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Porch provides a great spot to relax year-round

August 05, 2006|by ROSE BENNETT GILBERT/ Copley News Service

Q: After sweating through this too-hot summer, we've decided to add an outdoor room to our house, a place like the front porch we had when I was a girl growing up. The whole family lived out there all summer long and in the fall my father would put up glass storm windows so we could sit out there during the winter, too. Is that still possible?

A: Not only possible, but probably even easier than a generation ago when your father had to heft storm windows into place. Today, there are combo windows that make light of heavy lifting and retractable screens that disappear into unobtrusive housing sleeves when they're not needed. You can even find motorized retractable screens that operate as easily as the TV remote (one resource to investigate is www.phantonscreens.com).

The beauty part of a screened area is that you can enjoy the warm breezes au natural without the insect life that often blows in on them. The downside of screening is that you lose a little of the light, how much depending on the color of the screen itself.

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On the other hand, you might opt for total climate control by enclosing your new outdoor room in eco-smart glass (look for a high R-Value rating for high energy-efficiency). Where glare and heat gain are problems, a professionally applied window film (such as Vista UVShield, www.vista-films.com) can work wonders without darkening the room.

The hospitable porch addition is wrapped in glass and equipped for year-round relaxing with an overhead fan and a wood-burning fireplace. While the porch offers all the comforts of any indoor living room, it can combine easy living with low maintenance if you use a synthetic sisal rug, washable wicker furniture, and outdoor fabrics, including the pillow fringes, which are fade-proof and highly durable.

Also important: The architecture of the porch addition has been planned to echo the traditional character of the main house so it looks integral to the original rather than like an interloper. Painting or staining the wood to match the house or trim color also creates a sense of unity, according to expert Lee Anne White, author of "Outdoor Living Idea Book" (Taunton Press).

Q: I'm planning to remodel a small bedroom next to the master bedroom as a private bath for my husband (his retirement present). Do you have any special recommendations?

A: Good lighting and a great shower. As any good bath designer will tell you, every bath needs two kinds of lighting: overhead or "walking-around" lighting from a ceiling-mounted or hanging fixture, and task lighting on at least two sides of the mirror. You have a wealth of fixtures to choose from. But never, never use standard, cool white fluorescent bulbs in a bath. Your poor husband will think himself ill every time he sees that greenish man in the mirror.

If you have ample money and your husband loves expensive toys, one new gadget to consider from Kohler, the water wizard people.

The Kohler DTV custom shower system is an "experience" that offers up to eight shower heads, hand showers and body sprays. At the touch of a button, the bathee can specify a shower that's invigorating or relaxing, or a dose of hydrotherapy that includes up-and-down massages, wave massages and water temperatures that run from hot to cold or the other way around.

Such luxury doesn't come cheap. The Kohler DTV starts at approximately $2,000. If that doesn't throw cold water on your budget, check out the details at www.KOHLER.com or call 800-4-KOHLER.

Rose Bennett Gilbert is the co-author of "Hampton Style" and associate editor of Country Decorating Ideas. Please send your questions to her at Copley News Service, P.O. Box 120190, San Diego, CA 92112-0190, or online at copleysd@copleynews.com.

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