See how homeowners of yesteryear effortlessly merged indoor comfort with outdoor and backyard beauty, providing functional, serene spaces to relax or entertain.
As you journey through this gallery of architectural nostalgia, you might just find your next home project in these timeless designs that define comfort and luxury in outdoor living to this day.
The concept of the porch in America can be traced back to the early colonial era when settlers built wide, covered verandas to shield themselves from the harsh sun and unpredictable weather. These outdoor spaces were also strategically designed to take advantage of natural ventilation in an era predating air conditioning. Porches served not only as a shield from the elements but also as a place for relaxation and social interaction.
Bug-free screen porches
The practice of screening in porches started gaining popularity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the US. Before screens were widely available and affordable, porches were open, leaving households exposed to insects and other elements.
The invention and popularization of wire mesh screens was a significant factor in this trend. Around the 1880s, Gilbert and Bennett Manufacturing Co. of Georgetown, Connecticut, started to mass-produce affordable wire window screens.
This innovation not only enhanced the comfort of homes by keeping pests like flies and mosquitoes out (as well as reducing the amount of disease they carried with them!), but also made it feasible to enclose porches with screens.
The exact time when people started screening in porches may vary depending on the region and relative prosperity of individual homeowners, but by the early 20th century, screened-in porches had become a common feature in many American homes — particularly in regions with warmer climates and more bugs. These spaces provided a comfortable outdoor living area where people could enjoy fresh air without the nuisance of insects.
Found: Bonus living space inside a cool & airy screened porch (1954)
A cool & airy, pretty & inviting screened porch could become an extra living room with as much charm as any indoor space.
The screened porch from the 1950s — sparkling cool with its brick floor and chalk-white walls — had a raftered ceiling in pale sky blue. Two hickory-and-reed chairs were painted chalk-white also, and the ottoman was cushioned in white canvas.
All the delights of alfresco dining without any of its discomforts could be had in this vintage room. One end of this porch provided for meals and entertaining, with storage space for china, glass and any necessary equipment in a blue-painted French provincial cabinet. There was storage space for extra pillows and lawn mats in the redwood chest, which also doubled as a seating bench.
Two white-polka-dotted navy-blue sofas with frames of woven reed and rattan would work as beds on hot nights. The surfboard-shaped table dinner table had a wrought iron base and was weather-resistant. Night lighting for the porch came from wrought-iron lanterns and a modern glass lamp.
Mid-century retro screened porch (1956)
DIY screened-in porch from 1958
From Ladies Home Journal (May 1958)
This porch, open to the sun, sea breezes, and sound of pines, might easily become the favorite spot in the house on the strength of the wonderful view alone. With its screen that cuts the sun, it’s the ideal place for a leisurely breakfast, after-swim gatherings, or relaxing at any time.
Screened-in porch adjacent to backyard (1967)
Vintage screened porch with dining table seen from above (1969)
80s screened porch with wicker furniture (1982)
Big wooden screened porch with a hot tub (1984)
The trend for patios — and, later, screened-in patios — was particularly noticeable in the post-World War II era, during the suburban housing boom. As compared to other outdoor spaces, patios are always ground-level and may or may not be attached to the home. They are usually composed of brick, pavers or poured cement, and any type of covering or enclosure is optional.
1950s two-story high screened patio courtyard
Flowering shrubs added color to a screened-in 50s patio (1956)
Old Florida-style screened-in patio from 1958
Simple wood beam and screened patio in Atlanta, Georgia (1959)
Vintage 50s screened-in patio exterior
Vintage DIY screen patio opens to kitchen area (1959)
Screened roof over backyard patio with lattice detail (1963)
Mid-century modern home with simple screened patio (1969)
Small screened-in deck & patio (1969)
70s screened and latticed garden room covered patio (1971)
Stretched across the entire rear of the house, the new garden room is screened and latticed for a maximum of light and air, a minimum of bugs, and a wonderful complexity of patterns. Topping the lattice is a Plexiglas roof, so that the room not only has three views of the surrounding trees, but also a stargazer’s vista of the sky.
Since the sun at high noon really beats down, central panels of the roof are shaded with strips of bamboo matting. The sofa, a bit of treillage itself, was made by the owner with wood left over from the lattice.
Small screened-in balcony patio (1984)
Screened-in lanai spaces
While the lanai is a type of patio, there are some key differences. Unlike a patio, which can be located anywhere near the house, a lanai is always attached to the house on at least one side and, like a porch, is roofed as an extension of the home.
Retro-style covered & screened-in lanai (1950)
Vintage Florida lanai with adjacent yard partially screened in (1959)
Backyard screen beyond the covered lanai to include a garden (1963)
Vintage home with unique lanai featuring a screened pool & outdoor fireplace (1964)
Screened pool enclosures aka pool cage
Huge screened-in Florida porch covering a swimming pool (1958)
For summer comfort: Screen in a piece of your garden (1950s)
From House Beautiful (August 1958)
One swallow may not make a summer, but one mosquito certainly can. Where mosquitoes and other bugs abound, even the most ardent outdoor-living enthusiast is likely to beat a hasty retreat indoors. One way to lick this problem, if you have it, is to screen in a porch or deck or terrace or — as in the spectacular example on these pages — a whole pool and garden area.
The screened room becomes, for the buggy season at least, your outdoor living center. Because it is open to the air on two or three sides and overhead, you enjoy living close to your landscape, feeling the fresh-air breezes, hearing the sounds of nature — without the outdoor discomforts.
The screened room shown here is located in Florida — it could not have been built with this expanse of screen ceiling anywhere snowfall was a possibility. But then, a screened room on this scale might have been considered uneconomical in the North anyway because of the shorter outdoor season.
In the South, where outdoor living is year-round. a screen structure like this makes sense. In this one. the screening was permanently stapled to the rafters and beams set 72″ on center. The staple line was then covered with stainless steel strips on the ceiling and wood strips on the side walls. The wider the screen, of course, the less the feeling of enclosure.
When Mr and Mrs Joseph Shapiro retired, Mr Shapiro conceived this spectacular screened room for the house they were building. Within its framework of laminated fir beams and Fiberglas screening are enclosed the corner swimming pool, an extensive lawn area, fruit trees that actually produce, flowering shrubs and vines.
The screen frame was designed to continue the pitch of the roof out about 35 feet, then down to the ground from a height of 19 feet. The outer screen walls are canted out from the ground, giving the whole structure its striking appearance. Sliding glass doors can close off the living room from the patio.
Fancy 50s screened-in patio & pool from 1959
From House Beautiful (February 1959)
The screened roof over the pool is the main design event. The best view out of the house, seen from a corner of the patio through the decorative pattern of the overhead structure, is the tracery of surrounding trees silhouetted against the sky. The screen enclosure, giving the court a room-like aspect, fills the space with a play of light and shadow, richly reflected on the water’s surface.
A three-dimensional “space-frame,” based upon a pattern of squares and diagonals, supports the enclosure of a screen that keeps insects and wind-borne litter out of the swimming pool patio. Use of this structural idea, with its inherent efficiency, makes it possible for the cover over this area to be supported with much lighter wood members than those that might customarily be used for this span.
By day, these high windows, with light reflected from the lower roof to the upper ceiling, give a well-distributed and pleasant, diffused interior light. This night view photo was taken looking directly across the swimming pool into the screened court.
A cross section through the central patio space and living room shows the truncated pyramidal form covering the swimming pool. It also shows the overlapping relationship of lower and higher roofs and the continuous band of clerestory windows that separate them.
Mid-century screened patio & swimming pool enclosure (1964)
Retro screened patio with pool (1969)
Mid century modern pool with screened roof covering (1970)
Screened in, this pool is an indoor patio-natatorium, extending from lot line to lot line at a 70s home in Orange County, California.