Verandas are famous features of outdoor living and comfort. They’ve been popular for nearly 200 years. Verandas are considered a “hybrid” form of architecture, derived from Asian and Western designs. The word “veranda” is believed to be either an Anglicised version of a similar word in Indian dialects, or a form of the same Spanish/Portuguese term, also derived from the Indian, meaning “balcony”, which is the nearest practical equivalent.
A veranda is literally a covered porch, although the term may refer to a covered “gallery” or walkway. Verandas became popular in the European colonial era among people building their own homes, because they could also be used as covered work and storage spaces. They found their way into mainstream architecture gradually, becoming popular in the US and Australia in the 19th century. Verandas are now universal architectural features around the world.
The covered porch is a feature of many post-Georgian designs, and also represents the emergence of a different middle class lifestyle. The early suburban designs in the 20th century, notably the famous Australian Federation houses, were the beginning of the new culture of freestanding independent housing. All of them had covered porches built in to the front of the building.
In direct contrast, a patio is an outdoor area, usually paved or otherwise built up. The word comes from either Spanish or Latin, meaning “pasture” or more likely “cleared space” idiomatically. Patios are based on Moorish architecture, which often involved ornate, spacious areas like courtyards.
Patios are distinguished from verandas by character. A patio is either a covered or uncovered outdoor area, adjacent to a building. The definition of patios has blurred over time, with endless variations on the general idea. Some patios are typical entertainment areas; others are much more ornate, with pergolas and other superimposed or built in features. Patios are extremely functional features of many architectural styles, including modern CAD designed homes.
(Note: Generally speaking, a veranda is literally part of the house, a patio is an independent feature, covered or uncovered.)
It’s interesting to note that both verandas and patios have become standard architectural features in almost every type of building at some point in time. In their current forms, they’re often seen together, a house using ground level verandas which lead directly on to adjoining patios, often with entertainment areas, swimming pools, Jacuzzis, etc. as features.
It’s a testimony to the architectural versatility of the verandas and patios that they are both also often converted into living spaces in some form. They can act as extensions of the home, be enclosed as sunrooms, or simply be used as extra space for storage as they once were, taking some of the pressure off the internal space.
The big new modern houses, two storey monsters, may be a far cry from the old cabins and early houses that first adopted verandas, but many of them have large covered areas around them, typical veranda styles. Patios have gone from an oddity of alien architecture in Europe to a common outdoor feature, used everywhere from palaces to basic home designs.
Verandas and patios deserve their place as design icons. They’ve quite literally changed the face of the world.