What Is a Lanai and Why Do You Need One?

woman on 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.

If you've been looking for that meditation space or place to host your friends for dinner parties, this might be just the thing. Not to mention that, when the weather is nice, your new working-from-home lifestyle might just be begging for an outdoor area like a lanai.

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.

What is a Lanai?

We’re all familiar with outdoor living spaces, but it can be helpful to know what all the different types are.

  • A porch: A covered outdoor area at the entrance of a building. That said, you can also build a patio on the sides or back of your home if you don't want one at the entrance or, of course, if you want more than one! Though covered, it's very much an outdoor space, with no screens, windows, or walls of any sort.
  • A patio: An outdoor area that is connected to a house. It is typically paved and may—or may not—be elevated by steps and does not have a covering or roof. A patio is classically used as an outdoor living room, of sorts, so it's often decorated with a couch, chairs, coffee table, and the like—though all weather-friendly, of course.
  • A veranda: Much like a patio, a veranda is typically only partially covered. It's somewhat of a hybrid between a porch and a patio, falling slightly larger than a porch in order to accommodate more furniture, though isn't quite a separate "room" like a patio is categorized as. It's a term that you most often find used in the South.
  • A balcony: Unlike the others above, a balcony will always be elevated. It is fully exposed and outdoors and provides a bit more privacy than most patios and verandas due to it's elevation.

A lanai is different from all of the above in that it's kind of all of them at the same time. Encompassing all of these definitions, it is more of an over-arching definition for the vibe of the area you are trying to create. It's covered, like a porch or veranda, And, though a lanai can be elevated, like a balcony, it's most often found on the ground floor of a house. It's private, but not necessarily due to the fact that it's above entry-level. Lanais can vary dramatically in style, size, and purpose, especially when you consider that it is can be created in all climates and both single-family home as well as apartment set-ups.

What Is A Lanai?

Most often, a lanai is a private space attached to an apartment, house, or 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 Add a Lanai to Your Home?

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.

Even if you live at the other end of the earth from Hawaii, or a completely different climate altogether, everyone can appreciate the desire to carve out a space for yourself that reflects the intentions of a more traditional Hawaiian lanai. As such, they've been gaining steam and becoming more popular as this busy lifestyle you've been stuck it has made you realize what you're looking for when you finally step off the hamster wheel.

Though your lanai might not look exactly like those in Hawaii, the vibe can still remain the same and serve the same purpose for you and your living arrangement.

How to Add a Lanai to Your Home

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. Even if you only have enough room for a single table and chair in your lanai, consider making it feel as lush as possible to create that "close your eyes and transport yourself to Hawaii" feel.
  • 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. While you might want to have some comfortable poofs on hand to bring out with you when the weather is nice, you might consider outdoor options that are water-resistant and made of a Sunbrella fabric as well.
  • 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’oeuvres. For those who have a larger lanai, it's time to share it. You can even use the above tips to make it a comfortable and plant-filled space that everyone will love to hang out in together.
  • 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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