Giving a home a new lease of life, it is no surprise that conservatories are again rising in popularity. The glass additions have come a long way since their Victorian and Edwardian heyday with a huge choice of styles available. Here’s my ultimate guide on how to get the best out of them:
Open up your home: the benefits of light-filled spaces
A conservatory is often the easiest way to extend the living space of your home without having to move house or getting involved in a costly and disruptive extension project. In many instances, planning permission is not required (although it is always best to check) and the extra room often adds value to a property, provided, of course, that it is built to a high standard.
Conservatories – and particularly full-blown orangeries – can also provide extremely versatile spaces, which can be changed as the family grows over time. Typically used as extensions to kitchens or as dining rooms, conservatories can also be utilised as playrooms when children are small, for instance, and then tweaked to become out-of-the-way dens for teenagers. In later life, a gloriously warm conservatory can be converted into a wonderful reading or breakfast room.
Based in Great Shelford in Cambridge, the Cambridge Conservatory Centre (01223 846700; www.cambridgeconservatorycentre.co.uk) has many years experience in creating stunning conservatories for different types of properties, from period to modern. “Conservatories and orangeries enable you to create additional living space for a wide variety of uses and are often the ideal way to provide a connecting space between existing rooms,” comments Tony Moore, managing director. “What’s more, because they are used all year round these structures allow you to fully appreciate your garden and the ever changing British seasons in comfort. Externally viewed the right design will greatly enhance the appearance of your home and bring an added value should you decide to put your property on the market.”
With over 25 years experience, Westbury Garden Rooms (01245 809 287 www.westburygardenrooms.com) based in Essex, has established a reputation for creating a huge variety of impressive glazed buildings across the UK, working with architects and home-owners alike. Managing director, Jonathan Hey, believes that the timeless design of his conservatories, orangeries and garden rooms make them a wise investment that will add value to a home well into the future.
The company has just published a Home Trends Report for 2014, which reveals the benefits of extending the home in this way. “A post-recession ‘new status’ means that we’re re-evaluating what makes us happy or successful,” says the report. “With 54 per cent of Britons saying their stress levels are rising, there’s a new perspective on our emotional wellbeing and, as a result, quality time at home has become a priority. Conservatories let natural light flood in to the home, which lifts the spirits and helps you connect with the outside. Extra space, meanwhile, affords simple, happy pleasures like home entertainment. We believe, therefore, that home extensions, such as conservatories, give people a strong emotional investment in their home, which in itself brings happiness.”
Styles – consider what will suit your home
When planning your conservatory, be careful to make sure that the design you choose is in keeping with the style of your property. If you have a period property, then opt for more ornate styles, such as Victorian or Edwardian models. Hard-wood structures with full-height glass walls suit older properties, while, it goes without saying, that contemporary conservatories, which call on the latest building techniques, are best for modern houses.
It is also vital to get the scale of your conservatory right in relation to the original size of your house and garden. Too large a conservatory will take away from your outdoor space and will also look and feel out of proportion, in comparison to the original rooms and external appearance.
You may also want to consider committing to a larger build by investing in an orangery. Jeremy Bock, author and blogger at Everest (0800 240 4896; www.everest.co.uk), reveals the differences between the two structures: “Essentially, the difference lies in how the structure complements a house. A conservatory is traditionally a more versatile structure than an orangery, with the shape, style and design suited to the house. The construction is generally simple and straightforward, meaning they can easily be adapted for their intended purpose.
“Orangeries, on the other hand, are more like a traditional house extension. They generally feature more brickwork than conservatories and blend into houses in a subtle and elegant way. A good way to think of an orangery is as an extension with a hint of conservatory. They usually have more brickwork but large windows and a glass roof are still the main features.
“When it comes to purpose, conservatories tend to prioritise the ‘outside room’ element more than orangeries do,” Jeremy continues. “A conservatory will usually have a better view of the garden as they keep brickwork to a minimum. Orangeries, on the other hand, are generally thought of as more private spaces, which focus on luxury.”
Whatever style or size of conservatory or orangery you decide to invest in, it is always best to seek professional guidance. It is likely that you will need planning permission for most orangeries. A specialist conservatory company will be able to advise on building regulations and planning requirements, as well as showing you the best options to suit your house and your needs.
Tony Mooreat the Cambridge Conservatory Centre agrees: “All of our conservatories and orangeries are individually designed and tailor-made to blend perfectly with a client’s home. We undertake all aspects of planning, listed building consent and building regulations. This includes the preparation of drawings for orangeries and conservatories, with site meetings and coordination with local authorities as required.”
You will also need to carefully consider how the additional room will ‘link’ into your existing space. For example, if you need to alter a large amount of the back of the house to accommodate access to the new room, it will mean substantial structural alterations. This in turn will impact on the breadth of planning regulations you will need to adhere to.
Of course, the dreaded ‘curse’ of the conservatory is the extreme range of temperature that can occur because it is predominantly made of glass. Nobody wants a room that is freezing cold in winter and too hot in the summer. Nowadays, new forms of coated glass and insulated glass units can mean this is a thing of the past, but it is worth doing your research and asking pertinent questions before going ahead with any project.
Jonathan Hey at Westbury Garden Rooms has also identified a growing trend for people actively seeking quality, British craftsmanship: “We have found that people are more mindful about what they purchase. Because of this people are investing in products that are made to last and this has led to a heightened admiration for true craftsmanship. People want a connection with the products they buy – to understand the heritage and roots. Those investing in more space and considering having a conservatory are more discerning and keen to buy British. They’re looking for deep functionality – but also great design that will leave a legacy for the future.”
Back to earth: practical tips
Most people will want to use their conservatory all year round, so the most pressing matter to consider is how to maintain an even temperature throughout the year. You may want to extend your central heating into the new room to make sure it is warm in winter or perhaps consider under-floor heating. It is also important to plan practical ventilations, such as roof vents, so it can keep cool in the summer months. Practical window coverings are also vital.
“With space at an ever-increasing premium, home-owners are looking for clever ways to extend their homes,” says Sarah Quilliam, head of product design at Hillarys (0800 916 6524; www.hillarys.co.uk). “A conservatory can offer just the solution and become a wonderful – and incredibly flexible – enhancement to any home. However, without blinds it can suffer from the ‘goldfish bowl’ effect leaving you feeling rather exposed. It can also get too hot in summer and rather chilly during cooler weather. By adding blinds you can provide much needed protection from the heat of the sun, reduce glare and of course help to give it that all important wow factor.
She continues: “When choosing your window coverings, think aboutwhat the conservatory is being used for? Will you need, for instance, a darker colour or a more opaque fabric to reduce glare in a TV room, lounge or home office?If your conservatory is on the spacious side then it will probably need lots of blinds, which need opening and closing. Cut the task down to size with motorised conservatory roof blinds, such as the remote controlled Motopleat by Hillarys.
Sarah also advises: “Consider conservatory blinds as an investment. Think about the cost of the furniture and other soft furnishings that you’re putting in the conservatory. Blinds, especially those with a high performing reflective coating will prolong their life by protecting them from the sun’s damaging rays.”
Meanwhile Fiona Garwood, director at Cambridge Sunblinds (01223 460192; www.cambridgesunblinds.co.uk) advises: “All blinds give shade, privacy and an element of security but what you choose depends on various factors. Pleated, roller blinds and vertical blinds can have special backings to retract and reflect the heat: they can also have black out. This can reduce the heating bills in your home up to 15% helping to save you money and help safe energy.Perfect Fit, meanwhile, is a highly innovative system manufactured for use with UPVC windows and is ideal for a house with young children. There are no loose cords or loops and it can be used with roller blinds, pleated and 25mm aluminium venetian. The window blind fits neatly into a stylish frame, with no drilling needed into the window frames.Roman folds and curtains give a stylish look but should only be considered on north-facing rooms due to the sun heat on the fabric.Flyscreens are a green solution to stop insects getting into the home. At Cambridge Sunblinds we will give you the best possible advice on the most appropriate blinds and safety devices.”
Shutters are another option that can offer practical and stylish benefits. Shuttercraft Cambridge (01223 581339; www.shuttercraft-cambridge.co.uk) supplies a range of window shutters in hundreds of colours and style options.
“Plantation shutters not only look beautiful in conservatories and orangeries, but they also offer many unique benefits and qualities over more traditional window coverings for these notoriously hard to cover windows,” says Ryan Jarvis, owner of Shuttercraft. “Conservatory shutters are highly versatile and flexible in their configuration. They are made-to-measure and therefore can fit just about any size, shape or complexity conservatory including roofs and doors. The manoeuvrable panels and louvres can be opened and closed in a multitude of ways to help control the light, heat and privacy within the room. We offer specialist advice on shutters for conservatories and a free consultation service.”
Flooring is another area to think about. If you opt for natural stone flooring or tiling, such as the Umbria porcelain tiles by Fired Earth (www.firedearth.com), then warm it up with a vibrant rug, such as those available at Pappelina (www.pappelina.com). Because conservatories can serve as a halfway house between the home and the garden, natural floor coverings, such as those made by seagrass, sisal, jute and coir from Crucial Trading (www.crucial-trading.com), are the most fitting stylistically but also give a practical, durable floor covering.
Once you have your room built and finished, the last, and indeed most enjoyable step, is making sure you have the completed look just right. Traditionally, conservatories and wicker furniture have gone hand in hand. Update the look with colourful takes on the classics, such as the Dedon designer range of woven, low-slung rockers and ottomans, available at Heals (www.heals.co.uk).
There is also a huge range of rattan and wicker furniture available at John Lewis that will fit traditional and modern schemes alike (www.johnlewis.com).
Imparting her expertise, interior designer, Joanna Wood (0207 730 5064; www.joannawood.co.uk), reveals her tips on how to perfectly style a conservatory: “By utilising large windows you’re able to bring the outdoors indoors whilst still maintaining your home’s existing interior scheme. However, before you do a large design overhaul, bear in mind how much space you are working with. If wall space is limited, use neutral paint tones to make the space appear larger and incorporate colour through patterned furnishings and accessories. The great thing about conservatories is the fact they are low maintenance, so you can easily replace summery throws and cushions to darker shades as the seasons change. Try integrating botanical prints in green and blue, as these will not only stay on-trend for years to come but will also emphasize the garden feel, so when it’s crisp outside you’re able to stay warm and cosy. Additionally, experiment with lighting by using glass or jewel chandeliers to create a glamorous focal point in the room or funky light fittings for a contemporary touch.”
Those with green fingers will be in their element in a conservatory, which are perfect places to grow a variety of plants. Reflect this closeness to nature in a modern way by choosing sculptural, modern plants and housing them in large Victorian glass domes. Choose a green colour scheme, whether it is olive or apple, and highlight with accessories and soft furnishings. Botanical and animal inspired cushions by Rikki Tikki, a Danish brand that offers nature-inspired homeware (from www.homearama.co.uk), will add an element of fun, while French armoires and industrial-chic drawers from Out There Interiors will add a rustic touch (www.outhereinteriors.com).
Understated French pieces in light, earthy colours work wonderfully inconservatories, complementing the outdoor scenery whilst creating a relaxing and welcoming indoor space,” says Jenny Hurren, director of Out There Interiors. “For vintage charm, mix hand-painted, rustic finishes with raw metal and untreated natural fabrics.
“Don’t make the mistake of thinking everything needs to match,” she continues. “Combining unique individual pieces, such as a vintage leather chair, a rattan sofa and a velvet ottoman will create a homely, comfortable room which is as cosy and inviting in bad weather as it is in the good. For a more glamorous botanical feel try reflective surfaces. Antique style Venetian furniture complements the classic orangery look whilst reflecting all the wonderful natural light. Glass furniture creates the illusion of space so you can really go to town accessorising with masses of greenery, animal heads and lanterns. Magical!”
This article is also published in the May issue of The Cambridge Edition