Outside In

The sunroom in Cathy Davin’s Upper St. Clair home has indoor and outdoor ease year-round.

When Cathy Davin decorated her sunroom, she wanted a space that connected with the outdoors but still had the comfort and luxury of an interior room. As a designer, she tackled similar projects for clients and saw them take one of two approaches.

“Some people go very neutral,” she says, opting to decorate the room in very soft colors and letting the lush, green view through the windows take center stage. Others, she says, want to decorate in bold colors, like aqua or bright green, that will convey a sense of summer even during the coldest months.

It didn’t take much debate: Davin decided to use rich shades of green contrasted by summery whites. But the challenge in an outdoor space is preventing those bright colors from fading and keeping white fabrics looking fresh.

To solve those problems, Davin chose to use a mix of traditional upholstery fabrics and indoor/outdoor fabrics.

Several years ago, using indoor/outdoor fabric meant your furniture felt as though it were covered in tacky plastic. But the technology for creating synthetic fibers has changed immensely since then, Davin says; the new fabrics blend durability with the feel of luxury.

“All the good fabric houses,” she says, are now making luxurious upholstery and drapery fabric for outdoor use.
“It feels like something you’d put in any room of your house,” she says, and yet these fabrics are stain-resistant and don’t fade even after many seasons. Another plus: These fabrics “resist mold and mildew, and they can be hosed down and dried over an outdoor railing.”

Also, color and pattern choices have increased considerably. “A few years ago, they were just so plain-Jane,” Davin says, “and now, they’re just fabulous with beautiful textures.”

The plush sofa in her sunroom is paired with a storage ottoman and wicker tray. A large Asian-inspired ceramic lamp adds a dash of red and green to the room. And a wooden dining table and chairs bring an indoor feel to the outdoor-focused room.

Davin opted for a soft cream-colored cotton rug that was designed for indoor use. But since sunrooms get so much foot-traffic directly from the yard, she often advises clients to choose high-end indoor/outdoor rugs that can be easily cleaned. For other clients, she suggests buying relatively inexpensive sisal rugs that can be simply replaced. Some upholstery fabrics are even chlorine-resistant and can be tossed in a pool for a quick rinse, if necessary.

Thus far, Davin has resisted bringing any other technology into her sunroom, despite her love of high-tech fabrics. In a space that’s all about the outdoors, she’d rather look at nature instead of a television or computer. But she has clients who want “the gas fireplace, the wall TV and the whole home-entertainment system,” even outside.

The perfect sunroom, Davin says, will blend the style of your home’s interior with the natural beauty of your yard. And if you choose wisely, that perfect space can be surprisingly easy to maintain.