It’s officially late August, which means it is prime time for kicking back, cracking open a new book and a bottle of rose, and indulging in some leisure. And what better settings to leisure in than those of a porch, patio, or deck—particularly when you know exactly what kind of structure you’re reposing in, and can educate your fellow leisure-ers while they ignore you and attempt to read their Us Weekly in peace?
Let’s start with the most strictly defined concept: the porch. A porch is covered structure that is attached to a house, usually through the front or back door (though it can also serve as an extension of, say, a living room). It can be open-air or enclosed, usually with screens or glass. Unlike their patio-and-deck cousins, porches are a part of a house’s architecture; usually, they share a roof with the rest of the house, rather than being a separate addition.
A patio, on the other hand, can be covered or uncovered, connected to a house or free-standing, and made out of essentially any material (though they are usually paved in some way, whether with stones, bricks, or concrete). It’s a pretty loose concept; patios can come in any size, shape, or enclosure type, though they are usually ground-level and require no railings. A patio is considered a courtyard if it’s surrounded by walls.
A deck is specifically a wooden platform—it can be slightly raised, or high enough to require steps—and is recognizable as a deliberate addition to a house, rather than part of its architecture. Like a patio, it can be covered or uncovered, attached or unattached; one may choose, for example, to build a standalone viewing deck of a particularly eye-catching vista on one’s property. (If you have one of those, please holler; I will happily drag myself out of my porch-less, patio-less, deck-less apartment and pay you a visit.)
While we’re here, let’s explore some more leisure-setting buzz words. A veranda is a large porch that surrounds a house and provides access to both the front and back doors. A lanai is the Hawaiian word for veranda. And a portico is a porch supported by columns, specifically leading to a front door of a house (or building).