
And the corner closest to the kitchen door had become an out-of-sight catch-all for potting soil, handed-down fold-up chairs, and various unsightlies.
Above: And the corner closest to the kitchen door had become an out-of-sight catch-all for potting soil, handed-down fold-up chairs, and various unsightlies.
Potting in progress. I like Coast of Maine Organic Potting Soil; \$\17.99 from Ace Hardware. In a pinch, I use a teapot to water—the spout helps get water down to the roots.
Above: Potting in progress. I like Coast of Maine Organic Potting Soil; $17.99 from Ace Hardware. In a pinch, I use a teapot to water—the spout helps get water down to the roots.

After

The porch now, in June. An outdoor rug helps create the feeling of a room; I wanted something subtle, in the same palette as the weathered blue-grey porch floor, and found the Nicole Miller Country Calla Herringbone Outdoor Rug. I bought it on sale for \$64.99; it&#8\2\17;s currently \$\1\14 via Lowe&#8\2\17;s.
Above: The porch now, in June. An outdoor rug helps create the feeling of a room; I wanted something subtle, in the same palette as the weathered blue-grey porch floor, and found the Nicole Miller Country Calla Herringbone Outdoor Rug. I bought it on sale for $64.99; it’s currently $114 via Lowe’s.
One of my favorite things about the porch is this very evocative painted door.
Above: One of my favorite things about the porch is this very evocative painted door.

The other new addition was the lounge furniture. I wanted a comfortable, thick-cushioned spot that was also lightweight, modular, and portable—a tricky combination to find on a budget. I ended up going with a Black Aluminum Outdoor Corner Seat and Black Aluminum Outdoor Ottoman, both sourced via Overstock. They’re sturdy but light—crucial for carrying down the two flights of stairs to the basement in cold weather. Total: $460. The cushions are from H&M Home.

I&#8\2\17;m smitten by the shapes of nasturtium leaves. A tray table keeps water and a book within easy reach; Ikea&#8\2\17;s Gladom design (\$\24.99) is a close lookalike. The glass is the Cast Water Glass by Japanese company Kinto.
Above: I’m smitten by the shapes of nasturtium leaves. A tray table keeps water and a book within easy reach; Ikea’s Gladom design ($24.99) is a close lookalike. The glass is the Cast Water Glass by Japanese company Kinto.
The canvas butterfly chair previously lived indoors; in inclement weather it can fold and rejoin us inside. The cloth draped over the back of it is from Sugar Tools up the coast in Camden; the low wooden bench was a sidewalk find.
Above: The canvas butterfly chair previously lived indoors; in inclement weather it can fold and rejoin us inside. The cloth draped over the back of it is from Sugar Tools up the coast in Camden; the low wooden bench was a sidewalk find.
My mini herb garden: basil, chives, thyme, lemon balm, and spearmint (for porch mojitos).
Above: My mini herb garden: basil, chives, thyme, lemon balm, and spearmint (for porch mojitos).
Above: Occasionally finds from nearby beaches and state parks find their way into a flower pot.
Forget-me-not and two tomato plants I&#8\2\17;m hoping bear fruit this summer.
Above: Forget-me-not and two tomato plants I’m hoping bear fruit this summer.
The round folding table was a hand-me-down; we now have dinner there most nights. The yellow pot was another lucky sidewalk find.
Above: The round folding table was a hand-me-down; we now have dinner there most nights. The yellow pot was another lucky sidewalk find.
I also invested in a few new terra cotta pots from the hardware store: \$3\2 for four, bringing me just a few dollars over budget at \$557.
Above: I also invested in a few new terra cotta pots from the hardware store: $32 for four, bringing me just a few dollars over budget at $557.
The flowers are from Fresh Pickins farm in Cape Elizabeth, which offers a flower CSA all through the summer months. The woven bag—packed and ready for the beach—is from Harmon&#8\2\17;s Floral Company in Portland.
Above: The flowers are from Fresh Pickins farm in Cape Elizabeth, which offers a flower CSA all through the summer months. The woven bag—packed and ready for the beach—is from Harmon’s Floral Company in Portland.
My partner, Matt, retrofitted a simple plywood potting table he&#8\2\17;d built for the corner closest to the kitchen—a much better place to stash seed pots, gardening gloves, and the like. At right: lupine.
Above: My partner, Matt, retrofitted a simple plywood potting table he’d built for the corner closest to the kitchen—a much better place to stash seed pots, gardening gloves, and the like. At right: lupine.
A ceramic cup holds floral wire and wooden plant markers; the cup and the Studio Formata tray are both from nearby Blanche + Mimi. The two-handled vase is the Bagno \2 Anses by La Soufflerie, found at The Post Supply in Portland.
Above: A ceramic cup holds floral wire and wooden plant markers; the cup and the Studio Formata tray are both from nearby Blanche + Mimi. The two-handled vase is the Bagno 2 Anses by La Soufflerie, found at The Post Supply in Portland.
A square of bluestone, snagged from my parents&#8\2\17; house, where it was left over from their patio, is a perfect place to pot plants without dirt falling through to the neighbor&#8\2\17;s deck below.
Above: A square of bluestone, snagged from my parents’ house, where it was left over from their patio, is a perfect place to pot plants without dirt falling through to the neighbor’s deck below.
Or to refill the bird feeder.
Above: Or to refill the bird feeder.
Above: Still, my favorite thing about the porch hasn’t changed: It’s the striated light that comes through at a certain hour of midmorning.

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