It protects you from the rain, yet allows you to enjoy the cool summer breeze. It’s the perfect place to sit and observe the world or simply close your eyes for an afternoon nap. It’s a sanctuary that encourages solitude while being the perfect place for a family gathering or evening entertaining-a hostess’s dream. It’s your veranda, and there’s no place in the world like it.
Experts may recommend upgrading a kitchen or bathroom as the best way to add value to a home, but few investments in home improvement have the relatively low installation cost and instinctive appeal of a comfortable veranda. For an immediate tonic after a stressful day, it’s hard to beat collapsing into a favourite Adirondack chair or hammock with a cool drink and pleasant company. This may be all the recovery anyone needs.
Introduced to Bermuda in the nineteenth century by the British army, the Jamaica veranda provided cool ventilation for the troops stationed in barracks in subtropical and tropical climates. There are still many surviving examples of the original military structures in Barrack Hill, St. George’s; Old Military Hospital; police-department structures at Prospect, Devonshire; Lefroy House; and Commissioner’s House Dockyard. It did not take too long for verandas to be accepted into the Bermudian domestic-architecture vocabulary, and there are many fine examples to be seen from the roadside while travelling across the island.
The styles of verandas vary from house to house but generally take their cues from the architectural style of the house. Traditional Caribbean-style verandas feature wood floors, turned-wood support columns, brackets and ornamented balusters between posts. Most have either a wood or finished plaster ceiling. Many classic Bermuda verandas are simple wooden structures with chamfered support columns, square railings and shuttered screens on both sides for privacy, and, sometimes under the roof beam to reduce glare. More recent verandas exhibit exposed Bermuda slate as a ceiling feature.
Mediterranean Revival styles usually contain concrete subfloors with stone or tile surfaces. Masonry columns, balustrades and graceful arches in between are signature features. Greek Revival style with Doric columns usually predominates in Bermuda, although elegant Spanish Revival is seen from time to time. The high-style Georgian verandas are also very attractive, although they require a house of significant size and setting to avoid looking pretentious and overscaled.
The veranda is often mistakenly called a porch (a covered entry to a building) or a balcony (a platform projecting from a building with railings and supported on brackets without a roof covering). Sometimes it’s even referred to as a deck, which is generally a structure raised off the ground, with railings, but with no overhead cover. Yet a true veranda provides an open-air, covered living space that complements the internal-plan layout and potential activities of the house; an informal living and family space; an overflow space when entertaining; a safe play space for little ones on rainy days; or a sheltered refuge for plants in attractive pots and hanging baskets. A veranda creates countless opportunities for personal fun and fanciful interior-design options that can be changed at a whim without costing a fortune.
A veranda that is properly positioned and designed for your house creates cool breezes during the summer without having to resort to the cost and noise of mechanical air conditioning. Also, by creating air movement, it keeps your house dry in the humid months, thus reducing mould and mildew growth. For health reasons alone, a veranda is recommended for most Bermuda homes.
The essential element of the veranda is the depth or width of the space. Verandas measuring nine to twelve feet or greater become comfortable outdoor rooms with the flexibility and functionality to provide both seating and activity opportunities. A veranda with a clear space of less than eight feet limits the ability of a homeowner to set up an outdoor dining table and chairs with room enough to walk around the setting. Verandas of six feet or less severely limit activities to simple furniture groupings. Low ceilings must be avoided, if possible. Ceilings should be designed with sufficient height to position ceiling fans and attractive light fixtures. Floor surfaces should be simple and easy to clean. Recent advances in composite wood and recycled-material technology have provided options for wood floors, handrails and posts that have the comfort of wood without the painting, sealing or splinters. Terra cotta and glazed ceramic tile are very popular and add resilient colour options.
Whatever your style-Bermudian, Caribbean, Mediterranean, Spanish or Georgian-a veranda addition to your home will be an investment in easy living that you will not regret. Before adding a veranda to your home, consider how you wish to enjoy the space with family and friends. Read as many magazines on the subject as possible and collect articles that define your needs. Then seek professional design advice to ensure that the veranda designed for you will be structurally and aesthetically a lasting investment.
Colin Campbell is Managing Director, OBM International.