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Home Improvement: Creating Indoor/Outdoor Living by Adding a Lanai to Your Hawaii Home

Ahh…summertime has arrived! Crystal clear, turquoise water perfect for snorkeling and kayaking, endless sunshine, and longer days to play. Although we are fortunate enough to live on beautiful Kauai where the climate is moderate year round, summer warmth brings out the “frisky” in us all. And what better way to get outside than to live outside?

I am not talking about camping at the beach park or composting toilets. I am talking about lanais, a.k.a. balconies, decks, porches, etc. Lanais offer areas to hang out and connect with your loved ones, creating the opportunity to combine your living spaces with one of Hawaii’s best assets…fresh air.

Lanais – A Worthy Investment

When we first moved into our current home, a historical, plantation-style Kilauea hale (home), it had a tiny, dilapidated stoop (not worthy of “porch” status) that led into the open, fenced yard. Aside from a small side gate, this stoop was pretty much our main access to the yard, and because we always enter our house from the carport on the opposite side, the yard was largely overlooked and underused.  

The house itself is small with little natural light, so we needed to figure out a way to open things up and create more outdoor/indoor living space that our family thrives in. The solution? You guessed it…adding a large lanai in place of that little rotten stoop.

Lanai Placement and Working with Your Yard

One of the hiccups we first encountered was the unthoughtful placement of 2 large coconut trees that were growing just off the front of the house. We did not exactly want to lose the palms, nor did we want to deal with cutting them down or getting rid of the green waste.

The original lanai; Oddly placed palms

It just so happened that our landlords (wonderful people who have made all these upgrades possible) wanted to bury our overhead utility wires, concurrent with adding the lanai. When the excavator came out to dig up the yard, the driver asked us what we would like to do about the coconut trees, and whether he should move them for us to another spot in the yard.  

We could not believe our luck, because we did not know that would be such an easy solution! So, we buried the wires and replanted the trees further out in the yard, although today you will see only one…you can ask my husband about that story another time!

Building the Lanai – Things to Consider

Now, it was time to start building our outdoor all-in-one living room, dining room, and playroom. My husband designed the plans to match the traditional character of the house and he built it. We chose to build it along the entire length of the house and extend it 12 feet out into the yard with wide, open steps which often doubles as extra seating.  

Halfway there (left) Finished! Including original railing as keiki gate on left (right)

We were able to match the old tin roof after extensive online searching and had it shipped here. The floor is solid Doug fir sealed with Sikkens, which not only protects it, but gives it a beautiful orange wood glow. The railing tops are wide and flat, which adds a shelf around the entire porch for drinks (or Play-Doh).

The main roof beam along the front extends a few extra feet out into the yard in order to hang a baby swing, which of course gets lots of air time now. And we were able to salvage the old railing to reuse on the side of the house as a gate to prevent the keiki from access to papa’s tool-ridden workshop. He ran long rope lights under the railings with a dimmer switch. He’s got mad skills (and did I mention he’s hot?)

Swing hangs from extended overhead beam

The whole thing came together in just a few weeks, including 2 ceiling fans, an extra hose faucet for easy feet washing, and a concrete slab at the landing (which we plan complete with stone slabs soon). FYI, usually when I say “we” I really mean “he.” My husband is the best, truly!

Furniture Placement on Your Lanai

Furniture placement is something to be carefully considered, whether you have a new lanai or an old one. We are fortunate to have our new porch so wide and open, but many homes and condos that have smaller lanai spaces can still be thoroughly enjoyed.  

Simple decor

I think the most common mistake is putting bulky furniture that is too large for the space (or having too much of it), which then makes the lanai feel cramped. We have tried to keep ours open for the kids to run around and play on one side, and create a cozy seating area for the adults to lounge on the other side.  

Our lanai has been the host of several bands (and dance parties), birthdays, serious art sessions by numerous children, yoga classes, family pig piles, wine, tears, and laughter. We now eat all our meals outside and our yard gets heavily loved from sun up to sundown. I love it! 

So, if you haven’t done it yet, freshen up your lanai for the long summer days ahead. And if you don’t have one, call a builder and get an estimate…it’s a worthwhile investment!

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Kelly Joudon

May 30, 2012

Our family talks more story on our second story lanai then any room on the inside of our home! Over the years we have had day beds for reading and lounging, tables for dinning and easels for painting as well as its current use, my meditation space. Living on the Hawaiian Islands is filled with daily pleasures outdoors.

Kelly Joudon

May 30, 2012

Our family talks more story on our second story lanai then any room on the inside of our home! Over the years we have had day beds for reading and lounging, tables for dinning and easels for painting as well as its current use, my meditation space. Living on the Hawaiian Islands is filled with daily pleasures outdoors.

Shaylyn Kimura, R(S)

May 30, 2012

Some of my best childhood memories took place on my Tutu’s lanai. It was the natural gathering place as much of the cooking was done outdoors. Whether it was kanikapila (informal jam session) or family dinner, everyone ended up on the lanai. Thanks!

Shaylyn Kimura, R(S)

May 30, 2012

Some of my best childhood memories took place on my Tutu’s lanai. It was the natural gathering place as much of the cooking was done outdoors. Whether it was kanikapila (informal jam session) or family dinner, everyone ended up on the lanai. Thanks!

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