I grew up in the Southwest, where rain, wind, snow, and cold were practically nonexistent, and where indoor and outdoor spaces merged pretty freely. Patios, porches, and decks were practically standard-issue living spaces, and even outdoor bathrooms and outdoor kitchens weren’t unheard of. So it wasn’t until I moved to the upper Midwest that I even heard of sun rooms. Until my first winter, the concept was sort of lost on me – wasn’t a room with lots of windows just a room? But in the cooler months (and the really hot, humid ones), these add-on rooms really began to shine; they offer a relaxing, sun-soaked sitting space that’s as close as you can get to sitting outside while still being protected from the elements.
So What Is A Sun Room?
Sun rooms go by several different names in different regions. I first heard them called Florida rooms, but you might know them as patio rooms, solariums, conservatories, sun parlors, porches, or lounges. Essentially, they’re an uninsulated addition to the side of your home designed with large wall-to-wall windows or French doors and often skylights that overlook your landscaping. These additions typically don’t connect to your home’s heating and cooling system, and are closer to a well-enclosed porch than a fully finished extension. Unlike classic conservatories, you probably can’t use a sunroom as a greenhouse for growing plants. But they can help you maximize your sunlight year round.
Shop Patio Chairs and Stools
Ever since Great Britain’s conservatories, sun rooms have favored a decor that’s equal parts tropical and garden party. Styles range from tropical cabanas to bright, open, cottage-style spaces. In either case, white is far and away the most dominant color, followed by browns, greens, and cheery, colorful patterns. Look for natural materials, like rattan and wicker, but pair them with puffy, oversized cushions and whitewashed walls and ceilings. Of course, you can use more traditional indoor furniture – many sun rooms look great paired with antiques. But if there’s a set of patio furniture you love that might not hold up in your climate (or that you don’t have a place to store in the off season), a sun room is a great way to get the best of both worlds.
Shop Patio Dining Sets
While sun rooms are more or less a finished part of your home, they’re at least partly an outdoor space. With big windows and glass doors on three sides, sun rooms are closer to a well covered patio. You can further enhance this blend of indoor/outdoor space by choosing flooring that mirrors what you’d use outside. Brick, tile, wood, and flagstones or other natural stone flooring all create an outdoorsey vibe; casual rugs or bamboo mats can soften a hard floor and enhance a cottage or island inspired ambiance. Choosing a rugged, easy to clean flooring material will even allow your sun room to double as a mudroom. That’s doubly good for gardeners or dog owners that don’t want to track mud into a carpeted house.
Shop Wood look tile:
A Touch Of Green
Sun rooms evolved from British conservatories – indoor greenhouse rooms designed to let occupants enjoy tropical plants (and weather) in an often dreary and damp climate. While these have largely been replaced by a little thing called central heating, adding a plant or two to your sun room is a great way to merge your indoor space with your outdoor landscaping. Tropical plants like rubber trees and palms contribute to an island theme, while more traditional British botanicals can extend your garden, creating a sort of indoor garden party that’s great for entertaining in areas where the weather isn’t always amenable.
Shop Patio Sofas and Sectionals:
Because sun rooms are covered in windows and are typically both uninsulated and unairconditioned, they can get a little toasty in the summer months, and a little cool in the winter months. Installing a ceiling fan or two is a good way to counter this. In the summer, they help draw cool air up through the room and create a little breeze. By reversing the blades in winter, they can force warm air that gathers near the ceiling down into the room. Any fan will do, but this is a nice opportunity to have a little fun with your decor. Fans with wide, paddle-shaped bamboo or rattan blades are a great way to add tropical flair to your sun room.
Fireplaces And Stoves
Sun rooms are inherently designed for passive solar heating. With so many windows, solar heat enters the room and stays inside. But in northern climates with harsh winters, it can be wise to supplement your design with a small fireplace or potbellied stove. Wood burning, gas, electric, or biofuel fireplaces or stoves can easily heat a small sun room, enabling you to enjoy a crisp clear winter morning as though it were a spring afternoon. Plus, cast iron stoves and stone fireplaces add a certain cozy charm that will make your sitting room feel inviting even when they aren’t in use.
A three-season sunroom is a great way to enjoy the outdoors, even when weather isn’t willing to cooperate. If you live somewhere that has short, temperamental summers, a three-season room can help you merge indoor and outdoor to get the benefit of both for a longer, more pleasant “summer” season.