Growing up in Miami, one of the most pleasurable memories from my youth was sitting out in the screen room of my parents’ home during one of those classic torrential South Florida downpours. Being inside protected from the rain, but at the same time, still being very much a part of the outdoors. The impact on the senses was one that has stayed with me all these years, the smell of the rain, that classic feel of the South Florida humidity, the lush view of our tropical garden responding to the nitrogen rich rainwater and the sound of the rain beating down.
By virtue of our geographic location here in South Florida, we are lucky enough to live in the only subtropical region of North America. This good fortune should be one celebrated by taking advantage of the outdoors. Moreover, there is no better way of doing this than by the addition of a classic Florida screen room to your home.
A screen room is not a screen enclosure. A screen enclosure is what you see enclosing a swimming pool, with a screen roof. What I mean is a real room, with a ceiling overhead and a roof that in contiguous with the existing roof of your home, the only difference between an enclosed room is that it has large screen openings rather than windows opening up to the outdoors.
For me it’s beyond the sensory elements of being apart of the outdoors. The addition of a screen room will:
Typically, the dividing wall separating the air-conditioned portion of your home and the screen room is built such that it will have the capability of opening wide. This could be a wall of french or sliding glass doors. The transparent nature of these two choices will create a feeling of expansiveness taking your eye from an interior space through the screen room and then into the outdoors.
This kind of manipulation of space is best illustrated in a traditional Japanese home where the exterior walls slide back and out of sight opening the interior to a space visually protected from the outside by a privacy wall that is placed at the perimeter of the property. This expanse of outdoor space now is captured and perceived as a private space extending from the interior of your home to the “visual stop” created by the privacy wall.
Screen rooms also act as “transition spaces,” an intermediate space, that connects the outdoors with the indoors. Similar to an entry vestibule that is a space used to connect your home’s public spaces to the outdoors at the entry to your home. The screen room would connect the interior of your home hopefully to a nature rich privacy space on your property. This could be off the room living, family room, kitchen, bedroom etc.
Screen rooms also create a passive cooling feature for your home. Passive cooling is cooling by natural or low-tech means vs. the use of an air conditioner, by opening your home’s exterior doors and windows to the outdoors. Passive cooling techniques in South Florida are influenced by three issues: temperature, humidity and airflow. Humidity remains constant, but we can influence temperature and air flow. Temperature is moderated with the use of appropriate wall and roof insulations. The wall of French or sliding glass doors, referenced earlier in the article, open wide to allow for an increased air flow, while the screens keep your home insect free. Increasing the airflow through your home will help you stay comfortable during the months of the year that your home could open wide to the outdoors. This would be after that first cold front makes its way south, until April or May, or about half the months of the year.
If you want to create more space, open your home to nature, keep it cool at the same time and an experience a tropical sensory experience, during one of those dumping South Florida rainfalls, think about the addition of a screen room to your home.
Photo description: Dolphin House Screen Room, Fort Lauderdale Florida | Photo Credit: Bill Sanders Photography
William Hoffman is an architect who designs and builds new homes & home renovations. He has been based in Fort Lauderdale FL since 1982 and Oakland Park FL since 1993.
He also was the Design Architect for Whole Foods Market Florida responsible for the majority of the WFM’s now located in Florida.
His residential work is located in Florida, North Carolina, Hawaii, Panama and the Caribbean. Your comments and questions are welcomed and he can be contacted by phone at 954-561-1642, email at HoffmanArchitecture@comcast.net or through his website https://www.hoffmanarchitecture.com/