What Is a California Room?

california room with stone wall

Design: K Interiors / Photo: R. Brad Knipstein

California rooms fuse together indoors and out. These covered spaces, which contain furniture similar to what you might see in a family room, are large, porch-like areas that do not contain four solid walls and therefore open up to the backyard.

"It maximizes the indoor-outdoor experience, by allowing a covered area to be amplified into another living space," Kristen Fiore of Kristen Elizabeth Design says of the California room.

Below, Fiore and other designers share insights on how a California room distinguishes itself from a sunroom, discuss the pros and cons of such a space, and offer guidance on how to best furnish and enjoy this special living area.

california room with sofa and coffee table

Design: New South Home / Photo: Christina Hussey

What Is a California Room?

According to Kristen Peña, the principal of K Interiors, a California room is "an outdoor space that provides the comfort, warmth, and communal feeling that you aim for in a family room inside."

California rooms come in different styles, but they always feature at least one open wall that makes it easy to enjoy a breeze coming from the outside. California rooms can consist of three walls and an open space, or simply a set of posts and a roof, allowing for open air movement, Fiore says.

california room with stone wall

Design: K Interiors / Photo: R. Brad Knipstein

California Room vs. Sunroom

If you're familiar with sunrooms, you may wonder how these spaces differ from California rooms. Keep in mind that a sunroom has glass walls, while a California room features open or screened walls, says Melissa Lee, principal designer and CEO of New South Home. So which should you choose for your outdoor space?

"A traditional sunroom enclosed with windows might be a better option if you still want to enjoy it in colder months," Fiore says.  

Pros and Cons of a California Room

California rooms provide some of the benefits that come with sitting outdoors without being fully exposed to the elements.

"California rooms really allow homeowners to bring the outdoors in by having the fresh air and outdoor breezes that you can’t experience in a sunroom," Lee says. That said, California rooms aren't immune to bugs or pollen, says Lee. Plus, she explains, depending on the climate where you live, you may only be able to use a California room for a portion of the year due to factors such as temperature and wind.

california room with multiple sofas

Kristen Elizabeth Design

How to Make the Most of a California Room

Wondering just how to decorate and furnish your California room? You may want to take an approach that's somewhat similar to how you outfitted your family room, only with a bit of an outdoor-friendly twist.

"We always try to maximize the livability of these spaces by using comfortable furnishings that look like interior furnishings but have the performance and sustainability of outdoor furnishings," Lee says. Ultimately, you'll want to create a space that is relaxing and inviting.

"California rooms are made for lounging," Fiore says. "We recommend making it a place you want to gather and hang out with friends and family to use it to the max. A cozy sofa, ceiling fan, TV, fireplace—it's the outdoor living room!"

Lee offers some tips for fusing indoor furnishings with their outdoor counterparts. She says the way to make the space flow and create cohesion between the indoor and outdoor sections is to use similar textures, colors, patterns, and finishes in the furnishings and decor. There are a number of stylish indoor-outdoor rugs, chairs, and tables on the market today that can help you achieve such a vision.

To ensure that you can fully enjoy your space and preserve the furniture in it, consider these practical suggestions from Megan Unger of Megan Robertson's Design.

"Often, people need to consider furniture covers to protect their furniture from the wind, sun, and dust," she notes. "In the summer, depending on where the sun hits your California room, you might need a hidden roll down shade." Taking these steps will ensure that you can enjoy your California room for the long haul.