By Chris Van Lierop
We all like to be connected to the outdoors, but given our long winters, and sometimes unpredictable weather, it’s nice to be connected to outside from the comfort of inside.
The Solution? The Modern Sunroom.
Nowadays, the sunroom no longer has to accommodate wicker and rattan and only be used during the summer:
With higher R-values that keep the heat of the sun out, new technology can block almost 85% of the sun’s solar heat.
Glass can now have lower reflectivity, meaning that when we are spending time under the sun, glare becomes less of a factor. You can even watch tv in your sunroom.
Windows can now virtually clean themselves with coatings of silicone and titanium dioxide that shed dirt with the help of a good rain.
These new sunrooms are also much safer with a requirement for most glass roofs to have laminated glass in case something magically hits the roof at the right angle with the right force to try to break it.
We no longer have the same worries of our grandparents in their sunrooms — we get to use them in the sun, and all year round, comfortably.
Designing Our Perfect Sunroom
Tim and I had the opportunity to design a sunroom for our own home that we knew we would want to use over the winter.
When we walked into our home for the first time and saw a 6’ x 8’ patio door off the back of the house leading directly into a century-old cherry tree, we knew we wanted to spend our time sitting under the tree. We decided that we had to use the tree, which had stood in the yard for longer than the house, to decide the layout of our new sunroom.
The pitch of the roof had to accommodate some low hanging branches and it needed to stretch out far enough that we felt covered under part of the tree, but not too far that we might hurt some of the major roots that stood beneath the ground feeding the tree life.
The colour of the aluminum used to construct the sunroom had to be just right that it didn’t stand out against the tree, but rather blended in, making what lurked below and above the glass the focal point. We also needed it to be functional from an airflow perspective. We love to have the windows open as much as we can and a cross breeze was imperative — so we made sure that all windows were operational and slide from one side to the next.
Before we went ahead with this, we made sure that the city was okay with our placement and that we had considered the health of the tree and it’s expected lifespan. Trees need to be pruned and cared for, dead branches need to be tended to and the root system needs to be kept healthy. For those who have done renovations with old trees on their property, you know how seriously cities now take their tree canopy. Cordoning off and considering the repercussions of your reno on a tree’s health is an important consideration.
Once we got through these hurdles, it was time to connect the sunroom to the house.
Connecting Our New Sunroom to Our Home
Our home, while large by the neighbourhood's standard, was missing a main floor powder room and a less formal family room.
The space at the front of the house seemed the likely spot for our formal living room, connecting guests intimately to our home immediately and then gradually becoming less formal as you escaped inside and towards the backyard. The sunroom had to function as a lounging spot — it had to connect us to outside and it had to incorporate a powder room so guests to our regular dinner parties didn’t have to head upstairs to use the guest washroom. The sunroom also had to connect us to a natural outdoor seating area under the tree and as the entry/exit from the back of the house to the BBQ.
We could only go back so far without having to consider hurting some of the major roots identified from the tree, so we went with a 10’ x 14’ extension to the main floor. We tucked a building code minimum flirting powder room into the corner, away from the kitchen and at the tv where we knew it wasn’t in the way of the natural traffic pattern. We decided that in order to house the tv properly and block sight lines to the neighbours, the west wall would be a solid wall where the tv could have a backing and we could have a spot for small canvas friends blew up for us of a fond memory on a hike. We spend a lot of time considering art collections, so it’s imperative for us to make sure that the things that people love have space that can accommodate them, and of course, proper lighting!
We put a comfortable feather couch in the centre of the room where we could lounge, but not have each other walking in front of the tv if one of us is sitting watching something on Netflix, and one of us heading inside and out. We put a simple console table behind the couch to house a light that could cast some intimate evening light into the room, some of our favourite collectibles from trips, and a landing place for some of the small outdoor things we might want to leave, like pruning shears. A walnut tv console and coffee table finished the simple room - we didn’t want to put too much in there as to take away from the wonderful view up to our magical cherry tree.
We painted the room the same green as the windows of the house to help tie it into the outside.
The room also needed to connect us to the kitchen where one of us is always spending time and sometimes feeling left out of what the other is watching. The tv is viewable from both the sunroom and the kitchen, for when one of us is lounging as the other slaves away over dinner (I swear it’s always me).
Using Our New Sunroom
In the end, we forgot we have a living room. We spend many nights lounging in the sunroom eating a late dinner as the sun comes down over the cherry tree. The dining room is now only used formally when we had a gaggle of friends to fill it. We also find that the sunroom is where we naturally wanted to spend our morning routine, waking up with CBC on the radio and a bowl of yogurt, granola and berries.
The powder room ended up being one of our favourite little rooms we’ve done. We found a bold wallpaper that reminded us of the feeling the cherry tree gave us... a simple pendant lamp, a tiny vanity, and the 3’ x 5’ room seemed much larger than it really was.
This was one of our first big renos of our own space, and the overall result of the house, as you can see from some of the pictures, was an open airy feeling. It was all inspired by a simple tree.
For those of you who know cherry trees, you’ll be happy to know that the new technologies, particularly the silicone layers on the glass, were extremely helpful when the tree is in bloom - cherry’s make a huge mess on everything below them!!!
We hope you enjoyed reading this. Have you ever imagined a sunroom for yourself? What would you like to be looking at?