What is a Lanai? The Meaning Behind This Unique Porch

Summer is on its way, and we’re counting the days until we can spend time relaxing outdoors again. As we think about all the outdoor spaces available, there’s one that people frequently get confused about – the lanai. The Hawaiian term for a veranda or enclosed porch, a lanai is very popular in tropical regions with warmer climates, like Florida and Hawaii. This versatile outdoor space is designed for relaxation, outdoor dining, and entertaining – connecting the indoors and outdoors. 

Coming from our team of Charleston interior designers, here’s what you should know about a lanai and if you should consider adding this specific type of porch to your home!

Relation to the Home

Perhaps the main difference of a lanai to a screened-in porch or sunroom is its relationship with the home. Whereas sunrooms are typically lifted off the ground, the lanai is frequently found on the ground floor. Lanais are also generally located on the back or side of a home, providing more privacy than a porch on the front of the house. Finally, lanais often open up to a pool.


Lanais come in all shapes and square footage. They can be small screen enclosures or large outdoor areas for entertaining. Many Hawaii and Florida residents treat lanais as a second living room, but this architectural feature can also be a transitional space between your home and backyard. Some lanais are even used as a pool cage. In terms of design, your lanai should suit the rest of the house and accommodate your specific needs. If you already have a large wraparound porch or covered patio, you might consider a ground-level lanai that has screen doors. 



In contrast to sunrooms and patios, lanais typically have tiled or concrete floors. The floors should be weatherproof and durable as this is technically an outdoor living space. However, as lanais are often treated as an outdoor living room, you’ll often find them decorated with stylish outdoor rugs to jazz up the style and enhance the comfort level.


Lanais come in many different forms, which is probably why there is so much confusion surrounding them. Some are screened, some are fully enclosed with windows and some are left open to the elements. However, more often than not, a lanai will include some sort of protection from insects and inclement weather conditions. They are meant to support an outdoor lifestyle in tropical places, which means having some barrier from nature.


Lanais almost always have a roof overhead, providing shade from the sun. If you live in a hot and sunny climate, adding a lanai makes sense to shield you from the sun without having to go inside. During bad weather, such as sudden tropical rain showers, the roof offers shelter.

Designing a Lanai for Year-Round Use

Unlike a traditional porch, lanais are generally purpose-driven, as either a seating area, dining area, or extension of the pool. When you are designing your lanai, consider how you would most like to use it and focus your efforts on that concept. Will your lanai be more of a living room with a TV and a comfy outdoor sofa? Or, will it serve as a relaxing place to sit with a cup of coffee in the morning as you gaze out over the pool? If you need more inspiration or help decorating your own lanai enclosure or screened porch, set up a consultation with one of our talented Charleston interior designers today!

Shop the Look

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