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What is a California room? It’s an outdoor space that boasts indoor amenities—similar to a porch but more posh. California rooms are an increasingly popular feature in homes today, particularly in warmer climates. So if you spot this term while perusing real estate listings, it’s helpful to know what it is—and whether it’s right for you.
What is a California room?
Technically a California room isn’t a room at all. Builders tend to define rooms as structures with four walls. Instead Melissa Hazlett, vice president of marketing and sales for Baldwin & Sons, a homebuilding company based in Newport Beach, CA, likes to call a California room “one part porch and one part room.”
Although California rooms are technically classified as outdoor spaces—and thus aren’t factored into a home’s square footage—they do have protection from the elements. For instance, California rooms have a roof to keep out rain and sun. Yet unlike sunrooms or solariums, which are enclosed on all sides with windows, California rooms are open to the outdoors on one or more sides.
Also setting a California room apart from the sunroom is the fact that these “rooms” don’t have to be attached to a house, says Kathryn Bishop, a Realtor® with Keller Williams Realty in Studio City, CA. The California room can be built freestanding in the backyard, with electric lighting added for evening use and often a fireplace to add a touch of ambiance.
If there is not enough backyard to support a separate structure, some homeowners will convert their original patio area or even their garage into a California room.
Not just in California
It’s easy to assume that these breezy outdoor living spaces were dreamed up in the Golden State. But Hazlett says they owe their beginnings to southern Europe, where residents of Italy, Greece, and Spain have been adding open-air living spaces to their homes for centuries. Typically the rooms were an extension of the house, with the roof and outer wall or walls of the home forming part of the structure.
These structures migrated to the United States about 20 years ago, first landing in Florida before making their way across the United States to become what is known as the California room today. You’ll find them in coastal states such as California, of course, but also in Louisiana, South Carolina, Texas, and even as far north as Maine. And given the current demand for outdoor living spaces, their popularity could spread from there.
California room decor
California rooms play into people’s love of the outdoors, but they allow homeowners to add some of the traditional comforts of home to their outdoor activities. Some homeowners will add a full bar, TV, and even carpet to their California rooms, making them like living rooms where they can enjoy the fresh air and spectacular view.
They “create intimate spaces where residents can gather for special occasions, socialize, or just enjoy a nightcap after a long day at work,” Hazlett says. “They really are the perfect embodiment of indoor-outdoor living, and they bring the comforts and design of the interiors to a more alfresco setting.”
California room costs and benefits
The cost of adding a California room to your property is going to depend on size, amenities, and, of course, construction costs in your area. Typically, the rooms start at around $15,000, Hazlett says, with costs increasing from there based on your needs and how you decorate.
If you’re waffling on whether to add one to your property, consider this: When done correctly, Bishop says, you can see a major spike in the value of your home and attract buyers looking to spend extra for a place to enjoy outdoor life without soaking in the heat of the sun or suffering through the rain.
“If the neighborhood has other homes with a California room or other upscale amenities like a pergola or outdoor kitchen connected to the house, homeowners will probably increase their property value by 80 to 100% of their building costs,” Bishop says.
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