Many homeowners have the desire to add a conservatory to their homes. In addition to creating more space to enjoy the outdoor view in all kinds of weather, it can add a bit of value to the home. This is can be a particular enticement for anyone wishing to list their property on the market. However, you need to be careful when planning and designing the conservatory.
Too much of a conservatory can overpower the look of the home. Also, if you have a particular style of décor inside the home, you will not want to spoil it by contradicting that décor with something completely different in the conservatory.
For this reason, before you set about hiring someone to plan and build it, make sure you know precisely how big you want it to be. You must take into consideration the amount of yard or garden space the room you will lose once it is built. Also, take some time to consider your reasons for building a conservatory.
Will you use it to entertain dinner guests? Will it be a relaxing sun room, a rumpus room or a guest bedroom? Knowing your primary reasons for constructing the conservatory as it will help dictate its design and size, too. Most homeowners also want the room to be positioned so that it can get the most amount of sunlight as possible.
Getting natural light in the conservatory is one of the best aspects of it. It allows you to grow beautiful indoor plants that you otherwise would not be able to grow because of the temperature and light the conservatory features. In fact, conservatories are perfect for delicate flower species to grow, so you may want to prepare your green fingers for more gardening adventures once your room is complete.
If you are adding it on to increase the value of your home, you want to keep it as neutral in design as possible. You want to be as general as you can be and leave out any personalised details. What might be perfect for you could turn off a potential buyer so choosing a functional looking conservatory would be the ideal plan.
Finally, do not forget how you want to furnish the room. This, too, will help you gauge the right dimensions for your conservatory add-on plans. Once you have a basic idea in mind, get in touch with a professional contractor to help you bring those ideas to life.
Traditionally, a conservatory was a building attached to a house as a dedicated space to grow plants, often including space for socialising. Today, the distinction between conservatory, garden room, orangery and sunroom has become blurred. However, in Britain at least, the legal definition of a conservatory is a building that has at least 50 per cent of its sidewall area and 75 per cent of its roof glazed with translucent materials, be they polycarbonate or glass.
Given the worst winter rainfall in 250 years, I feel it’s time we gardeners reclaimed the conservatory as our own. The idea of tending plants without leaving the house, sheltered from the elements, is a hugely attractive proposition. But though the dream sounds idyllic, ensuring ideal conditions for people and plants can be tricky. Deal with the awkward questions early to avoid costly mistakes.
List the ways in which you’d like to use your conservatory – all will affect the final design. Do you want to entertain, relax, garden, propagate, or all of the above? Is the purpose of your conservatory solely to grow and admire a particular group of plants? If so, what type of plants – tropical? Sub-tropical? Cacti? Mediterranean? The ratio of social to growing space affects the design, construction, layout and proportions, not to mention where your conservatory would be best sited.
You want to end up with a well-proportioned conservatory that is fit for purpose. Inevitably, this means sacrificing part of your garden, but hold tight to your goal of creating a structure that, through good design, provides an effortless link between inside and out.
“A conservatory will reduce your garden’s footprint,” says Brendan Day, head of design at Apropos, who has been building glass structures for 50 years. “But don’t forget that with glass there’s a lot of growing to be had. A conservatory could meet your planting needs just as well, if not better, than your garden space.”
Choose furniture, size of planting beds and accessories (eg staging, large containers) at the design stage. These dimensions will determine the final proportions and internal floor layout and help to ensure that the best views are incorporated and that the natural light will be a plus, not a hindrance.
As for architecture, the obvious choice is to echo the style of your home. Yet contemporary conservatories alongside period homes are increasingly popular, often making minimal impact. Indeed, for this reason English Heritage often recommends contemporary glass structures for listed buildings.
A south-facing aspect may seem the obvious choice to ensure year-round sun, but the sun’s rays become magnified and can burn through glass. Also, air becomes hot and dry, an environment that no plant (or person) enjoys, and which also encourages pests and disease. Blinds will be an essential addition.
“Some of the nicest buildings I’ve experienced, in terms of lovely, breathable atmosphere and comfortable sociable space, are on the north sides of people’s homes,” advises Lisa Rawley, of conservatory plant specialist Fleur de Lys.
A conservatory relies on its glass to operate to capacity. Solar-controlled glass can help minimise the temperature of the room and control glare. In a north-facing conservatory, low-emissivity (low‑E) glass will reduce heat loss.
Architecturally speaking, lanterns and coloured glass can create interest, but Nick Bashford, a director of glasshouse and conservatory specialist Alitex, advises against fussy effects or, for example, replicating the details of your property’s windows.
“Keep things simple,” he says. “A conservatory is essentially a glasshouse in its own right, not an extension of your house. Aim to ensure complete transparency whilst inside looking out. Neutral glass won’t reflect furniture, to allow a clear view, and a wonderful link to the landscape beyond.”
To ensure a comfortable atmosphere, you need a well-designed ventilation system.
“We have so few truly hot summer days in this country that air-conditioning isn’t necessary, but to control overheating a good ventilation system is crucial,” says Nick Bashford. “Roof vents are essential in releasing a build-up of hot air.