Southern Conundrum

Southern Conundrum: What’s the Best Porch Seat, a Swing or a Glider?

Two classic benches go head to head


Most places in the South experience porch-sitting weather at least nine months out of the year, and we’re moving slowly toward the moment when bugs and triple-digit heat are no longer deterrents. The ushering in of fall and of lingering longer outside also brings about home refreshes and time-worn debates—including the question of the best seating arrangements for the front or back porch. Is a classic hanging swing the ultimate Southern solution, or could, say, a retro glider supplant it? We asked a few experts in the style world to weigh in.

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For the North Carolina architect Ken Pursley, a glider is the ultimate throwback option—but all forms of classic seating are just fine. “My great aunt Ethel Lee Hilderbrand had a glider on her screened porch in Clover, South Carolina,” he says, “and I remember as a child finding it to be a wonderful curiosity.” Porch swings require more room for sitters to fully move back and forth; still, he concedes, “If you have the space and overhead support, nothing tops a gracious swing.”

photo: Crosley Furniture
A metal glider by Crosley Furniture ($719,

Jim Strickland, the founder of Historical Concepts in Peachtree City, Georgia, is on Team Glider, too. “We have an antique glider that belonged to my wife’s family that has followed us from home to home over the years,” he says, “and we have always found a place for it. It has many coats of paint on it, but I wouldn’t trade it for a swing. If it makes you happy, it’s a perfectly acceptable choice.”

The Charleston interior designer Melissa Ervin wholeheartedly favors gliders as well. “A vintage-style glider is a timeless and relaxing replacement for a porch swing,” she says. “Gliders have a smooth rocking mechanism and sit straight up for socializing. They are also a great alternative because people with vertigo issues struggle with porch swings.” 

No matter your preference, as Pursley diplomatically puts it, “I’m in full support of any furniture that brings joy, be it a rocking chair, joggling board, or glider.” But, he says in conclusion, “Have you ever seen someone in a glider who’s not smiling?”