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What is a Sunroom?

December 31, 2016
image of a traditional sunroom

More than 40% of wall space is glass

This is a technical point from the International Energy Conservation Code. If you’re designing a sunroom, you and your architect will determine the actual ratio of glass to enclosed wall space that will work for your room.

Fully enclosed

A sunroom is fully enclosed. A sun porch is open to the elements rather than having full windows and walls between the indoors and outdoors.

May or may not be heated or cooled

Sometimes the sunroom is fully integrated into the house and is attached to the central HVAC system. If not, it may have a separate heating or cooling unit mounted in the sunroom. If it is not meant to be heated or cooled, it will often have fully insulated doors that can close it off from the rest of the house when the temperatures are extreme outside. This option might sometimes be called a three season room.

Attached to the house

If it’s unattached, it might be called a greenhouse, conservatory or summer house.

Solarium, Conservatory, Greenhouse, Orangerie

There are a lot of names for interior sun spaces. A solarium technically has a glassed roof, as would a conservatory, greenhouse and orangerie (or limonaia). For the purposes of this blog, I’m going to be very liberal about my definition of a sunroom. Any of these would count for me, and I’d consider myself lucky to spend time in any of them!


Dreaming of a Sunroom

December 29, 2016
image of a sunroom roof

If you’re like me, there’s no better place to enjoy a quiet moment than in the sunshine. As a landscape architect, I spend a lot of my time thinking about how to provide places for people to enjoy the sunshine in an outdoor setting, but I also like to be able to experience that light when I’m indoors. So as I think about how to bring more light into my own home, I am dreaming of a sunroom, and I thought I’d share my research and daydreams with others who have a similar love for bringing nature indoors.

I learned a long time ago that there are threes qualities to an indoor space that make it pleasant to occupy, at least for me: light, height, and airiness. The particular architectural style doesn’t matter that much to me. I can be very happy in a house that’s ultra modern, eclectic, traditional, whatever. For me, the key is to have big windows, high ceilings and lots of natural light.  That makes a sunroom an ideal addition to my kind of home.

Do I have one at the moment? No, but I’m working on it.

image of interior of sunroom at Smith-McDowell House in Asheville, NC

The first sunroom I got to spend any amount of time in was at the Smith-McDowell House Museum in Asheville, NC. Let’s just say I was hooked. If anyone is looking for a museum to volunteer at, this is a great place to spend some time. It focuses on the local history of Asheville in the Victorian era when the house was built.

Would my own sunroom be filled with geraniums? Maybe not, but there will probably be one or two in there just for old-times sake (and a little color).

image of the exterior of the sunroom at Smith-McDowell House in Asheville, NCAnd you know, if you have to have a sunroom, why not attach it to a lovely old brick mansion? Seems like a smart decision to me. Or attach it to a mid-century rancher, or a townhouse, or a suburban split-level. Whatever floats your boat.