When the weather turns warm and the trees leaf out, my thoughts turn to fancy - the weekend retreat I will one day own at the Shore, or on Cape Cod, or in the mountains.

Until then, I'll have to be content with my shady porch in bucolic Cheltenham. And what better way to enjoy my rocking chair and a glass of iced tea than with three new books that seem written just to help me - OK, you too - envision that fantasy retreat in vivid color?

Vintage Cottages, by Molly Hyde English with photos by Tom Lamb (Gibbs Smith, $29.95), features mostly West Coast retreats, though a few are in Upstate New York and one - called "Keystone," appropriately enough - is owned by a Temple University professor and his writer wife. But no matter where they're located, these homes are universally charming, with many a flower-strewn fence and beaded-board kitchen, and decor that is often more shabby than chic.

English offers a bit of history about each place and some description of its furnishings, with retail sources listed at the back of the book - perfect to refer to later for shopping inspiration.

The Southern Cottage (Rizzoli, $39.95), with text and photos by Susan Sully, offers a narrower geographic perspective - all of the houses are located from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Florida Keys - but quite a wide take on weekend comfort and hospitality. Sully, too, provides house history and shopping sources, as well as details about how the owners use the cottages today.

Some of these dwellings are rustic, some are refined. All are my idea of gorgeous.

I'll take one cottage from each book, please. But given the likelihood of that happening, I'll rely instead on the ideas I picked up in On the Porch (Taunton Press, $30) to help me make the most of the weekend spaces I call my own now.

Authors James M. Crisp and Sandra L. Mahoney discuss every element of porch design, but their book is no dry how-to manual. It's about possibilities and potential - as the subtitle notes, it's about "creating your place to watch the world go by."

That's my definition of a getaway, for sure.

- Joanne McLaughlin