What Is a Sunroom?

Open-air living spaces go back a long way, which is why this architectural staple remains timeless today.

While open-air living spaces go all the way back to the Middle East and Mesopotamia, sunrooms originated in Italy as year-round places of enjoyment and relaxation in the locale's more temperate climate. These days, sunrooms—at least in the United States—are typically enclosed to protect against all weather patterns; these nooks or porches (exterior fixtures can be sunrooms, too!) allow the sun to freely enter the space, like a greenhouse or interior garden, according to Ana Maria Torres, the founder and principal of AT Architects.

"To me, it is a room that should have an indoor-outdoor quality. It's a space that can be fully opened to the landscape or, if enclosed, can still provide the feeling that you are a participant with your surroundings," she says. "A sunroom's orientation—preferably with some southern exposure—and large windows on at least two or three sides are its most important characteristics." Enclosed porches, with windows that can be fully opened, also fall into this category. "For an urban dweller, a roof penthouse or green room can be also considered a sunroom," she adds.

person wearing all white reading a book while relaxing in sunroom
Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

These spaces have a host of benefits. "Most of us are creatures who need more light," Torres shares. "A sunroom is a very desirable part of the house, helping us to connect with our close natural environment—which is greatly beneficial." Torres says the obvious uses for this space involve indoor gardening, meditating, reading, and deep breathing. They're an optimal place for entertaining, too: "Sunrooms are also wonderful spaces to share quiet moments with family or close friends all year round—they provide a more private, independent area from the main flow and activity of the house."

While Torres says it's easier to create a beautiful sunroom when you already have a garden or yard—and the possibility of playing with its orientation—you're not limited by your landscape or even your overarching locale. Even if all you have is a rooftop in the city, you can create a dreamy sunroom. "You can design a successful urban spot surrounded by a garden—a private place to enjoy the sun and the natural light, right in the city," she says.

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