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Porches, Patios and Pools

Perfect places to weather the summer heat

A breath of fresh air is the best way to describe the warm days of spring. We’ve been cooped up inside; and we can finally step out for a day in the yard, a walk in the park or dinner on the grill. These breezy, crisp days will soon be replaced with the balmy, humid days of summer though. It is then we will all be looking for shelter and shade. Porches, patios and pools are some of the most popular ways to beat the heat while still enjoying the great outdoors.

Porches have a long history in America and began with Southern roots. Front porches were not only a necessity for staying cool, but they were a place for socializing. The popularity of the porch soon spread across the U.S., but started to fade after the invention of air conditioning. They have seen a second coming with the desire for outdoor entertaining areas, but now porches are popular in the back yard to maintain privacy.

Porches can be constructed in a variety of ways. Front porches are usually built around the entry door of the home, and they can be partial porches or they can wrap around the entire front half of the house. A back porch is the exact opposite—usually constructed off one of the main living areas of the home such as the kitchen or living room. Back porches are different from traditional decks because they are covered. Back porches are often enclosed with either screens or windows.

Jim and Barbara Bernstein have been renovating their East Walnut Hills home since they moved in over 30 years ago. One of their favorite additions is a screened-in back porch off their kitchen. Their three-story home stands four stories off the ground in the back due to a walkout lower level. The house stands equal with the massive shade trees, and the views of their sloping back yard and the Ohio River are amazing. The Bernsteins decided to construct three levels of porches and decks off each level of their home.

The back porch off the main level serves as an outdoor living and dining room from the first days of spring through the last days of fall. Traditional white columns and railings are in keeping with the architectural style of the home, and screens allow the river breeze to cool the homeowners while keeping pesky bugs at bay. Complete with electricity for lights and ceiling fans, this porch is the ultimate destination for Sunday brunch and after dinner drinks. A porch swing and rocking chairs are traditional outdoor furnishings, and they are the perfect place for bird watching or reading a great book.

Porches require a great deal of structural planning due to the support needed for the ceiling, so it is important to consult with an architect or contractor before beginning an addition. To recreate this East Walnut Hills haven tell your team you want to use traditional, white railing and trim. The ceiling and floor are a natural wood stain, which stands out against the white. Look for traditional porch furnishings like the rocking chairs and swings, and use potted plants to mimic the foliage from outside.


Patios are spaces created directly on the ground—usually out of brick, stone or concrete—off the living area of the home. While they are usually directly off the back of the house, patios can be created on the side of a home or even away from the home in a niche in the yard.

Patios are wonderful areas for entertaining, grilling or relaxing around an outdoor fireplace. Often times, patios lead to pools as seen with the Lovedahls’ Forest Hills home. A large, outdoor umbrella provides shade over the table, and an outdoor fire pit warms guests on cool nights. A shade tree also brings much needed coverage from the hot, summer sun.

Patios can be created as a DIY project more easily than porches, but it is still wise to consult with a landscape architect, patterned concrete company or brick mason before taking on the challenge. To recreate this look in your own home, tell your contractor you are looking for brick as the floor surface and stone for the walls. Ornate patio furniture completes the look, and a large umbrella is a must for shade.

Another wonderful patio element is an outdoor fountain as seen on the back patio shown above. While it isn’t a pool, sometimes even the sound and sight of water is refreshing on a hot, summer day. To recreate this look, tell your contractor you want stamped concrete for the flooring surface. Ornate, wrought iron railing mirrors the elegance of a traditional fountain.


Nothing is as refreshing as a dip in the pool on a summer day. Pools come in all shapes and sizes, and the possibilities are endless with special features like sunbathing decks, water slides and diving boards built into rock formations.

Molly and Tom O’Neil knew they wanted a pool to complete the outdoor living area of their newly constructed home in West Chester. They called the experts at Mid-American Gunite Pools to create a resort-like atmosphere in their back yard.

“In our old house, we had to walk down 25 steps to get to the pool,” Molly recalls. “So it was going to be a deal-breaker if we couldn’t have the pool level with the back of the house.” The team of outdoor designers was able to build the dirt up to level off the back yard, and they used a patio to connect the back of the house to the pool.

To recreate a pool like the O’Neils’ in your own back yard, tell your design team you are looking for a kidney-shaped pool with a stamped concrete surround. The pool has an attached hot tub that seats up to eight people. “The other thing that is interesting about the pool is that it’s painted black instead of white, so we can leave the pool uncovered in the winter and falling leaves won’t make any marks,” Molly explains.


Porches, patios and pools seem to go hand-in-hand to create the ultimate outdoor living space. Whether you are planning to use all three elements or just one, make your outdoor entertainment area unique and livable for the perfect summer destination.


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