Utilizing Outdoor Space for Small Homes

Reader Contribution by Anna Twitto

Front view of the deck at our new cabin

When we built our 700-square-foot cabin, we knew we’d be somewhat space-challenged after we moved in — there are five of us, we homeschool, and we do like to spread out with our projects. In anticipation of that, we invested in a large wraparound deck attached to the house, with the idea of spending much of our time there when the weather is nice.

Seasonal Use of Decks and Porches

We have seen this practice implemented by many people living in little homes — sometimes, the outdoor front porch or deck will be even larger than the house itself. Decks, porches and pergolas are wonderful for spreading out a spring or summer brunch, hanging out with friends and watching the sunset, relaxing in a rocking chair with a good book or a needlework project, or even taking a laptop with you and catching up on emails while you soak up some sunshine.

Of course, this isn’t possible at all times of the year. Those who live up north by necessity spend several months every winter inside. Around these parts, what keeps us indoors is mainly the heat, during the peak of which people tend to stay in air-conditioned spaces. However, as we love the outdoors, the smells of nature and fresh air and wind, a deck is a great solution for us.

For a front porch or deck to be inviting in hot weather it needs, of course, to be shaded. You can choose a complete waterproof awning that will also give you protection against rain – and it really is lovely to step out of doors and stand on a covered front porch and hear rain gushing all around — or if you just want shade, you can use bamboo canes or a sailcloth.

Foliage for Natural Cooling

Another attractive option is natural foliage. What we have seen on our visits to some friends, and what we intend to do ourselves eventually, is erect a network of poles and supportive wire all around the deck and plant grape vines in such a way that they are trained to grow up and provide shade for the outdoor area. It does take time, but the result is lovely natural shade that provides a degree of moisture and coolness that can’t be achieved by simply spreading an awning. And, of course, one also gets to enjoy some delicious fruit in time!

While grape vines are by far the most popular local front porch/pergola plant and grow very well around here, other people opt for passionfruit, which grows faster than grapes and provides awesome edible bounty as well. Of course, you can also choose a purely decorative climbing plant, such as morning glory, honeysuckle, jasmine or climbing roses.

Consider Fencing

If you are building a deck on uneven terrain like we did, keep safety in mind and fence off any risky areas. Don’t just put in a decorative border, but invest in a good, tall sturdy fence, especially if you have small children that can climb over and fall off the deck.

Even if one lives in a house that is roomy by all standards and has no space constraints, I consider a front porch or deck a wonderful addition to promote wholesome outdoor time that will leave you refreshed and relaxed.

Anna Twittos academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Anna and her husband live on a plot of land in Israel. They aim to grow and raise a significant part of their food by maintaining a vegetable garden, keeping a flock of backyard chickens and foraging. Anna’s books are on her Amazon.com Author Page. Connect with Anna on Facebook and read more about her current projects on her blog. Read all Anna’s Mother Earth News posts here

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