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How to make porches part of your living space

Wrenda Goodwyn • special to the Fort Myers News-Press• July 4, 2015

We're in those lazy, hot, humid days of summer but if you are at home on this Fourth of July weekend, chances are that you will end up on a porch someplace either relaxing, celebrating with friends over a meal or watching fireworks.

Photo of white house with flag and hydrangeasMaybe it's because I was born and raised in the south. But I love porches. The "porch" was where the family headed after dinner.  I can hear my mother saying, "Help me finish the dishes and let's go out on the porch." It was where all important discussions and  decisions took place. Even though the "porch" was only a small cement stoop with a couple of aluminum chairs. It was still the place where we retreated at the end of the day.

As a Southwest Florida interior decorator,  I have had many "porches" since those days. Small apartment balconies barely large enough for two chairs,  front porches with comfortable wicker furniture, large lanais' with summer kitchens surrounding a pool and filled with friends.  But to me, they are all "porches."  A place to unwind, relax and think.

So, if in these hot, hot,  hot, days of July, you find your porch in need of a little makeover, I have some tips to give your space, no matter what the size, a little refreshing.  For years, I have been helping my clients makeover their porches as an extension of their living space. No matter what the size or budget.

My favorite
Add a porch swing. What could be better than dozing in a porch swing at the end of the day? Find them at flea markets if you are looking for vintage, hardware stores or check out the Ballard Designs Sunday Porch SwingPhoto of porch swing from Ballard DesignsDozing in a porch swing on a lazy afternoon. From Ballard Designs, this Sunday Porch Swing is hand crafted of 100% FSC eucalyptus to be naturally moisture and insect resistant, and finished in a warm whitewash. Photo: Ballard Designs. shown on this page. A porch swing just cries out, "Stop what you are doing and come and relax for a while." And if you find a vintage swing  that just will not hold up to much weight, hang it any way and fill it with plants.

Anchor your seating area with an outdoor rug
Even on a tiny balcony this works and adds color to the space. It also makes it an extension of your home.

If there is space, add an outdoor lamp.

Add a bar cart
Yes, it's great for a party but you can also use it for storage...liquid refreshments,  cups, stirrers, coasters, books, magazines, speakers, and anything else necessary for a relaxing afternoon.
Photo of all-weather cart for porch from Pottery Barn Pottery Barn's all-weather wicker bar console. Photo: Pottery Barn.
Hang Twinkle Lights
Arrange some strands of patio twinkle lights to transform your porch or patio into something special when evening comes. They make everything (and everyone) look pretty. And are very inexpensive.

Paint something blue
Paint the ceiling blue. Why? It's pretty and adds another dimension to your porch. Giving your own outdoor space a hint of blue is the perfect way to play into history, and it just might keep wasps and evil spirits away, too. According to the legend! Years ago, in the deep South, many people painted their porch ceilings a specific shade of Haint Blue, a soft blue-green, to ward off evilPhoto of ceiling porch painted in a haint blue shadePaint the porch ceiling a shade of blue. It's pretty and legend says that it keeps wasps away! Photo: Wrenda Goodwyn spirits called "haints." It's especially common in the historic homes around Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina. And I can say that my own blue porch ceiling has kept the wasps away!

Invest in plants
Give it your personal touch with lots of greenery. If there is space, add some pots, a small tree and a vase or two of fresh flowers. Use perennials so you will not have to replace them each year.

Go vertical
Hang a piece of artwork, plants  or a mirror on one wall.

Tiny space? No problem!

Bistro table and chairs may be all that you need. No room for furniture? Fill your tiny balcony with plants and in the winter months in Southwest Florida,  let the outdoors inside. And if you are on a budget, or even if your aren't, you can get creative with furniture by turning crates on the side and using them for benches of plant holders.

Wrenda Goodwyn is a Southwest Florida interior decorator. Home Inspirations appears the first Saturday of each month. Visit her website at Call her at 949-1808 or e-mail For more decorating tips and photos, visit And to see a selection of her favorite color palettes, go to wrendagoodwyn

Want to come home to a spectacular space? Call me!

Do you want your home to look like a model? Read my tips.

Read these tips and sort through the confusion of when to splurge on your home and when to save.



Rainbows, sunsets and sweet memories of home

It's true. You can't go home again. Sigh.

That's why I waited almost 10 years before going back to the Virginia peninsula where I was born and raised before leaving to come to Florida for a job at Walt Disney World.

For me, the area is filled with such wonderful memories but also of deep loss. I avoided it for a long time.

Photo of walkway at the Governor's Palace in Williamsburg, Virginia

But I wanted to see my cousin in Williamsburg and I felt a pull to be back in the history-rich area where I grew up. As the late writer, William Styron told me many years ago when I interviewed him for the Daily Press, "no matter what you are writing about, you are writing about the first 17 year of your life." I believe those memories impact everything that we do. They are always there.

Photo of colonial home with white picket fence at Williamsburg, Virginias

On this recent visit, I didn't go by Warwick High School where my dad played football and I danced with the Grenadier Band and Bagpipe Corp on the same field. I didn't see the old cottage on the York River where my mom, dad and little brother, along with our dog, spent so many afternoons in our tiny boat crabbing and clamming. And sitting on the screened porch watching storms, rainbows and sunsets. I didn't ride by the restaurant on Warwick Blvd where my dad worked extra hours so I could have braces.

Photo of my father, John Wren Goodwyn Jr. on the York River in VirginiaI was looking quite stylish during a day on the York River (Goodwin's Island) in 1963 with my dad, John W. Goodwyn Jr.

And I didn't go by my grandmother's house in Hilton Village or climb up the long stairway to the ballet school (now something else) where I spent years taking dance classes. I didn't drive past the tennis courts in Huntington Park where my father taught me that people wouldn't remember if I won or not, but they would remember how I acted no matter what the outcome. And I didn't go past the Daily Press where as a young reporter, my father taught me to always try to see the other person's point of view. I didn't go downtown, where as a child, my mother and I took the bus to go shopping and had lunch at the Woolworth's lunch counter. It was a big treat.

I decided to let those memories and gentle, swirling ghosts of the past, stay in my heart, resting softly.

Photo of an old bicycle in Smithfield, Virginia
Instead, my cousin and I took a road trip to Smithfield and spent an afternoon with a couple who were dear friends of my family. Their 1780 home sits on the bank of the James River and is beautiful.  We had soft crabs for lunch and walked through downtown Smithfield. And I ran into a classmate from high school who owns the Christmas Store. We drove past Bacon's Castle to Surry and took the ferry to Jamestown.

Photo of historic home in Smithfield, Virginia

I had dinner with a longtime friend on the York River and walked along the boardwalk. Took a ride past the battlefields that my dad and I walked so many times because he wanted me to know everything about the history of Virginia and what it meant.

There was lots of time wandering through Colonial Williamsburg and although I hadn’t planned on it, I found myself in Bruton Parrish Church where my family had been many times. I headed up the aisle and decided to sit in Thomas Jefferson's pew and think for a minute. And suddenly an orchestra came in and had a rehearsal for a concert taking place that evening. It was a special treat. At sunset, I found the gate open to the Williamsburg Palace grounds and worked my way  back into the maze, which in the second grade seemed very frightening but on this day was just a fun jaunt.

Photo of home in Colonial Williamsburg

Photo of Governor's Palace in Williamsburg, Virginia

Photo of Bruton Parrish Church in Williamsburg, Virginia

Photo of jeweler's sign in Williamsburg, Virginia

Photo pointing to press office at printer's shop in Williamsburg, Virginia

Photo of front view of the Governor's Palace in Williamsburg

And we had lunch at Chowning's Tavern…a tourist thing to do. But I was a tourist this time and it turns out that Chowning's is where my cousin had her first date with her husband. It was the right choice.

Photo of sign for Chowning's Tavern in Williamsburg, Virginia

I took long walks around my cousin's beautiful neighborhood, Queens Lake. And slept better than I have in months. Ran around with two Jack Russell Terriors, Snickers and Krypto. Visited Endview Plantation in Newport News (1769), which is the ancestral  home of my cousin and her son. On a tour, we discovered that he looks striking like Dr. Humphrey Harwood Curtis, who acquired the home in 1858. We all wished we could go back in time for just a few hours to see what a day was like at Endview. And for a short time, we almost felt the layers of history that surrounded us.

Photo of historic Endview Plantation in Newport News, Virginia

Photo of historic Endview Plantation in Newport News, Virginia

Photo of grave yard at historic Endview Plantation in Newport News, Virginia

Photo of entry at historic Endview Plantation in Newport News, Virginia

Photo of a grave at historic Endview Plantation in Newport News, Virginia

Photo with my cousins at historic Endview Plantation in Newport News, VirginiaAt Endview Plantation in Newport News with my cousins, Carol and Mark (Curtis) Welch.
It was a sweet visit and I found myself wanting to return soon.

Photo of horse drawn carriage in Colonial Williamsburg

This coming Sunday, Father's Day, I will be thinking about my father. He always said that when something sad happens, we needed to balance it out with something fun. So this weekend, I will think of him with my mother, brother and our dog on the river in our little boat catching soft crabs, swimming and laughing. Dinner will be great and I know the sunset will be spectacular. And maybe there will be a rainbow. I'll be at the beach looking for one.


Color your home with happiness

Wrenda Goodwyn • special to the Fort Myers News-Press• June 6, 2015

Color is pretty much my life.

I live with a fan deck in my hand and I constantly pull it out wherever I go to match colors, to plan a color palette or just because I see a color or a fabric that I want for a client.

As a Fort Myers interior decorator, I do more color consultations than any other design service.  And there is one big reason for that: Color is the most difficult challenge for most homeowners. Get it right and the results are pure joy. Get it wrong and you will always feel like something is off in your home. And it is. Really off. If the color is not right, nothing else matters. Trust me on this.

Photo o0f blue door from Benjamin MooreColor is the first thing we notice about a home. Does your color make you happy every time you walk in the door? Photo: Benjamin Moore.

Having the right color palette in your home is the difference between a happy home and one that says "hope you can live with me."

And it's not easy. It can be daunting. Color just plain stumps most people. So, if you are one of those people, and most of you are, I have a few tips to consider when selecting color.  Follow these tips and you will be ready to take the plunge. Or not. You may also be ready to call in a professional who can help you sort it all out and remove the stress.  After all, color creates a happy home and process should be fun. Here we go with my favorite "don'ts."

•    Don’t ask a painter or a paint store to help you select color. They sell paint. Not color. They are not decorators or designers. They are painters who put paint on the wall  or paint sellers. Simply put, they know how to paint a house and can tell you the best kind of paint to use but they just don't know how to select color.
•    Don’t select a color from one of those itsy bitsy fan deck samples or tiny swatches. You must (and this is non-negotiable) test the color by painting a large area or a foam core board.  

Photo of Benjamin Moore fan decksSo many colors! How do you select the right ones? Photo: Benjamin Moore.•    Don't just throw the paint on the wall and make a decision. I insist  that my clients "live" with the test color for a few days. Light changes throughout the day and is different in each room and that must be taken into consideration.

Now for some do's.

•    Make a plan for the room (or house) before you look at color. You have to start somewhere when designing an empty room and that should not be with the paint color. Select furnishings,  fabric, counter tops and other finishes  and even a few accessories and THEN look at color. I have clients who call and ask me to have an entire new home painted by next week before they select furniture. You may love that pretty coral paint but what happens when you fall in love with a sofa that doesn't relate to the color? Answer: you have to repaint. We want to avoid that costly mistake!  If you want coral, accessories may be the best way to go.

•    Forget this rule. It's just not true. I don't know who started it but painting small spaces a dark color does NOT make the room look smaller. My favorite: powder rooms done in dark hues.

•    It's fun to break decorating rules but this is one I never stray from: when selecting a color palette,  follow nature as your guide. Mother Nature has perfected the color palette so  imitate her. This is a rule I always follow. If it's not a color found in nature, forget it.

•     Stick with two or three (at the most colors for your home. The result: Beautiful and restful. You can add more color with accessories.  Don't try to put all of your color on the walls. Tip: the right pillows will change any room!

Photo of Color palette from the Benjamin Moore Williamsburg CollectionColor palette from the Benjamin Moore Williamsburg Collection. Photo: Benjamin Moore.•    Connect your rooms.  Don't make each room a completely different color. You want to have a plan so the house makes sense. An idea my clients seem to like: paint all of the main rooms (living room, entry, kitchen) a neutral shade. Use color in the bathrooms, bedrooms and den. I also like to paint the master bedroom and bath in coordinated shades to give it a hotel/master suite feeling.

•    One current trend that I love and encourage my clients to try: No more white ceilings! Check out the decorating magazines.  We are now using color on the ceilings or a cream shade. No more super white.

•    My latest color crush: Boca Raton Blue by Benjamin Moore. I can't think of a room that shouldn't have a little of this color. At least paint a front door (on both sides) or an entry ceiling.

•    Consider undertones. All color is not created equal. Look at the number of whites that you can select from on a fan deck. The reason a color works or does not work: undertones.

•    When in doubt, go neutral. This never fails. Neutral walls with stronger hues in fabric and accessories.  And if you really have doubts and don't know where to start, call a professional. They will help you nail it.

Photo of Wrenda Goodwyn's June 6, 2015 Fort Myers News-Press articleWrenda Goodwyn is a Southwest Florida interior decorator. Home Inspirations appears the first Saturday of each month. Visit her website at Call her at 949-1808 or e-mail For more decorating tips and photos, visit And to see a selection of her favorite color palettes, go to wrendagoodwyn



Want to come home to a spectacular space? Call me!

Do you want your home to look like a model? Read my tips.

Read these tips and sort through the confusion of when to splurge on your home and when to save.

Is it time to hire a professional? Check out my suggestions in the Fort Myers News-Press for working with an interior decorator.




Easy changes to refresh and renew your home and spirit for spring


Photo of Pottery Barn marbleized bud vases. Bring springs colors into your home with marbleized bud vases. Photo: Pottery Barn.

Wrenda Goodwyn • special to the Fort Myers News-Press• May 9, 2015

Even though in Southwest Florida, we typically go from winter (such as it is) straight into summer, with a few cool and breezy days in between, it is still human nature to mark the change of seasons.

And spring is a time to take a mid-year evaluation of how we want to transition into summer with subtle ways of renewing and refreshing our homes. And our spirit.

So, do a little inventory of you home and decide what makes you happy this spring. And make a list of a few easy changes you do to honor the season and refresh your home. Some of my favorite rituals to acknowledge this subtle shift may help!

Declutter. Spring is the perfect time as you refresh and renew your home. Eliminate anything that bothers you. A mini downsize of your "stuff" is healthy and don't be afraid to open up some space!

Open the windows. Yes, some fresh air. Let all of the bad chemicals and cooking fumes out and some fresh air in.  My green expert friend and designer, Peggy Oberlin of Oberlin Interiors in Naples, uses the plastic bag analogy when explaining what our homes are like. We live in air conditioning without fresh air and everything builds up inside to one big unhealthy trapped batch of air.  Open the windows and let it out!  

Bring a little "green" inside. We know that plants are healthy for our environment but I notice in most of my client's homes, there are very few plants used as decor. This does make some sense since we are surrounded by beautiful outdoor landscapes and our lanais are all filled with trees and potted plants. But pick up a few for the inside. No green thumb? Try succulents.  They live despite the fact that you don't have a green thumb.

Replace a few things. Like those yucky switch plates that have been around forever. Like the front door welcome mat. And definitely add or replace a few pots of annuals around your front door. They just shout out "welcome" spring.

Pottery Barn pretty spring table with turquoise dishes and glass based coral stands. Set a pretty spring table with turquoise dishes and glass based coral stands. Photo: Pottery Barn.

Paint baseboards and window sills. One of my favorite spring rituals. This gets rid of scuff marks and gives your home a little sparkly clean feeling.

Now, let's add some bursts of color.

Paint the front door. This is my favorite low-cost change that will make a big impact and it will also make you happy when you walk in the door. But here is the big change: paint the inside of the door as well so you can see it from your entry. Trust me. This is a great one! My favorite front door color (both sides) of the moment is Benjamin Moore's Boca Raton Blue.  But try a color that you love. The choices are endless.

Paint a ceiling blue. Yes. Blue. There's just something about a blue ceiling.  My favorite locations: bedrooms, bathrooms and lanais. It's a very tropical, cool, calming  thing that is also brings big impact for very little money. Try it. You will thank me.

Paint a piece of furniture. Add some color with an old table that you feel is brown and dull. A nightstand in the bedroom or a even fireplace mantel. Give it a new life. It will brighten up a room instantly and give it a little personality.  

Add wallpaper. Okay. You don't have to go crazy with this one if you are afraid. But a powder room (my favorites) or your closet are great rooms to play with. These are rooms that you are not living in all day but will love some spring pizzazz! Be brave! And while at it, add a chandelier.  Spring glam!

Pottery Barn outdoor Astrid trellis embroidered pillows.Add spring with outdoor Astrid trellis embroidered pillows. Photo: Pottery Barn.
Rotate your artwork. As a Fort Myers interior,  I do this for many of my clients. We all have artwork in the back of our closets because there is not enough space. Bring it all out and pick a few pieces to rotate for a season or two. It's like shopping in your own closet because you have probably forgotten about it!

To celebrate spring, there are a few purchases that will go a long way to welcoming a new season.

Pillows. If you don't add anything else, change the pillows on your sofa for a totally new look for spring.  I like doing this frequently and it is perfect for a seasonal transition.

Set a pretty table. Think about an inexpensive, colorful set of dishes. Napkins, table cloth and centerpiece. There is not any better (and fun) way to bring spring into your home than a new table setting.  You know you are bored with the same old tired looking stuff. Time to refresh it!

Create a spa in your bathroom. This would be a great time to give your bathroom a mini makeover. Transition it into spring with a spa look. White walls, blue ceiling, white fluffy towels, white rugs. Frame the mirror.  Voila! A new bathroom.

Add fresh flowers to every room. This is my favorite. Because it will not only add color to a room but it just makes you feel food. Invest in a few new vases and be creative about what you purchase. My favorites:  turquoise and green bottles. I like to buy large bouquets and break them into bunches of solid colors and arrange them throughout the house. And don't wait until house guests arrive. Do it for yourself.

Whatever changes you make to welcome spring, enjoy your home in this new season. There are only 32 weeks until Christmas!


Photo of Wrenda Goodwyn's Home Inspirations column in the Fort Myers News-Press.Wrenda Goodwyn is a Southwest Florida interior decorator. Home Inspirations appears the first Saturday of each month. Visit her website at Call her at 949-1808 or e-mail For more decorating tips and photos, visit

Want to come home to a spectacular space? Call me!

Do you want your home to look like a model? Read my tips.

Read these tips and sort through the confusion of when to splurge for your home and when to save.

Is it time to hire a professional? Check out my suggestions in the Fort Myers News-Press for working with an interior decorator.