Florida Room Question
July 12, 2017 9:34 AM   Subscribe

A few years ago I looked at a bunch of houses in Florida. I noticed that a lot of the older ones (built between the fifties and seventies) had what used to be “Florida rooms,” that is, screened-in porches commonly adjacent to the living room area. What I noticed was that many people decided they wanted an extra room-room, and turned the screened-in porches into what amounts to second living rooms. This almost invariably turned the original living room into a dark box, requiring extra lamps and lighting to counteract the gloom. I am aware that due to the heat some people may want a cool dark windowless room, and that’s fine. In my house, though, I am wondering what reasonable measures I could take to brighten my own “original living room.” Suggestions, please!

The dark room disturbs me because when the former owners converted the Florida room, they did not integrate the original living room with the repurposed space and with the rest of the house. It remained as it was – the original living room, now without good natural lighting. The rest of the house, including the repurposed Florida room, is beautiful. This dark room disrupts the otherwise very lovely flow you get when walking through the house.
How do I brighten this space in an architectural way? Skylight, additional window, window wall? Are any of these options (and others I haven’t thought or heard of) even feasible (I know nothing about architecture) and if they are feasible, are they prohibitively expensive?

I am not interested in decorating solutions, bright paint, recessed lighting and so forth, unless someone can do this in such a way that it makes the room feel like it is a part of the rest of the house.

For reference: my original living room is bordered on the one side by the converted Florida Room. There are French doors which open out from the living room into the converted room. The other side of the living room is adjacent to a bedroom. The back of the living room faces the neighbor, and the front of it opens into the kitchen area. The kitchen and the French doors provide some light to the front of the space. The back doesn’t get any.

posted by Crystal Fox to Home & Garden (14 answers total)
I was looking at a house in NE Florida recently that had this exact situation, which the owners had rectified really nicely with several tubular skylights. I was actually attending an inspection at the time, and the inspector pointed out that tubular skylights were (in his telling, at least) much less likely to cause problems long-term than regular window-style skylights. All of this is obviously pretty anecdotal.
posted by saladin at 9:38 AM on July 12, 2017 [8 favorites]

Maybe this is too much of a decorating solution, but how about strategically placed mirrors, to reflect light from the French doors?
posted by batter_my_heart at 9:43 AM on July 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

Skylights will help immensely. I've lived in 2 homes that have skylights of the conventional window-type (non-opening, non-tubular) and never had an issue with them. In a living area, I like the diffused light of a heavily frosted glass. It creates light without a blazing sun effect.
posted by quince at 9:46 AM on July 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

As has already been mentioned I would consider using solar tube:
posted by tman99 at 9:49 AM on July 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yeah, you don't really want skylights in Florida, they'll make the room too hot much of the year. Those solar tubes are cool and should be easy to install unless you have a tile roof, but make sure you hire someone who has installed them before. They're not that common and anything that involves putting a hole in your roof can be tricky.

Put a lot of shade loving plants near the window that faces the neighbor.
posted by mareli at 10:00 AM on July 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

What's the overhead lighting situation right now? What lights, ceiling fans, etc do you already have?
posted by Huffy Puffy at 10:12 AM on July 12, 2017

I would consider putting in windows on the one exterior wall that faces the neighbors, if it does have any, as well as some solar tube "sky"lights. For how big of windows you can put in and how costly this will all be, you'll need to consult a contractor and/or an architect.

Other questions to consider about your home:
-What about removing the wall between the Florida room and the living room entirely? Would that bring in more light? Would you like it? (Whether this is possible will depend on whether it's load-bearing, codes, etc.)
-What about converting it back to a screened porch? Would that lighten up your living room?
-Is it possible to vault the ceiling in your living room? (I.e. do you have a flat ceiling and a peaked roof above it?) Higher ceilings would give you more room for more windows or solartubes and a higher ceiling always makes things feel lighter and airier in my opinion.

These links might help you find a contractor to get an idea of what's possible and the cost.
posted by purple_bird at 10:52 AM on July 12, 2017

My parents removed the wall between those two rooms altogether, making one big awesome room. My dad is an engineer, though, and was able to make sure that the roof was properly supported
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 11:38 AM on July 12, 2017

Depending on the configuration of your house, you could try adding clerestory windows. It wouldn't be cheap, but it's a common option.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:59 AM on July 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Would it help to just take out the french doors altogether?
posted by galvanized unicorn at 12:15 PM on July 12, 2017

My parents had a similar problem with their covered porch making the living room too dark, so they installed a solar tube, and have been very happy with it.
posted by bradf at 1:37 PM on July 12, 2017

Another option is some nice LED uplighting that reflects diffuse light off the ceiling. There are so many color temperature options I'm sure you could make it quite appealing without cutting holes in the roof or increasing your house's heat load.

With color changing bulbs you could even mimic sunlight during the day and artificial lighting at night if that is your preference.
posted by wierdo at 5:28 PM on July 12, 2017

Light paint will brighten the space more than bright colored paint. 2nding lots of mirrors...
posted by sexyrobot at 12:28 AM on July 13, 2017

Nthing solar tube style skylights. Not normal skylights, for a myraid of reasons. Some can even be fitted with shade type devices I think for varying the light in demand.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:36 PM on July 13, 2017

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