Outside In

Men laying new hardwood flooring


For Gary and Faye Clark, the guiding force behind the addition of a screened porch to their Marietta home was flow. Most contractors the couple talked to wanted to build onto the existing deck, but the Clarks envisioned their screened porch surrounding their bay window.

We wanted to be able to walk from the kitchen to the sunroom into the screened porch and then to the deck, instead of coming from the family room, Gary Clark says, adding that traffic would not flow well around the furniture in the family room if the porch had been built on the deck side of the house.

In Dale Contant, owner of Atlanta Design & Build, the Clarks found a contractor who understood their vision and was willing to work with it, despite the challenge of building around a bay window. Another challenge Contant had to work around was matching the existing roofline with the gable roof to allow for the 12-foot cathedral ceilings the Clarks wanted.


The bay [top] was a challenge in that we did not want the exterior side of the bay showing from the deck side, Contant says. So we built the side walls higher to allow for the bay window to be totally inside the screened porch. We then removed the bay roof and overhang, framed and sided it to the porch ceiling to really give it that built-from-scratch appearance.

The Clarks had another unique request, as well: a wood-burning stone fireplace. It was a concept the Clarks had seen put to use in the North Georgia mountains, and they wanted to recreate that cozy cabin feel. It makes the screened porch more functional, Clark says.

Contant says he used a combination of cultured and natural stone on the fireplace, because cultured stone is much lighter than natural stone, enabling the fireplace to be installed atop a wood-floor framing.

There are two glass windows on either side of the fireplace to keep the elements out and let sunlight in, and the porch walls and ceiling are completely insulated. Clark says in the winter, he and his wife arrange the furniture around the fireplace and gather there with their children and grandchildren. In the spring and summer, the central gathering point is a table and chairs, with the area around the fireplace left open.

The couple moved to Georgia five years ago from Pennsylvania, where Clark says screened porches are not the year-round congregating spot they are in the South. Clark says his family uses the screened porch at least 10 months out of the year. Its a nice place to entertain, he says.

The project cost about $30,000 and took about eight weeks to complete, and the Clarks could not be happier with the end result. The porch is equipped with cable television, ceiling fans, recessed lights on a dimmer and outlets for reading lamps in the base wall, which is 24 inches from floor to screen.

We tried to make it look like part of the house, Contant says. Its bright, with a light-painted ceiling.

Contant says an extra benefit of the Clarks screened-porch addition is a storage area underneath, where lawn-care and home-maintenance equipment is hidden from view behind latticework. This is especially useful for the Clarks, since neighborhood restrictions do not allow outbuildings.

Screened porches are as popular as ever, Contant says, particularly in light of insect-related problems, such as the spread of the West Nile virus. We like the outdoors, but its either too hot, too cold, too rainy or too buggy. A screened porch allows us to enjoy the outdoors comfortably.

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