No matter what design you go for in the end – Edwardian, Victorian, Elizabethan – what you must ensure before going ahead with the construction of your dream conservatory is that it will let in a sufficient amount of light. You are paying a lot of money for your conservatory, and the entire point of it is to create a new room in your house which is unique to all the rest – one which brings you closer to your garden and acts as a recreation space like no other in your home does.
The amount of light which comes into your conservatory depends almost entirely on the size of its windows and how many of them there are. If the roof of the conservatory is tiled as opposed to glass-panelled, then you will probably want to make sure that your windows are large.
Elizabethan conservatories focus heavily on light – their windows tend to be very high and the roofs continue that theme, with almost the entire roof devoted to glass panelling. The colours you choose for both the inside and the outside can also dictate to a large extent how light your conservatory is. That is not to say that you need to go with an all white colour scheme in order to make the most of the light, but it is a popular choice for that very reason. There are other colours, though.
It could be said that when most people picture a conservatory in their mind, they think of one which is entirely white. However, you do not necessarily have to conform where this is concerned – some homes just do not suit white. If white does not suit the rest of your home, it will make your conservatory look separate to the home – and that is exactly what you do not want. You want the conservatory to look like a unique part of the house, but a part of the house all the same – you want it to complement the rest of the home, rather to contradict it. If you have brown PVCu windows, fascias, soffits and external doors throughout the rest of your home (and plan to keep it that way) then you should probably make sure your conservatory is brown too, though sometimes juxtaposing colours can work.
Sage green might be a colour to think about – it is a classic conservatory colour scheme, but at the same time is one you do not see on many. It is a memorable colour but inoffensively so – in other words it will more than likely complement the house, rather than looking like it has just been plonked onto the side of it. You can have the nicest, most well-constructed and most expensive conservatory in the world, but if it looks like it doesn’t quite belong to your home, then you have made a huge misjudgement somewhere along the line. Colour is not the only aspect which can determine this, but is certainly one of the main ones.
Like colour, the style of your conservatory can to a large extent determine whether, quite simply, it looks good or it doesn’t (more in regards to how it looks on your house than anything else). If you want a symmetrical conservatory, you should probably go for an Edwardian design, as a well-known characteristic of Edwardian architecture was its focus on symmetry.
This was a reaction to Victorian architecture, which preceded it – Victorian architecture made a point of being asymmetrical (which, funnily enough, was a reaction to the Georgian period it followed on from, which, like Edwardian architecture, placed a lot of emphasis on symmetry – what goes around comes around, as they say). Elizabethan, Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian conservatories are all similar in one regard, though – they all have relatively low brickwork and high windows.
Orangeries, which differ greatly, are becoming increasingly popular these days. The majority of orangeries are heavier on the brickwork – they look much more like the rest of your house in that regard, and their windows on the side tend to be smaller and more sparsely distributed.
The roof on an orangery, on the other hand, is entirely focused on light and therefore it tends to be composed of transparent glass panels. As its name may (not so subtly) suggest, the traditional purpose of the orangery is to grow orange trees, therefore maximising light is its primary focus. Those who would like to get a lot of light in through the top of their conservatory should seriously consider an orangery for this reason, as light-wise they are hard to beat. The heavier they are on the brickwork, too, the more it will look like a permanent fixture on the rest of your house.
Many people are put off by conservatories because they believe that they look only semi-permanent (which is not the case, but aesthetics are a big concern for many people). Orangeries tend to look a little bit more substantial when it comes to the brickwork, whilst simultaneously focusing on letting in lots of light, so it is definitely a design to consider.
What can I use my conservatory for?
Your conservatory can quite easily double up as a gym, or at the very least an exercise area. You do not have to devote the entire space to this purpose, though many people do – conservatories are a good place to exercise as they are light and fresh. Another massive plus point is that they can make you feel like you are outdoors when you aren’t – and let’s face it, in the British Isles this is rather useful.
Nothing beats a bike ride or a road run, but the weather sometimes prohibits this or makes it a less enjoyable experience. With a conservatory which is equipped to enable you to exercise on the less glorious days of the year, you are one step ahead of the game. You could quite easily fit an exercise bike in there, or – if space permitted – then a treadmill or a rowing machine, and some free-weights and mats. You can pick up exercise equipment fairly cheaply if you look in the right places, so the cost of converting (or semi-converting) your conservatory space into an exercise space will be fairly minimal.
A popular function of conservatories is as an extra living room – sometimes a primary living room. They are especially great in the spring and the summer, but there is no reason you cannot use your conservatory as a living space in the autumn and winter too if you get some sort of heating system in place. You could go the whole hog and get radiators installed in there, or a wood stove, or you could even just bring a portable heater in, to either add to the heating already in there, or act as the heating system itself.
Dining in your conservatory can be an extremely pleasurable experience. It is almost like dining alfresco – like the point between dining room dining and alfresco dining. You don’t have to devote your conservatory to a dining room one hundred percent of the time, though – tables and chairs are easy enough to move and reposition. There beauty of conservatories is that they can pretty much perform any function you want. Watching TV in a conservatory can be quite a nice experience actually, especially in the evening or at nighttime when the lack of outside daylight makes for perfect viewing conditions.
Given how light conservatories tend to be (indeed – should be), they make a perfect reading room – pretty much all year round as well. There are very few days of the year – even the gloomiest and most cloudy ones – where you will not have enough light in the daytime to read in your conservatory. Plus, the ambient atmosphere in that part of the home means that in terms of getting you in the reading mindset, there are few better choices for a reading room.
Depending how high the walls are in there, you could even put in a little bookcase or two – you certainly could in an orangery if it has sparsely distributed windows. A few magazine racks and bookcases will also add a bit of character to the room. The mistake a lot of people make with their conservatory is keeping it fairly bland visually – some seating and a table is a bit boring. By no means should you make it a junk room, but making it look a little lived-in will make you want to spend more time in there.
Bringing you closer to your garden
You should look at your conservatory as a room which acts as a space between the main part of your house and your garden, which compliments the atmospheres of both.
The best conservatories bring you closer to your garden – in other words they allow you to enjoy your garden without being in your garden, which is important in a part of the world where we are rarely gifted with weather that allows us to fully enjoy our garden. A conservatory is even a nice area to sit whilst it’s raining – the sound of rain on the roof panels can be quite therapeutic and comforting when you are inside.
The doors you choose to back onto your garden from your conservatory will also dictate to a large extent how successful the conservatory is in creating this space which helps you enjoy your garden. Big French doors will mean that when the weather is nice you can easily get outside and even keep the doors open, so that your garden and your conservatory temporarily become one, in a sense.
Bi-folding doors – creating a seamless transition
Though French doors are effective in making your garden and your conservatory meet halfway, bi-folding doors are becoming increasingly popular and blow French doors out of the water in that regard.
Bi-folding doors are quite like sliding doors in the sense that they save space, but are even more effective in that regard. They fold in pairs and so they slide across and mean that they open your conservatory up to your garden whilst not taking up very much space at all. Bi-folding doors facilitate a more seamless transition between your home and your garden, and they are really easy to operate – and more importantly, even easier to keep clean as they are virtually all glass and PVCu (a bottle of glass cleaner spray and a bit of kitchen roll will do a more than adequate job).
When a glorious summer day gets to that point of the evening where it gets a little too chilly to stay fully outside, you can move indoors and keep the bi-folding doors open, allowing you to enjoy more of the evening. They also make dining a really pleasant experience, and if you do not have any outside dining tables or chairs, having your bi-folding doors open will mean that you can get more or less the same experience of eating and drinking outside in the fresh air.
Conservatories are not just something you should jump into with little thought. If you just pick any old colours, designs and furniture, and end up not spending very much time in there or even resenting it, then you will have wasted an awful lot of money.
Think about what you want out of your conservatory – what you would like to do in there, the sort of furniture you want in there, and make sure you achieve that. If you want to do a lot of reading in there, then pick a style of conservatory which will enhance that experience; if you want it to double up as an exercise space, pick a layout which will facilitate that; if you want to dine in there and have it as another living space, perhaps go for a more brickwork-heavy design as it will feel less like a greenhouse and more like a bright and airy living area. Make it part of your home which represents you.