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About Conservatories

About ConservatoriesUse this article and our "tips" to choose the right conservatory for your home

As we all know, a conservatory could be a great addition to your home, as it will add space and light. But which conservatory has the right shape and is made of the right materials to not only achieve space and light, but also enhance the look of your house? This article will give you a few ideas and tips to help you make the first decision in buying a conservatory: what type of conservatory is right for my house?

The history of the conservatory

The first conservatories were built in the early 18th century and mostly used for storage of potted plants and trees and were called orangeries, after the fact that a lot of people stored their potted orange trees in these heated outhouses. They were situated at the end of the garden or the back of a terrace and were built out of stone, with solid roofs and big glazed windows to allow as much sunlight in as possible.

In the 19th century more and more exotic plants were introduced that needed all year round nurturing in protective atmospheres. Light therefore became the restricting factor and glazed roofs became more and more important.

Apart from winter storage for plants, orangeries were also used as a rest place on summer's garden walks and developed later into an entertaining area in the garden. As a result of this the conservatories moved closer to the house, to make it easier to move between the house and the conservatory. A corridor was often built to connect the two buildings.

conservatory informationWhereas orangeries only had glass in the wall structures, due to developments in building techniques in Victorian times also the roofs were more and more made of glass. Exotic plants and palm trees were the backdrop for entertaining and heating became more and more important to ensure a comfortable setting for both plants and people. Conservatories were considered more to be an extension to the house as an extra living space than a roofed space in the garden.

This use of the conservatory continued in Edwardian times, but in the early Twenties the conservatory became more and more popular as an extension of houses owned by the middle class and its fashionable image gradually declined. Due to the two World Wars and the crisis in between, conservatories became less and less popular, not in the least because of the heating costs of conservatories in winter.

The construction materials for conservatories changed quite a lot through the centuries. Were brick and timber the materials to use for the first orangeries, the production of cast iron in Victorian times made all sorts of elaborate designs possible, with timber as a basic construction material. Nowadays complete timber conservatories and new materials like PVCu and aluminium make their mark on conservatory design, and double-glazing has made insulation problems a thing of the past.

Which style of conservatory is right for your house?

Which style of conservatory is right for your house?A conservatory should always enhance your home as much as possible, whether it be from the outside or from inside. That's why location and size of the conservatory are very important. A conservatory should fit in with your room plan. For example, if the kitchen is at the back of the house, a conservatory that doubles up as a dining room or a breakfast room is ideal to be positioned off the kitchen area. If your living room faces the garden, a sun lounge could easily be added to enhance the use of the garden and get more light into your living area. A conservatory of a room that is not used much is a conservatory that will not be used much.

One of the most important things to consider is the size of the conservatory. A lot of people, to cut costs, opt for a smaller conservatory. This is usually not a good idea, as it will take away a lot of the comfort that a conservatory can give. A good tip is to lay out the area you want to use for the conservatory with for example twigs, rope or tape measure, and fill it with the things you want in your conservatory, like a dining table, a sofa and plants. Then see if you have as much space as you would like.

Another major decision in the beginning of your conservatory building process to decide what sort of design would go best with the shape of your house. It is also important to consider whether the conservatory would be visible from the main road. If it is, it is of the utmost importance not to let the conservatory disturb the symmetry of the house (Edwardian houses especially are very symmetrical). Round the back of the house conservatory design can be a bit more extravagant, as within a private space personal taste can have a bigger influence.

Taking shape and size into consideration, farmhouses and cottages usually have a very low roof. Conservatories therefore cannot be connected in a straightforward way, as the overall roof would be too low. A solution here is to use a box gutter to ensure a higher roof pitch in the conservatory, or to place the conservatory at the side of the house.

conservatoryLarge detached houses have the most scope for conservatory design. Conservatories can either be completely connected to the house or made to look separate from the house by using a little corridor or lobby to connect conservatory and house, whichever design is more appropriate.

Victorian houses are quite different in design. The front shines in bay windows and elaborate cornices and porches. Around the back the walls are quite straightforward and simple, making it an ideal backdrop for great conservatory design. As the ground floor of Victorian houses usually contains high ceilings and big windows, a conservatory will have no problem with blending in. In this type of houses, kitchens are usually in the back, overlooking the garden, so a kitchen-dining conservatory is a great possibility.

Not only the shape of the conservatory is important, also the colour and the materials the conservatory is made of can either enhance or spoil the look of the end result. In both wood and PVCu, a lot of colours are available nowadays, and PVCu can even be made to look as a wood grain, so there is really no reason to choose the wrong colour for your conservatory. You can choose to match it with your existing window colour, for example, or the colour of your house. Especially if you have a white plastered house, a white conservatory will add to the elegance of your home. If your home has timber windows or a thatched roof, it might be worth considering a timber conservatory in the same type of wood as the windows or at least a PVCu wood grain conservatory to match the roof as well as possible. What is also important is to have a look at your home and detect any architectural features that, when copied in your conservatory design, would enhance the look of your property. Examples are unusually shaped or leaded windows, carved bargeboards or finials. All these little details will improve the overall finish of your conservatory, so take the time to establish which details you want to incorporate.

Top tips to ensure the conservatory and your home are a good match:

  • Lead your conservatory off a room that you use much, like your kitchen or living room
  • Don't compromise on the size of your conservatory
  • Don't let the shape of your house be disturbed by your conservatory
  • Decide on a conservatory shape that will enhance the outlook of your home
  • Try to match the construction materials of your conservatory with the ones used for your home
  • Try to match the colour of your conservatory with the colours used for your home
  • Take interesting details like bargeboards and unusually shaped windows into the design of your conservatory

We are grateful to David Salisbury Hardwood Conservatories and Direct Conservatories 4 U for the images on this page.



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