What is the Difference Between a Conservatory and an Orangery?

If you need extra living space in your home, a place to relax, study or work in comfort, you have a number of options to consider. There’s the traditional extension of course, but you could also opt for a conservatory or orangery. Both of these rooms provide light-filled spaces that connect you with the outside world and are delightful to use. Ideal areas for entertaining or playing with the kids, conservatories or orangeries can be used all year round if they are heated, insulated and fitted with blinds or shutters. But what is the difference between a conservatory and an orangery and which is the best one to have?

What is an orangery?

Orangeries have been around since the 17th century and were first seen in Italy and Holland. They were grand rooms built with large windows where oranges were grown protected from changes in the weather. In the 19th century, British homeowners added extravagant orangeries onto their large house as a display of status and wealth.

Today’s orangeries reflect the history of the original buildings but are smaller and less opulent. They tend to be rectangular in shape with the walls built from brick or stone that matches the rest of the house. The walls are less than 50% glazed and have corner columns providing a more solid appearance. The roof of an orangery is flat with a lantern section that takes up less than 75% of the surface.

What is a conservatory?

In the 19th century, buildings began to be constructed almost entirely of glass and were used to protect exotic plants. Arguably one of the finest examples is The Palm House at Kew Gardens. Conservatories became mainstream in the UK after the introduction of UPVC windows. From the 1960s, homeowners in the UK have added conservatories to their houses to provide extra space where they can sit and enjoy their gardens.

Conservatories have low walls with large glass panels that make up 50% or more of the construction. The roofs are more than 75% glazed and the rooms can be rectangular, square, p-shaped, t-shaped or bespoke. They can take up the whole of one side of a house or just a small part of it.

An orangery vs conservatory – what is the best option?

These buildings have plenty of benefits and are versatile rooms to have, but which one should you add to your home?

  • First of all, consider your existing home. If it’s a period or older property, it’s arguably best to install an orangery. Using matching brick or stone in the construction, it will enhance the look of the home. For a more recently built property, a conservatory might be the better option. There are contemporary conservatories available which will add the right amount of flair, or you can choose Georgian-style, Victorian-style or Edwardian-style.
  • Orangeries tend to be smaller than conservatories so if you want something larger, look at the conservatories on offer. Orangeries will extend from one side or back of your property, whereas a conservatory can extend across the whole back of a house, and even around a corner.
  • An orangery is traditionally a more regular building and tends to be rectangular in shape. A conservatory can be designed to suit your needs with L-shaped, T-shaped, curved, double-ended, and lean-to constructions all available.
  • The roof of an orangery is traditionally flat at the edges with a glazed lantern section in the middle. Some luxury orangeries are installed with 2 or more lantern sections, but the basic principle is the same. Conservatories have more options when it comes to the shape of the roof. Some are pitched or gabled others are lean-to and there are finials and other details that can finish off a conservatory roof.
  • Orangeries offer a more insulation than a conservatory. This is because brick is more insulating than glass, and orangeries use more brick in the construction. If using the room in winter is more important to your requirements, it might be best to install an orangery and have a reliable heat source fitted at the same time.

Orangery vs conservatory – do I need planning permission?

As both of these buildings are single-storey, they fall under the general planning restrictions of any single-storey extension under 4 metres in height. This currently dictates that the construction must not extend further than 4 metres to the rear of a detached house or 3 metres for all other houses. But if you’ve already extended and want to add onto that extension, you will have to look deeper into this.

What adds more value to a home?

Another thing to consider is what is the difference between a conservatory and an orangery when it comes to adding value? Any home improvement costs money and you want to make sure your investment is a wise one. Conservatories and orangeries will both increase the value of your house as long as they are done professionally. The style of the extension must be in keeping with the rest of the property and finished to a high standard. The location of the new building needs guidance – if a glazed building offers no view or never gets any sunlight, it is not a useful space and a traditional extension might be a better option. Heating and insulation must also be incorporated into the design to make the space usable for all or most of the year too.

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