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Porch swings, always a good idea, come in all shapes and sizes.
By Joohee Muromcew
Few houses in the valley fill me with more curiosity and wistful envy than a relatively modest one across the street from the picture-perfect Wilson Elementary School, mostly because it exudes a sense of warm and gracious family life from its front porch. Panels of red fabric provide privacy and shade, and also part to reveal a cozy lounging area and a much-loved porch swing. The swing is from Skycurve and looks like a small trampoline. Hung from simple chains, it’s the sort of porch swing that’s not only comfortable but fun to swing in. The kids use driftwood sticks to push themselves around on it. The wonderful thing about a swing is that it’s perfectly acceptable to just sit and swing—no need to multitask here.
According to Preserving Porches by Renee Kahn and Ellen Meagher, front porches came into vogue before the Civil War as industrial innovations freed up leisure time for homeowners and walkable neighborhoods bloomed across the country. Protected by roofs, porches provided cool and open social spaces. Porch swings, along with rockers and hanging chairs, offered pleasant seats from which residents could observe passersby and welcome neighborhood visitors. The unfortunate noise and pollution that came with the automotive age—and the inventions of air conditioning and broadcast television—eventually diminished the pleasures of front porches.
However, while not officially in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “porching” remains a way of life, particularly in the American South, and the porch swing continues to be a popular decorative element across the country. Historic photographs from the early twentieth century show that porch swing designs have not changed much. They were then made of hardwood or pine—often left over from home construction—with slatted seats and backs, and hung from chains. There were also many wicker porch swings, none of which would look out of place at most home and garden shops today.
Newer, more modern swings seem to have come about with the cross-cultural pollination of design and lifestyle seen in the past thirty years. Dedon, an award-winning, high-end outdoor furniture design company founded in the Philippines in 1990, produces what must be the most luxurious swing—a six-foot-wide circular bed encased in aluminum and polyethylene fiber. Dedon’s designs hover between a relaxed beachy glamour and refined ergonomics and engineering.
Swings vary greatly, from sumptuous beds to works of minimalist art, and many are now made for indoor use or of repurposed materials such as doors and pallets. Actress Gwyneth Paltrow’s former Tribeca loft in New York City featured a regal swing made of a carved antique Indian door, covered in silk cushions and pillows, floating above the shaggiest of rugs and under a vintage Venini pendant light. What could be groovier?
Svvvings (svvving.com), founded by European designers Marie Najdovski and Radek Podsiadlo, are designed for spacious lofts—and mind you, only chic airy lofts, please. Offered in about nineteen colors and finishes, the Svvving can be whimsical in playful, folksy striped wool (“Lindy”) or dominatrix-sexy in polished black vachette leather and black lacquer (“Faust”).
SwingLab (swinglab.co), a company based in Jackson, Mississippi, produces streamlined swings that at first appear as rigid as a schoolmarm’s wooden ruler, though loyal customers swear by their comfort. Crafted in aluminum and polished cypress, they’re designed to be somewhat customizable with removable seat backs that can be moved to desired places, even to allow two people to swing back-to-back.
Classic porch swings made of durable teak and more commonly used outdoor furniture materials abound here and online. A small but attractive selection can be found at Festive Living (festive-living.com) in Victor, Idaho. And for yet another option, Bland Hoke, a local artist and pied piper of fun ideas, recently launched Hammocraft (hammocraft.com), a modular, expandable frame for hammocks designed with the blithe and breezy idea of being able to attach them to stand-up paddleboards. In between drifting on the Snake River, Hammocrafts often appear at music festivals and campsites, and on many a shady porch.