What Is a Lanai, Other Than the Key to an Endless Summer?

Pay attention to this Hawaiian staple.

what is a lanai
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When the blue skies of summer arrive, it’s only natural to want to enjoy them. And yet, sometimes that can be a challenge.

Perhaps the weather’s accompanying humidity is much too high, or an orchestra of bugs are out en masse. Maybe intermittent storms are tough to predict, or a sunburn seems inevitable. Whichever summer pitfalls are making you hesitant to embrace the sunnier sides of the season, know that you don’t have to settle for viewing blue skies from behind shaded windows. Instead, seek out architecture that gives you the best of both worlds—protection from the elements, and the feeling of being outdoors—like Hawaii’s classic lanais.

If you’re asking, “What is a lanai?” then pour yourself a glass of lemonade and read on for more details. There’s a good chance you’ve either seen one or you’ve spent time on a similar version. And whether you seek one out this summer or you go as far as to construct one for your own home, the important thing to remember is that a lanai is a sort of architectural compromise that helps to bring the outdoors in.

What Is a Lanai?

Since Hawaii is a place of an endless summer, it’s no surprise that its residential and commercial architecture commonly feature a lanai. They first appeared in the mid 19th-century here, and have since been embraced in other warm climates, like Florida and California. In its simplest definition, a lanai can be initially described much like a porch: It has a roofed entrance, but more than one “wall” are open to the elements.

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What's the Difference Between a Lanai and a Porch?

Lanais often open up into wider living spaces, so it wouldn’t be entirely incorrect to relate them to covered patios or verandas as well. Their main draw is that they make it possible to enjoy the outdoors year-round. Screened lanais can keep out bugs, and panelled lanais—which either come in glass or plastic, and can be removed—can regulate the temperature, once the weather cools. Lastly, an “under-truss” lanai means that it was built under a home’s existing footprint, and its enclosure screens are secured to the roof. When severe storms are in the forecast, this option can make having a lanai safer.

Most lanais have enough space for furniture sets, greenery, and even ceiling fans, so they’re a living room that’s always on vacation.

What if You Want a Lanai for Yourself?

For starters, the national average to construct a screened-in lanai costs between $1,300 and $1,700, according to the home improvement site , and can take three to nine months to build—so you’ll have to wait until next summer to enjoy it.

Remember, too, that getting the most out of a lanai depends on where it’s positioned in a home. A south-facing lanai will get the most sunlight, but might end up feeling like a greenhouse in the middle of summer. A west or east-facing lanai will likely only get sunlight for part of the day, so it may be chillier in the winter. Our vote? If possible, a lanai should be off the kitchen or indoor living room. That will connect it to the main areas of the home, ensuring for effortless entertaining and relaxation.

As for designing a lanai, stick to bright shades that can complement the outdoors. You’ll want to get weather-proof furniture, too, and classic options like wicker or rattan will only heighten your lanai’s vacation aesthetic. Roll out a patterned outdoor rug to define the seating arrangements, and place plenty of plants throughout the area for color and texture. Finally, throw in plush pillows that’ll encourage settling in, and have a bar cart nearby for all your happy hour needs. With a space that inviting, you won’t mind spending endless blue-sky days in a lanai.

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