Use 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?
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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.
Whereas 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?
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
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
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.
Large detached houses have the most scope for conservatory
design. Conservatories can either be completely connected to the house
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
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
- 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.