August 2010: Your Kids

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Problem: Designing a bug-free, fresh air play space

“We feel really strongly about our kids being outside as much as possible,” says Whitney Morrill, mom of two and architect, owner and founder of design firm Woollerton Edifice PLLC. “But we needed to give them a sanctuary from Charlottesville’s heat and mosquito mafia.”

 

Particularly between 9am and 10am, and 3pm and 4:30pm, which Morrill and her husband, Joe, have recognized as mosquito mealtimes, the children—Sasha, 7, and Evan, 5—retreat from the garden. They resume their outdoor play on a screened porch addition to the family’s late 1940s, Locust Avenue-area pad, even dragging up their kiddie pool or occasionally throwing up the bouncy house. 

“A rock fountain adjacent to the porch provides a cooling soundtrack during porch meals and quiet reading times,” says Morrill. 

The boxy, contemporary addition with big beams cantilevers out from the home and original patio and sits up off the yard enough to require guardrails. Morrill framed the screens with FSC-certified cedar and painted the metal guardrails (fashioned vertically because horizontal rails could become ladders for creative climbers!) the exact shade of blackish-gray that disappears into the screens with the sunlight, creating an almost unobstructed, transparent view to the backyard. 

The kids now have a blast watching the insects dance from the other side of the screens and lying down on the cedar floorboards to come eye to eye with the bumblebees in the plantings surrounding the porch, says Morrill. “Evan sees the mosquitoes swarming and says, ‘Suckers.’” 

Though the design is fresh and modern, Morrill was careful to respect the existing architecture of the vintage home by bringing the expanded porch to the same eaves as the original overhanging patio and maintaining some of the patio’s old bones. A beam from the original footprint now stands prominently in the middle of the new porch, sporting sassy lime-green paint for contrast. The colorful pier anchors the kids’ snack and craft table and has become the source of plenty of hide-and-seek games.

The kids also have found inspiration from the new v-groove wood floors: They shoot and race marbles down them, proving that if you give a kid a screened porch, she’ll likely make it into her own open air, cootie-free wonderland.—Katherine Ludwig 

 

Natural wonders

Chances are your kids are collecting lots of beloved seashells, river rocks, pinecones and twigs this season. These treasures should be gathered and admired, not stuffed in pockets and inadvertently assaulted in the washing machine. Organize and display them in glass jars like these. Assorted sizes, $2.99-5.99, at Michaels.—K.L.

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