In many houses, sunrooms and conservatories can be the half-forgotten step-children. Relegated to use only a few months out of the year, they wind up as storage areas, occasional party rooms or abandoned altogether. The decor may match that second-rate status with older pieces allowed to gather dust and wither in the hot rays of the sun.
But if you happen to have a house, apartment or estate with a sun room or conservatory, consider yourself lucky.
Even if you’re hesitant to open your wallet wide for a room you may not use every day, there’s plenty to be done on a budget that will make the space a point of pride, and may you want to be in it more often.
Stencil painting, shabby chic furniture and new shades are just a few of the things you can do to spruce up your sunroom or conservatory.
Get Inspiration from Grand Estates
Sunrooms and conservatories were inspired by orangeries — glass-encased spaces that enabled citrus fruits to grow in the cold months of the year and found popularity in 17th century European homes.
That heritage is part of the reason many of these rooms take on a stately air: ornate chandeliers, hanging plants and hand-carved wood furniture. But your sunroom or conservatory doesn't have to be low-rent take on estate style.
Before you start decorating, designer Suzie Anderson says you need know “What is the purpose of your room?” A sunroom that doubles as a party space will look very different from a conservatory that’s the family reading room. Or what if it's the kids’ video game room or art studio? All of these areas will wind up having different requirements.
Once you’ve decided, search around for a little inspiration, either from the stylish interiors Suzie has curated or more relaxed spots that may speak to your personal taste. Even if you can’t afford upscale elements, you may find inspiration for beautiful, cost-effective ideas. For example, it’s important to have flooring that can withstand extreme temperature changes, such as terra cotta tiles.
Paint Your Walls with Stencils
Most rooms look better with a fresh coat of paint. For a sunroom or conservatory, you may even want to invest in thermal barrier heat reflecting paint so that fresh coat doesn't crack so quickly.
If you don’t have money for a lot of design accents, wall stencils can make a big statement on a budget. One of the many nice things about stencils is how they can be used for a variety of styles. A green plant image lends a country club style whereas geometric shapes can suggest a mid-century modern style or Moroccan style. Planning smart is a big part of successful stenciling, so be sure to pick an image you won’t mind seeing for several years. Measure carefully and use registration marks when panting to come away with evenly spaced images that have a professional appearance.
Invest in Good Blinds
Conservatories and sunrooms are all about basking in the warm rays of that gorgeous lightbulb in the sky. But sitting too long in a glass box without any shade will eventually lead to overheating, even for the most dedicated sunbather.
If you’re not sunbathing, then you probably don’t want direct sunlight on you for an extended length of time.
The challenge with adding shades, blinds or drapes to conservatories and sunrooms is that many have non-standard shaped windows. So, if you’re going to try to make shades yourself, you’ll need to be experienced with customization.
If you have a lot of windows or unusually sized ones, it may make sense to hire some contractors to to install conservatory blinds, particularly if you want to be able to adjust the window shades throughout the day. If you’re considering venetian blinds, designer Lisa Holt has strong opinions about slat size and material. She’s also prefers draperies over vertical blinds — and has some beef with shutters. Of course, you shouldn’t let any designer overtake your personal preference or reconfigure your budget.
String Lights and Flea Market Fixtures
Warm lighting is one of the easiest ways to make a sunroom or conservatory feel like an inviting space after the sun has gone down. Certainly, that’s why many lofty and arched conservatories have ornate chandeliers dangling from the rafters.
If you don’t have four figures to drop a handmade piece of ironwork, you can still create a charming, memorable glow.
String lights are a low-cost option that can be used for more than just patios and the holidays. In the video above, Meg Allan Cole shows how you can use these “fairy lights” to highlight photos or a favorite piece of wall art. Her centerpieces made by wrapping string lights around driftwood are particularly impressive and could easily be a conversation piece in a conservatory.
A custom-made dining table can easily cost a paycheck or two. If you have a handful of the right power tools, some of the right vices and a circular saw, you can build your own table for work, dining or both. As Mike Montgomery highlights on Modern Builds, if you live near a lumber yard that is willing to plane and straight line rip wood boards to your specs, a lot of the heavy lifting for making the table. After trimming the pieces, Mike uses a doweling jig to create the space for small wood dowels. Then the boards are glued, sandwiched and clamped. A little filling, trimming and sanding smooths out the boards. After a stain and finish, legs are attached to complete the job.
Painted Wicker Furniture
If you can’t afford a new set of furniture or don’t have the capability to make any, there are numerous used options that can be found in garage sales or on Facebook Marketplace. Wicker pieces can be a nice, inexpensive option for sunny spaces. Used wicker will often need a facelift. That said, when you’re paying $20 for a chair or $30 for a love seat, who can complain?
Karen from Lovely Etc. explains that a stripping brush and metal scraper can be great for prepping a wicker chair for repainting by removing old layers of paint. Loose ends can be trimmed off or glued back on, depending how they sit. Spray paint or a paint sprayer work well for covering the wicker and getting into the crevices. Karen recommends using a satin pain for a finish with a little sheen that doesn’t look too shiny.
Of course wicker isn’t the only furniture option for a sunroom or conservatory. Plenty of shabby chic options can also work well for a budget-minded decorator.
Consider Scent Options
You always want your sunroom to smell nice, but you don't want to go overboard with candles and air fresheners.
Consider using essential oils. You can get a diffuser for a few dollars and add some drops of your favorite oil. This will make the whole room smell fresh without being overbearing.
Another great way to decorate on a budget is to use fresh flowers and plants. Sunrooms and conservatories are the perfect places to put fresh flowers because they usually get plenty of sunlight.