The type of conservatory often seen in the UK was made popular during the 1970s, when designers and architects adopted old Victorian ideas and came up with the structure commonly seen today. Yet, the concept of using glass to invite sunlight into a building is older than that. Orangeries were much larger structures than the garden-variety conservatory of the 21st century, notable examples being Kensington Palace’s orangery or one in the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. In this post, we take a look at the new trend that’s reviving an old idea—the resurrection of that grandest of structures, the orangery.
Perhaps it would be best to begin by explaining the differences between conservatories and orangeries. Although both are principally made from glass, a conservatory will also have a glass roof. This isn’t necessarily the case for an orangery, which will often have a solid roof made from another material (likely the same kind of roofing that covers the rest of the property).
Although it seems like a small difference, it can have a major impact on people’s experience inside. The issues with conservatories are well-known, their pros have to weighed against the cons. The main problem is that with the exposure to a lot of sunlight in the summer months, it can make conservatories too hot for comfort. There is a literal greenhouse effect, meaning homeowners have to open windows and doors to try and create some ventilation. Similarly, winter presents its own challenge, where the double-glazed roof simply isn’t well insulated enough to maintain a warm temperature.
Orangeries, with their solid roofs, have far fewer issues in this regard. They are also built up from the ground, usually with a brick foundation.
The reason for the sudden rise in orangeries is their benefits over conservatories. They also do not always require planning permission to build. Depending on the size of your orangery and the positioning of your property, building one may come under what’s called “permitted development”.
Because an orangery is made from brick and hardwood, you have to take extra steps to ensure it looks appropriate on the side of your house, as Country Life Magazine explains:
“Selecting the right paint colour for the hardwood frame of your orangery will help it blend seamlessly with the rest of your property. We often see orangeries built in the 1950s and 60s that dwarf the house they’re attached to, painted in block colours; an orangery should complement the existing structure. Popular colours from quality paint suppliers such as Farrow & Ball and Zoffany provide well-balanced, tonal shades that work well in harmony with a range of brick and stone finishes…the key is to find a colour that minimises the impact of the orangery and helps it looks as original as possible.”
Despite the extra challenges, it can’t be denied that orangeries make a statement when added to any home. Given the building knowledge required, it may require hiring an architect and an experienced builder to erect it.