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Decorating a Front Porch with a Porch Swing

                                                                                               (SHNS photo by Annie O'Neill / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

By Gretchen McKay
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

For as long as there have been front porches, there have been porch swings on which to enjoy them. What better place to drink a glass of lemonade, curl up with a well-worn paperback or canoodle with a lover?

Jenn Miller laughs as she explains where she got the exquisite mahogany swing that dominates the front porch of her house in Ben Avon, Pa.

When she and her husband, Marc, moved into the 1905 Craftsman-style house five years ago, four large hooks in the porch's beadboard ceiling hinted that something grand had once hung there. But after several years of searching, they failed to turn up anything that was either the proper size or style. If they were going to do it right, they decided, they'd have to have one made.

Luckily, they didn't have to look far for inspiration. For years, the Millers had admired the simple but elegant hardwood swing that adorned Al and Jean Bennett's front porch on a nearby street. Thought to be original to the 1905 house, the white-painted swing is a generous 7 feet long and 27 inches deep -- plenty large enough for two people to stretch out on.

So one spring day in 2002, Marc strolled over, knocked on their front door and asked the Bennetts if he could take some photos and measurements of the swing. Turns out he wasn't the first to ask. A couple of years before, a man from a local millwork company had asked the same question.

"He told me, 'Don't worry too much about it,' " Al recalls. " 'The price (to reconstruct it) is going to be quite a bit of money.' "

Marc Miller wouldn't be dissuaded; this was to be a surprise birthday gift for his wife. "We figured if we were going to go custom, why not go all out?" he says.

He turned to a family friend, John Fletcher of Wood Fabricating in Glassport, Pa., who spent several weeks making the swing at the largely discounted cost of about $1,500. Expensive, to be sure, but with four kids between the ages of 7 and 11, the Millers needed a swing that would hold stain and stand some abuse.

Topped with thickly padded floral tapestry cushions handmade by neighbor Marty Smart, the swing is a little more elaborate than the original model. But it is well used and much loved.

"We're on it constantly," says Jenn. "From morning coffee all the way to evening cocktails. Marc has even been known to fall asleep on it."

There are porch swings for every type of house and every type of swinger. Like most furniture, they come in all sizes, materials, colors and styles. It just depends on what you like, how many bodies you want to accommodate and how much you're willing to spend.

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