An orangery is a type of glazed extension, featuring large windows, brick pillars and a raised, glazed roof structure, designed to flood the space with natural light.
At first glance, you may not be able to tell a conservatory from an orangery, but there are some key differences. Whilst a conservatory has a fully-glazed roof, the roof of an orangery consists of a tiled perimeter with a glazed area in the centre, usually in the form of a roof lantern.
Due to the larger ratio of brick or wood to glass, an orangery also feels more like an extension of a property, however, this has not always been the case; orangeries were originally introduced to the UK for a very specific purpose.
A home for orange plants
The orangery gained popularity on UK shores in the 17th century. This was because merchants and wealthy landowners needed a place to house exotic botanical imports such as orange trees, banana plants, and pomegranates, and protect them from the colder British climate.
As a result, orangeries soon became a symbol of affluence, finding immense popularity amongst the aristocracy and higher classes who, quickly began adorning their country homes and estates with splendid glazed structures.
In the mid 1800s, the window tax was abolished, making the glazed orangery more financially accessible to those outside the very elite. As a result, the ultra-wealthy began upscaling their glazed buildings to epic proportions in order to stay ahead. It was during this century that Joseph Paxton designed and built Crystal Palace to house the Great Exhibition.
The use of the word ‘orangery’ in relation to contemporary glazed home extensions, was first adopted by timber manufacturers in order to differentiate their products from the uPVC ‘conservatory’ structures that became popular throughout the 1980s-1990s.
Today, orangeries are no longer a luxury reserved for the highest classes, and can be an elegant and striking addition to any property. Technology has obviously moved on too with many orangeries now boasting self-cleaning glass, underfloor heating, thermostatically controlled vents and automatic rain sensors.
While the manufacturing process for today’s bespoke orangeries combines precision machinery, skilled hand finishing and advances in paint technology, the finished product usually owes much in the way of design to its predecessors:
Kew Gardens is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and undoubtedly one of the most famous gardens in the world. With it’s large, arched windows and open plan layout, the orangery at Kew Gardens is now a breath-taking event space perfect for awards ceremonies and evening receptions. The grounds are also home to the Temperate House, the world’s largest Victorian glasshouse.
The orangery at Kensington Palace was built during the 18th century for Queen Anne to protect her citrus trees from winter weather, but was often used for parties and entertaining guests. Today, the building is home to the Orangery Restaurant, serving sophisticated lunches and decadent afternoon teas.
Nestled within Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens, the Kibble Palace is one of the most prestigious iron and glass structures remaining from the Victorian era. It’s home to a marvellous collection of marble statues, as well as exotic plants from around the world. The national collection of Australian tree ferns has been growing there for almost 130 years.
Modern orangery design
Often referred to as ‘the hub of the home’ the function of the orangery has changed dramatically over the years. Rather than a fashion statement for the elite classes, orangeries now provide a multi-functional zone where modern households have space to undertake individual tasks and chores but where they can also come together as a family unit for entertaining and relaxing.
For those that love to feel connected with the outdoors, a glazed extension can also provide a natural progression from the interior to exterior space.
Black is the new white
So ubiquitous were the conservatories of the 80s and 90s, when we now think of a glazed extension we usually imagine a glass building with various shades of off-white or yellowing uPVC – depending on the age of the structure.
Fortunately, uPVC’s popularity has waned, and timber extensions have become increasingly fashionable. This has opened up a whole new world of colour for homeowners, and whilst many still actively choose a shade of white, darker paintwork such as navy blue, dark green, and even black, are gaining popularity, making for a more dramatic and eye-catching exterior.
Joinery specialists may have previously advised against choosing a darker colour for fear of direct sunlight leading to heat absorption and therefore fading and damage to the exterior timber.
However, these issues are now overcome by selecting a premium paint brand: a water based, low-gloss, microporous paint will help protect joinery against all damaging weather conditions, mould, and UV exposure.
Whether you prefer traditional crisp, white joinery, or you’re drawn to the drama of darker paintwork, installing an orangery is guaranteed to bring a touch of tradition, elegance and distinction to a home, whilst maximising its living space.