Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sleeping Porches

In the South, summers can be brutally hot. I know. I lived there the first 28 years of my life, and most of it in South Central Texas. Sometimes during the long cold February days here on this mountain, I could almost wish to be back! "Sunny California" is a bit of a misnomer. 

Years ago, families in the South often had sleeping porches on the back of the house where they would move their beds during the very hottest part of the summer in order to catch the breezes that would subtly pass by. Although my own family didn't have one, two old-maid great aunts who lived together in a big old victorian farmhouse were blessed to have just such a space which looked something like this:

Sometimes we'd go visit them after church or for a family reunion or just to spend an hour or two in the afternoon. When I got bored (as children often do when "visiting"), I'd wander out to the sleeping porch where two or three iron beds were lined up facing out into the yard. Each had a simple ticking mattress toped with a homemade quilt and a couple of old feather pillows. In the heat of the day, with cicadas making their singing noise, I'd get drowsy and want to lay down for a short cat nap. One time I finally gave in and what a glorious sleep!

At night you can hear the croaking of frogs, chirping of crickets, and occasionally the lonesome sound of an owl. Fireflies silently glow off and on in the dark beyond the screen as they drift randomly in the night. Stars seem closer, the breeze cooler, and life is good.

As the sun tops the trees, dew glistens on the grass, mourning doves coo their sad song, and the world beyond begins to awaken. Is there a better way to greet the day?

I don't have a sleeping porch, but often on hot summer nights I wish I did. I'd sleep out there every single night and soak up all that wonderful goodness of God's glorious creation! I'll just have to settle for sleeping with my windows open for now.

Photo Credit: larry wfu

Bedroom "Sleeping Porch" Makeover

To create the feel of a sleeping porch in your bedroom, consider some of these touches that are easy to add:

• Because porches were often added to the back of a home (sometimes the side), one or two walls were covered in siding while the rest was screened. Cover just one wall or the ceiling in beadboard and paint it white (the most common house color in the South!).

• Remove your regular bedding, add crisp white cotton sheets, a couple of pillows, and an old colorful quilt. A white dust ruffle would be nice, too. 

• Replace heavy drapes with cotton shears.

• Declutter the room! Sleeping porches were sparse back in the day!

• Add a pretty vase full of fragrant flowers (like lilacs) or fill a dish with a similar potpourri. Another option: spray sheets with a light misting of lavender water.

• Open up all the windows at least an hour before bedtime to cool the room down.

• Add an old antique fan by a window. (Consider having an electrician check it for safety first!).

• Turn off all the lights when you go to bed. I have to unplug some of the appliances because they make a humming noise and have a little light coming from them. (I want it pitch black and silent so I can hear all the outside wildlife!)

Recently, both Pottery Barn and Garnet Hill had some photos of rooms that recreated the look and feel of the old fashioned sleeping porches. Just take a few cues from their rooms for inspiration to create your own look! 

Get ready! Summer's coming!
Hope all your dreams are sweet!


  1. These sound a lot like the screened varandahs they had in the old queenslander houses up in queensland. It is lovely sleeping in a sleep out!
    I love your last 2 pictures - wouldn´t it be wonderful to have such a beautiful room in my house! (one day...)
    Hope you are keeping well
    Have a nice day
    Renata :)

  2. Oh My Goodness!!! I have a terrible, sinful case of Sleeping Porch Envy. I mean, I am completely Green!
    I live in the Mid-West, but I am such a Southern Girl at heart, and this confirms it!

    Have a wonderful day!

  3. When some of Jamey's relatives built their house, they designed it so their bed could be rolled out of their bedroom, through a set of double doors and onto a second story porch. They could roll their bed outside any night they wished. Bliss:-).

  4. Love the 3rd picture!
    And I had to laugh at "Sunny California!" because while San Diego may be sunny all the time with nice 75 degree days we see rain about 3/4 of the year, just over 6ft on average. And if we hit 75 here then everyone is running around in shorts and tank tops calling it a heat wave! :)

  5. Glorious journey you just took me on. I'm there! Thanks for the ride through the sweet southern simplicity of Sleeping porches.

  6. THHP - what a great idea! I'm going to keep that in mind should I ever build again!

  7. I love these photos!!!
    Wish I had one of these big screened in porches. Here in WA we need them more to get out of the wind and rain!!!!
    Love your bedroom tips too! thanks for sharing!

  8. I love the idea of sleeping porches! Now if I could just turn down the "volume" on the street traffic. :( I live in an urban area and have "living in the country" envy. Hubby does not want the windows open at night - it's not safe, he says. He's probably right. Too bad.

    If we ever move to our mountain property, I'm definitely sleeping with windows open on a screened-in porch.

  9. Amy-I love this post! I love the sounds of nature, but our house sits very close to one of the major roads in town, so we get a lot of traffic noise. I still sleep with the windows open though! This summer we plan to "camp out" by the creek in the backyard a few times-it's down a hill from the road, so a little less noisy.
    THHP: I'm so glad you shared that tip! We are planning to build a house and could do just that!

  10. I'm thinking of putting a day bed on our big porch. and lots of fresh cut flowers. :)

  11. We had a screened back porch that ran the length of the house at our farm when we were kids. There were 2 aluminum chaises topped with very comfortable, floral patterned cushions. Everything was tongue and groove pine and OLD hunter fans kept us cool. Thank you for helping me remember the beautiful nights in Louisiana, when every kind of wildlife serenaded us to sleep on that old farmhouse porch.

  12. Wow, i got drowsy just reading this post. I want a sleeping porch!

  13. Love it~! We just saw an episode of The Waltons last night where "Grandpa/Zeb" Walton was ill and wasn't recovering. They finally moved his bed outside in a tent, surrounded by flowers. Of course, he recovered quickly. Who wouldn't? ;)

  14. I had to laugh, the frogs are so stinkin' loud here you'd never get any sleep if you slept on the porch. :)

  15. Oh, I'd LOVE to have a sleeping porch, but what about all the dust and dirt??? They never show that in Pottery Barn LOL. Maybe I can just do the Wainscotting on the walls...
    Thanks for the beauty!

  16. Beautiful...and great idea. As a kid we used to spend our summers in Cape May, NJ, a Jersey town with a lot of Southern charm (did you know it was below the Mason Dixon line?). On really hot nights, we used to take our sleeping bags out to the porch to catch the ocean breeze. It was glorious. We would wake up cold in the morning! Thanks for the pictures.

  17. Love this post! We've been using our sleeping porch since April and it has been wonderful. I can go to sleep with the moon as my nightlight and sometimes catch a shooting star before I shut my eyes. In the morning the birds are singing and I wake up to greenery and the sight of our towering sunflowers. The Pottery Barn picture is gorgeous; love the quilts! Thanks for sharing!

  18. What made you leave Texas - I'm thinking of homesteading there (from Ohio) so I'm interested in your thoughts : ) Thanks! @homesteadrevival

    1. My husband's job brought us to CA. TX is a great state, but it has changed a lot since I've lived there... but then again, so has everywhere else! Just a word of wisdom... unless you have a REALLY good reason to move, you might want to stay put. It's very hard living states away from extended family and "home". TX always pulls on my heart, but sometimes, you just can't go back. Thankfully, I have peace that God brought us here and He hasn't called us somewhere else, so we will stay until He says move.


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