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A Perfect Porch: Come Sit for a Spell

The art of “porch sitting” may be a fading Southern tradition, but not at Shadowland, the Troutville home of Flo and Bill Fahrbach, where creating a welcoming porch environment and using it to its fullest potential is a tradition that goes back three generations.
“It’s always been this way,” says Flo, explaining that she grew up in this William Baldwin-designed Arts and Crafts bungalow that dates back to before 1920. Baldwin named the house and grounds Shadowland for all the trees and beautiful shadows they create. From the home’s beginning, Flo’s grandmother and mother played host to a well-appointed porch, taking full advantage of the spaciousness, comfort and views this magnificent porch offers. Flo inherited not only some of the pieces that furnish the space, but also the generously inviting spirit that welcomes all who visit.
“It’s like having a whole other room to the house,” says Flo, who uses her porch for an outdoor living room and dining room. She gives the décor here as much attention as any well-loved interior room. Separate seating and dining areas are furnished with an eclectic mix of pieces old and new—inherited heirlooms, like the white wicker seating that belonged to her grandmother, and newfound treasures, like the antique coffee table she discovered at Roanoke’s Present Thyme. Clever accent tables punctuate the space—ceramic here, carved wood there—holding stacks of books, magazines and photos of loved ones. A sofa table holds a beautiful lamp to illuminate late-night reading or conversations. Colorful upholstery in a charming mix of patterns—many from the French Thistle—along with painted shutters, a painted ceiling, and beautiful rugs all add dashes of summer cheer to the space as well.
Flo also uses the porch area to display her collections. “The porch is a great place for orchids,” she says. Orchids and the many other potted plants on the porch love the balmy Virginia outdoors, but are protected here from too much direct sun. She also loves to display her collection of majolica pottery—specifically, majolica frogs she has collected over the years.
Overlooking beautiful gardens and a serene pool, this charming environment plays host to all kinds of gatherings: friends, family, children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews and more. Even husband Bill hosts his own “porch sitting” sessions with golf buddies and other friends. “The porch can turn into somewhat of a cigar salon,” Flo says with a chuckle.
And when the season of porch sitting draws to a close—sometime in mid-September, when the Fahrbachs close their pool—Flo packs everything up and moves it to the pool house which, with its colorful window boxes and additional seating area, is another backyard treasure. “I really enjoy the process of packing and unpacking each season,” she says, describing the process as “a lot like moving.” But the efforts are worth it. Unpacking everything and bringing it back out in the spring is “so much fun,” she says.
Even if you don’t have three generations’ worth of good old-fashioned porch hospitality in your home or family history, you too can host a welcoming, comfortable outdoor place this summer. With a covered porch, somewhere to sit, a little imagination and, most importantly, a love of company and a generous spirit like Flo and Bill Fahrbach’s, you too can create a perfect porch for the season.

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