What is a Sunroom? Different Designs and Styles

Everybody knows what a sunroom is, but until they start researching, few people can truly appreciate the number of options they’ll have to choose from. Between colors, materials, size/dimensions, windows and door placement, there are an endless number of variations and combinations.

This informal glossary of sunroom designs and styles just covers the broad strokes. Don’t be mistaken, however, these broad strokes can be important. Again, it’s hard to fully appreciate how many different kinds of sunroom designs are out there. We all have blind spots in certain areas. I’ve seen someone have an almost completely designed screen sunroom in mind. They, then, asked about budget-friendly alternatives, and when I mentioned a pergola, they said, “What’s that?” With this in mind, take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with these designs and styles. Then, you can start thumbing through magazines with something of a big-picture context for what’s out there:


  • Pergolas: It’s true. Compared to most sunroom iterations, pergolas tend to be a much more budget-friendly option. But they still come with a range of options in terms of type of wood, hardware and accessories, and covering material—along with furniture and features. One of the big choices is covering material. A fabric cover with a mechanical crank for hardware is a reliable, yet versatile, option. A pergola trellis with vine plants is a beautiful, seemingly low-cost option, but beware that the maintenance requirements are considerable.


  • Screen Sunrooms: This is one of the most popular features and styles for sunrooms. In addition to lots of natural light, one of the big things people are looking for in a sunroom is the ability to feel like they’re sitting outside without getting bombarded by flying insects and debris blowing in the wind. In combination with metal paneling, they also make for very cost-effective walls for your sunroom.


  • Sliding vs. Hinged Doors for Sunrooms: New sliding doors may feel like they’ll last forever, but hinged doors typically provide a more secure and durable option for entering and leaving your sunroom. By comparison, sliding doors can help maximize the floor space and decorating options. Often, the decision comes down to feasibility and affordability in design, including where the property permits a larger sunroom design in the first place.


  • Doorless Sunrooms: What I mean by “doorless” is a sunroom that has no exterior door or entryway, only an interior one. It may seem like a natural choice to have an extra pathway to your yard (or parking lot for businesses), but the doorless sunroom does have one big advantage: Security. Modern sliding glass doors have gotten a lot better on this measure over the years and there are dozens of factors at play, but it’s still true that for many homes, the exterior door to the sunroom remains the most vulnerable point for your home security. Properties with severely sloped backyards may have little use for this type of door anyway.


  • Gabled Sunrooms: Your sunroom can have a flat, sloped, or gabled roof. In theory, you could also build a sunroom with a hip roof, though that’s pretty uncommon as it limits the options for extra windows in the gable. Gabled sunrooms tend to look a lot sturdier and can often be fashioned to look like the main structure of the house.


  • Florida Room: A gabled roof isn’t the only way to make your sunroom a more fully protective enclosure. The term Florida Room is sometimes used interchangeably with sunroom, but we always thought of it as a sunroom that could stand up to the Florida climate. We built these sunrooms to be waterproof, airtight, and dust-free when closed up, but with screens that still delivered on the traditional sunroom feel during calmer weather.


  • Solarium: Like a “Florida room,” a solarium is often used as just another name for a sunroom. But this style of sunroom is made almost entirely out of glass so as to let in a maximum amount of light. These can also refer to artificial tanning beds, but a sunroom solarium is a great way to tan naturally while still having some protection from the other elements. It’s also a great way to add plants and flowers to your home that love lots of sunlight. A different kind of solarium is an open-air terrace built on top of a traditional sunroom or other home addition.


  • Pool and Spa Sunroom: These can have very different looks and feels depending on the type of water feature and the nature of the household. Specifically, sunrooms for hot tubs and spas that are primarily used by adults may have more an emphasis on privacy, while pools for kids need a sunroom that is almost entirely transparent for safety. Either way, you may want to go that extra mile and install a retractable sunroom enclosure for versatile indoor/outdoor pool options.