What Is a Lanai and Why Do You Need One?

a woman sitting on a lanai
 Bonninstudio / Stocksy

What exactly is a lanai? Thanks to a surge in international popularity, that’s a question on many people’s minds as of late—and we’ve got all the answers. Originating in Hawaii, lanais are most common throughout the Pacific region, but they’ve become a fixture of stunning living spaces worldwide. Encompassing a variety of sizes, shapes, and styles, lanais have been widely associated with a connection to nature and the pursuit of a life well-lived. But if you live in regions that are especially cold or subject to rain, you might not be familiar with them.

Read on to find out what a lanai is and why they’ve become so popular, and see some of the best ways to utilize them.

The Lanai a Perfect Outdoor Space

We’re all familiar with outdoor living spaces, but it can be helpful to know what all the different types are. For starters, a porch is a covered outdoor area at the entrance of a building, while a patio refers to an outdoor area connected to a house that is typically paved and may (or may not) be elevated by steps. A veranda is like a patio, and it’s typically only partially covered. And a balcony is an elevated outdoor area that provides more privacy than a patio or a veranda.

A lanai encompasses all of these definitions and can vary dramatically in style, size, and purpose.

What Is A Lanai?

Most often, a lanai is a private space attached to an apartment, house, or a hotel. Technically, a lanai can also refer to an outdoor passageway between spaces and has even been compared to an engawa in Japanese architecture, aka a strip of hardwood flooring that wraps around the outer edge of a building.

Why Lanais Are so Popular

In Hawaii, the lanai has long been associated with sitting back and enjoying life in communion with nature. As international architecture continues to reflect an array of global influences, many designers, architects, and design enthusiasts have fallen in love with the effortless charm of the contemporary lanai. In traditional Hawaiian culture, the lanai is most often utilized at the beginning and the end of the day, encouraging a sense of relaxation and peace with the natural world.

Make the Most of the Lanai Trend

Whether you’re currently apartment-hunting, plotting a vacation, or planning your next soirée, it’s well worth looking into a space with a lanai. And now that you know what a lanai is, here are a few ideas for making the most of yours:

  • Start an outdoor garden. Especially suited to plants that thrive with partial sunlight, a lanai is easily transformed into a space for herbs, flowers, and more.
  • Create an outdoor meditation den. In keeping with the purpose of connecting to nature, add some candles and comfortable poufs to make your lanai the perfect meditation space.
  • Throw a party. Not just a great place to stash the cooler, lanais are an ideal spot for overhead string lights and a place to enjoy hors d’œuvres.
  • Enjoy your lanai year-round. For those who live in less tropical climes, one or two well-placed outdoor heaters or a fire pit can transform a lanai into a cozy spot even during colder months.

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