This article was crafted with the help of Rich Thomas of Exterior Design & Decks.

Sunrooms are a fantastic addition to a home, but all that extra space comes with the task of deciding how to use it. An empty sunroom is a blank canvas—it can serve a multitude of purposes. To gather some ideas for sunroom designs, we talked to Rich Thomas, owner of Atlanta’s Exterior Design & Decks. Before your beautiful sunroom addition turns into little more than a convenient storage space, read on for Rich’s suggestions for other, more creative ways to use your sunroom.

Extended living space. For many homeowners, the sunroom serves as an extension of their living or family room. Rich notes that some of the sunrooms his company builds are opened up to the existing home, so there is a “seamless transition from the home into the sunroom.” Others are built as separate rooms with French doors, sliding doors, or even traditional exterior doors marking the entrance. In either case, the homeowner must make the decision about whether to continue the home’s decor into the sunroom or work with a completely different theme. Rich says, “A lot of times, people like to create an atmosphere that’s kind of low key, where they can go out and relax and kind of get away from the traditional part of the home.”

Extended dining area. Rich reports that a lot of people request sunrooms that extend off an existing breakfast or dining area. Many traditional-style homes are designed with both an eat-in kitchen and a separate, formal dining room, but if your home has only one or the other, a sunroom is an excellent way to add the extra dining space—and investment value—to your home. If you already enjoy dining al fresco on your patio or deck during the warmer months of the year, just think how much more often you could have that experience with a sunroom that is designed to let in as much natural light as possible while still maintaining a comfortable environment. Sunrooms that are constructed with heating and cooling systems and double-paned windows give you the versatility to decorate with patio-style, indoor/outdoor furniture or with more traditional wood or upholstered pieces.

Recreation space. For families with small children and teenagers—or even just adults who are young at heart—a sunroom may get the most use when it’s designed specifically for recreation and entertainment. Rich says that many people choose to use their sunrooms as “an additional area for relaxation and enjoyment,” and turning the sunroom into a playroom, TV room, or music room—or a combination of the three—helps declutter the rest of the house and gives those activities their own space. Comfortable couches and chairs and resilient, easy-to-clean flooring are must-haves if you decide to dedicate your sunroom to play and leisure activities.

The decisions you make in decorating a sunroom will largely be dictated by how—and how often—you and your family plan to use it. Rich adds, “Some people may just use it occasionally when they have guests coming over, so they like to use it for additional room.” Others may plan to use the sunroom daily. Rich notes another important element to consider during the planning process: the room’s exposure. “Do you have a southern exposure? A northern exposure?” he asks. “If you have a southern exposure down here in the South, you’re going to get a lot of sun coming in. You’ll probably want to go with double-glazed windows that are going to cut down on the UV light coming through. That also affects what kind of window treatments you’ll use.” Although he does add that many people decide to implement less formal design elements in their sunrooms, Rich notes that you should give some thought to the setting you’d like the room to have. He says, “Is it going to be a formal setting? Is it just going to be kind of a play area for the kids? There are all kinds of different factors in terms of the use of the sunroom and how it’s going to be designed.”

One design element that Rich says seems to appear in sunrooms of all purposes and designs is a wood-burning fireplace. “Even if they don’t use them a lot,” he says, “I think people just like the atmosphere of wood-burning fireplaces. They create that cozy atmosphere during the winter.” Even in a four-season sunroom that is insulated and fully acclimatized, a fireplace can bring added warmth to the room and help further blend the division between indoors and outdoors.

The many ways to use a sunroom are restricted only by your imagination—and, of course, your budget. When deciding how to use and decorate your sunroom space, think about some of the reasons you began considering a sunroom in the first place. Did you want a space in your house where you could relax and feel closer to the outdoors at the same time? Did you want the ability to have outdoor dinner parties year-round? Did you want to give your kids their own indoor play and entertainment space? And remember that you can certainly change your mind in the future. The sunroom might be a permanent structure, but the decor doesn’t necessarily have to stick around.

This spotlight article was crafted with the help of Exterior Design & Decks, a Sunrooms & Patio Enclosures Best Pick in Atlanta. While we strive to provide relevant information to all homeowners, some of the material we publish may not pertain to every area. Please contact your local Best Pick companies for any further area-specific advice.

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