Lanai Living

Thinking about adding a three-seasons room to your cottage? Here are some thoughts from interior designer Terry Ellis on what works best for these types of spaces.
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When interior designer Terry Ellis began working on an Oakland County client’s lanai in 2021, she focused on how the room would be used. Responsible for providing space planning and selecting fabrics and furnishings for all the rooms in the three-bedroom, 2,500-square-foot contemporary home, Ellis says the lakeside lanai in the new-construction residence is perfect for entertaining. (A lanai can be defined as a space with a roof, but more than one wall is open to the elements.)

When she asked her clients how they wanted to use the lanai, the homeowners told their designer they wanted the room to accommodate card-playing (Michigan Rummy, to be exact) and hanging out. A beautiful fireplace and barbecue grill also adorn the space. “Guests and family can easily get to the lake, take a boat ride, come back to eat, enjoy a fire, and lounge,” Ellis says.

Based at the Michigan Design Center in Troy, the designer’s company is called Room Service Interior Design.

Terry Ellis
Terry Ellis
Portrait by Scott Lawrence Photography

Ellis’ top three favorite lanai elements are the variety of textures, the functional layout, and the view. The home, which was designed by architect Kevin Akey, principal at AZD Associates in Bloomfield Hills, sits on a lot that Ellis says may be “the best” on Gilbert Lake.” It’s the perfect spot to watch sunsets and there’s a lot of privacy,” she says. “It faces the south but has visual access to the setting sun.”

Here, the designer provides tips on durable, weatherproof furnishings, easy-maintenance materials, and performance fabrics.

Sitting room: There’s plenty of seating, which is important in a lanai, Ellis says. The outdoor sectional and “a few chairs for those who prefer to sit upright rather than in the deep, plush sectional,” are from Bernhardt Furniture for Outdoors, at CAI Designs at the Michigan Design Center, in Troy.

Screening for the best: The architect selected a Phantom (brand name) screening system. They are remotely controlled and can raise up or drop down, allowing the homeowners ease and convenience. They also can close off the room with a secondary clear vinyl shade that operates on the same headrail as the screening product.

On the surface: Even though there are screens and vinyl options for the walls, the space still can get rain, wind, and dust. “You must think about surfaces that can be wiped down easily. The Sunbrella Performance fabrics are fabulous,” Ellis says. For seat cushion upholstery she chose Bernhardt’s Sunbrella fabrics.

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Pillow panache: For the accent pillows, the designer selected Pindler performance fabrics (from the Pindler showroom at the Michigan Design Center in Troy). They are perfect for indoors or out and are stain-, fade-, and mildew-resistant.

Table talk: The dining table is made of cast concrete, by Bernhardt Furniture Co., from CAI Designs at the Michigan Design Center, in Troy. Considering potential damage from outside elements, Ellis says the stainless-steel base is the way to go. “It’s less prone to corrosion.” Meanwhile, the coffee table, also from Bernhardt Furniture Co., features a striped-stone top, “but it’s laminated so that the surface is protected and easy to clean.”

A rug plug: Go for a polyurethane rug for indoor outdoor use, Ellis says. “We chose a handwoven one with a textured pattern and we had cut right to the inch.” While the rug, from Ghiordes Knot at the Michigan Design Center in Troy, appears to be a sisal or jute material, it’s actually synthetic and the material is extremely durable. “It’s easy to clean,” Ellis says. In fact, the designer had additional runners in this material cut to use indoors.

Look up: The ceiling is a stained wood plank that echoes the soft-grain, wide-plank flooring in the home’s interior space. Although Ellis didn’t choose the ceiling materials, she says it’s a brilliant choice that creates a wonderful flow from outdoors to in. “This room has to be an extension to the entire interior.”

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Neutral zone: The homeowners prefer a neutral palette and that’s evident throughout the home and in the lanai. Ellis shares that neutral doesn’t mean boring, especially when you have a pleasant mix of materials and textures. “People say neutrals are so boring and vanilla, but look at this room, including those sock-weave chairs around the dining table.” From Bernhardt Furniture Co. (Michigan Design Center, Troy), the chairs are covered with a supple sock weave upholstery in a polyester.

Deal ‘em up: The couple plays cards at the concrete dining table. The designer learned from another client not to choose a granite tabletop because cards “fly” across the slick surface. “The concrete table has a sort-of mottled top,” she says.

A-One BBQ: To have a barbecue grill within this type of covered space, it’s important to install a large fan hood, Ellis says. The grill’s cabinetry is made of a weather-proof wood, built for the outdoors. Ellis says high-end appliance stores can point you in the right direction if you’re looking for weather-proof kitchen and grill set-ups.

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