Conservatory/Sunroom Addition

The remodeler added a glass and mahogany sunroom/conservatory that reflects the client's vision for an indoor/outdoor space.

May 31, 2008
Products List
Keep it Light, Leak-Free

A glass ceiling and glass walls offer the homeowners a space to enjoy outdoor views and to showcase their art.  After photos by Greg Hadley Photography

The owners of this contemporary-style home had no trouble creating a sophisticated wish list when it came to the form and function of the solarium they planned to add to their residence.

The challenge, they soon discovered, came in finding a contractor willing to incorporate their unconventional ideas for materials in the design for the addition. The contractor also had to have the skills and confidence to execute the project successfully.

Ambitious Design Goals

The couple, avid art and artifact collectors, had high hopes for their new solar retreat. They wanted an addition that would appear to be a natural extension of the home's rear elevation. To do so, they wanted to maintain or reuse exterior finish materials and existing windows wherever possible; ensure the year-round retreat would remain separate from the rest of their living areas; create a place where they could display select pieces of their three-dimensional art; ensure the room minimally affected the amount of natural light coming into the adjoining kitchen; and include a glass wall and glass ceiling that mimics an English/Colonial-style conservatory.

Several contractors told the homeowners that it would be impossible to build a glass ceiling addition without significantly increasing the potential for leaks. And, although they chose mahogany to frame the room because of the wood's unique beauty and the fact it matched the other interior finishes, the exotic wood did not meet local building codes.

Undeterred, the couple contacted remodeler Sun Design Remodeling Specialists in Burke, Va., for an opinion on the project. The award-winning design/build firm was not only eager to take the Woodbridge, Va., project but ultimately proved to be more than up to the challenge.


The remodeler reused some of the original brick from the home's exterior to create a kneewall as a base to the new sunroom.

Picture-Perfect Transition

The first challenge says senior designer Jeremy Fleming, was to develop a design that would tie the addition into the atypical architecture of the home's rear elevation. He decided to use an existing triangular-shaped niche created by the angles of the kitchen and family room at the back of the home. This space — which already served as a partially-covered rear terrace with its own door — became the transition point into the new room. It opens into a striking glass bay and now offers spectacular views of the backyard.

The team salvaged part of the home's original brick fascia and reused it on the exterior kneewall that defines the perimeter of the solarium, creating a seamless transition between old and new. Deep brown aluminum trim, selected for its contrast with the home's light exterior finish, weatherproofs the room's wood framing, providing the clients with a virtually maintenance-free exterior.

Although the entire room can be closed off from the rest of the house, the original windows remained in place to keep the home's interior as bright as possible.

A ductless heat pump system with its own thermostat permits independent cooling or heating of the sunroom.

Rather than use solid walls between the new solarium and the main house, existing windows add visual interest and bring in light. The exposed red meranti framing for the room ties in well with the rest of the finishes in the main home.

Unusual Framing Material Works Well

The homeowners craved a mahogany look but didn't want to break code. The team chose red meranti for the exposed framing in the new room. Although not a true mahogany, this exotic hardwood from the Philippines features a similar deep color and coarse grain that met both the structural and aesthetic requirements of the project. "We've had lots of experience working with exotics and knew that this was a feasible, if somewhat unusual, material for this application," Fleming says. The team offered local officials detailed analysis of the wood to prove the room would be structurally sound.

"Despite its challenges, this was one of those types of projects where the clients really knew what they wanted and fulfilling their requirements was really important. We recognized that we had to be able to meet their goals 100 percent or it was not worth doing the project at all," he says. "We were clear with them upfront about that and they really appreciated it."

The entire project took 3½ months from start to finish, and the clients loved the results, says Fleming. "We were right on target."



REMODELER AND ARCHITECT: Sun Design Remodeling Specialists, Burke, Va.
AGE OF HOME: 12 years old
SCOPE OF WORK: Create a conservatory-style sunroom that seamlessly ties in to the existing architecture

Products List

Lighting fixtures: Tec-Lighting Insulation: Dow Corning Locksets: Schlage Roofing: Old Castle Siding: Drivit Windows: Solar Innovations

Keep it Light, Leak-Free

Maximizing available light was a critical design element for this project for several reasons, says Sun Design Remodeling Specialists' senior designer, Jeremy Fleming.

"This house only had a few really nice bright spaces already," he says, "so the clients did not want the new room to reduce the natural light in the existing living space. It was also very important because the new sunroom would be a display space for their art collection."

The roof system was designed to work with the existing windows and does not hinder the flow of light to the inside of the home.

The 238-square-foot room's glass ceiling panels are tinted to prevent harmful rays and excessive heat in the space, and the walls feature Low-E insulated glass.

The firm used a two-part system to protect against leaks. The exterior flashing for the room runs behind the EIFS surface, and the home has a secondary internal gutter system. The result: excess water is directed through the wall and out a drain system in the foundation.

About the Author

Overlay Init