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Jul 25, 2023

Talk about easy, breezy, beautiful!

Remember that immortal line of questioning in My Cousin Vinny? One of the witnesses claims in open court that he could clearly identify the two yutes accused of murder from his home across the street. “What is this rusty, dusty, dirty-looking thing over your window?” Vinny Gambini asks, pointing to a photograph. “A screen,” the witness replies. Yuck! For some of us, this scene ruined screened-in porches completely. But everyone loves a comeback story, and the time has come for redemption, as top designers around the country are making beautiful, high-brow spaces within yards of that polemical fiberglass mesh. But while we can revel in the formal innovations therein, it’s helpful to remember a screen’s basic function: “While it obviously keeps the bugs away, it also creates just enough of a barrier to make you feel cozy while not removing you from nature,” says Los Angeles–based interior designer Nina Freudenberger. It takes a confident, experienced designer to elevate a screened-in porch, but when done effectively the jury’s verdict can be announced proudly from the courthouse steps: Not guilty!

In a 19th-century Bridgehampton, New York, farmhouse by designer Steven Gambrel, the porch was an opportunity to bring the garden inside. “My husband and I fell in love with its cozy elegance,” the client says. “We wanted that vibe, and Steven gave it to us.” Here, the dining table and benches are of New Zealand teak, the rattan sofa by Bielecky Brothers has cushions in a Perennials fabric, and the pendant lights are from Circa Antiques; the walls are painted in White, the ceiling in Silver Gray, and the window frames and doors in Black, all by Fine Paints of Europe.

Architect Bill Ryall designed a sunny porch for the Long Island home he shares with curator Barry Bergdoll. True to his architecture firm’s aesthetic, the space feels airy and utterly modern. The casual dining area includes a 1950s butterfly chair and a plywood-top table with industrial folding legs. Simple wood framing holds the stainless steel screens in place.

You don’t need much to take your screened-in porch to the next level. Just see textile designer Susan Hable Smith’s Athens, Georgia, home, where the cheery screened porch features a custom-made banquette covered in a Hable Construction outdoor fabric and a simple Indonesian chair surrounded by antique chairs. The floors are painted in Farrow & Ball’s Studio Green, a move that brings in the hue of the lawn just outside.

When Michel Botbol first discovered this timeworn, century-old property on Long Island, he likened the vibe to “Harry Potter meets Miss Havisham.” Fortunately, that aesthetic worked out in his favor in the screened-in porch, where he made a series of rustic columns a showpiece and placed a lighter-than-air table and set of chairs (which originally belonged to fashion designer Geoffrey Beene) front and center.

Sure, your screened-in porch might be designed to protect you from the elements, but why not bring in a bit of the sky? Fashion designer Chris Benz painted the ceiling of his screened porch a pleasant pale blue. The 1920s rattan furniture is original to the house, and and the cocktail table is vintage.

Badgley Mischka’s Kentucky retreat is where thoroughbred horses and high style meet. The screened-in porch of the design team’s 1920s limestone-and-clapboard Dutch Colonial Revival looks out onto their 15-acres of land and features sofas, chairs, and tables by RH, Restoration Hardware.

“Into the woods” gets a whole new meaning in a Jackson Hole, Wyoming, home designed by Jeffrey Bilhuber. Here, he matched the furnishings and accessories to the room’s rustic timber frame and walls, a move that is reminiscent of the forest outside. The low- country corn-husk chairs and stool are vintage, the painted table is Swedish, the floor lamp is by Holtkoetter, and the rug is by Patterson Flynn.

Even if you don’t live in Florida, go ahead and embrace the tropics in your screened-in porch. The rattan sofa and armchairs in a Palm Beach home by Tom Scheerer are from Harbinger, the slipper chairs are by Walters, the porcelain stool is by Tucker Robbins, and the cocktail table is custom. A sconce by Scheerer for the Urban Electric Co. hangs between staghorn ferns on plaques. The ceiling is paneled in pecky cypress.

Rattan furniture is a screened-in porch classic, and here, in her New Hampshire retreat, Boston architect Heather Wells uses it to create the coziest of atmospheres. The antique wicker sofa and chairs have cushions covered in a Koplavitch & Zimmer fabric, the round side table is by Mecox, and the floor is old-growth fir from California.

Designer Darryl Carter gave this 100-year-old house in Washington D.C., a minimalist, yet warm, new look. In the screened sunroom, a pair of Art Deco–era industrial lights hang above a custom-made table and benches; the sofa, by Lawson-Fenning, is upholstered in a Perennials canvas, and the flooring is bluestone.

According to designer Victoria Sass, this rustic porch moment in a Wisconsin lake house works like a “little geode. It kind of glows in the evening.” Here the sofas are by B&B Italia, and the cocktail table and chairs are by Gloster. Sass mounted the client’s grandmother’s water skis (far left) to the wall as an art piece. With a TV above the fireplace, it’s also a great place for a family to watch the game or binge a Law & Order marathon.

The screened-in porch functions as a year-round extension of the living room in a home by Palmer Weiss on Lake Tahoe. The LaLune Collection custom table has a round cedar plant top, and the cocktail table is from Mecox Gardens. The sofa and pillows are by Lee Industries and covered in a Claremont fabric, the lamp is from Toby West Antiques, the area rug is Frontgate Sunbrella Tweed and topped with a 1950s Oushak rug.

This East Hampton, New York, home may have been inspired by Grey Gardens, but the interiors are anything but dowdy. Designer Celerie Kemble selected a bunch of painted wicker furnishings from Mainly Baskets for the screened porch, in addition to antique reed armchairs and a cocktail scored at an area garage sale. Our fave part? The patterned tiled floors.

In the garden pavilion of an 1830s Federal house in the Hudson Valley by Michael Carey, the lighting feels just as unique as if you were sitting in the formal dining room. Here, a vintage garden table from Finch, in Hudson, New York, is surrounded by dining chairs by RH, Restoration Hardware, which also made the pendant light; the tropical-root table is from Mecox and the rug from West Elm.

At decorator Gwynn Griffith’s home in San Antonio, forest-green shades hang in the double-height screened porch. The suspended sofa and wicker chair are accessorized with pillows covered in African textiles. The side table is by John Dickinson, and the stained concrete floors nod to the building’s industrial past.

Charles Curkin is ELLE Decor's Articles Editor, covering everything related to luxury watches, design, and travel, and has previously written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Paris Review.

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