I think I may be becoming just a little bit obsessed with the idea of extending. My last post was all about our planned loft conversion and now I’m looking into other methods of extending. For us, a loft conversion is the only viable way to increase our living space as we live in a first floor flat. But I realise that not everyone is lucky enough to have a loft so for some people extending their property may involve extended out by building some kind of glazed extension.
Just as a loft conversion has it’s own complications surrounding what windows to choose, where to build the stairs, how to deal with ceiling height etc, choosing what kind of glazed extension to opt for can also prove to be a tad confusing. So today I would like to examine the three main types of glazed extension, what their differences are in terms of design and how to choose between them.
In order to do this I have spoken with Jonathan Hey who is the founder of Westbury Garden Rooms. For over 30 years, Jonathan and his team have been transforming people’s homes by designing, planning and building conservatories, orangeries, kitchen extensions and pool houses. Every step of the process is undertaken in-house garnering them an impressive reputation for their architecturally-led designs.
Jonathan is the perfect person to consult when looking to understand the design differences that can be found between the three main types of glazed extension. “There are three mains styles of glazed extension – Orangeries, garden rooms and conservatories,” says Jonathan. “Each one incorporates different design elements and qualities, making them suitable extensions for adding valuable space to any property, whilst performing slightly different functions.”
Conservatories actually date back to the 16th century. At this time traders had started to bring citrus fruits like oranges and lemons back from the Mediterranean and then wealthy landowners decided that they wanted to start growing them themselves. However, due to our cooler climate in the UK, purpose built structures had to be erected to protect the citrus plants.
The 19th century was actually the golden age of conservatory building in the UK. Our love of gardening made conservatories extremely popular during the Victorian era and they now have a well-deserved position in British architectural history.
So what exactly is a conservatory? Well, in the UK, the legal definition of a conservatory is a building that has at least 50% of its side wall area glazed and at least 75% of its roof glazed with translucent materials, either polycarbonate sheeting or glass. Jonathan says: “Conservatories typically consist of glazed walls and a glazed roof which is usually set on a brick foundation, they are commonly built using a uPVC frame but Westbury uses timber for a more traditional look. The structures are designed to flood the room below with as much light and warmth as possible, whilst providing shelter from the colder months.”
Nowadays, wooden conservatories are seldom used for housing exotic plants, though they can still create a dedicated space that allows the homeowners to connect with nature. More often, people tend to use them as a formal dining area or occasional sitting room from which they can enjoy uninterrupted views of the garden. Wooden conservatories are a perfect option for those looking to blur the line between their garden and their homes. Many modern conservatories aim to recreate the Victorian styling of 19th-century English conservatories. Rather than being plain by design, they can incorporate lanterns, eves and coloured glass to add architectural interest. For many homeowners who opt for a conservatory, it’s the vaulted glass ceilings and sense of space that really transforms their home and the way that they use it.
The earliest record of an orangery dates from 1545 in Padua, Italy, but it was really between the 17th and 19th Century that they became popular. As the name would suggest, orangeries were also originally designed to house and nurture exotic citrus plants. They often featured open fires or stoves to create the warmth that the plants needed to survive the cooler climate in northern Europe.
But over the years, they became more of a symbol of wealth and prestige. This status has remained, but the function of orangeries has changed considerably since the 17th Century. These days, most residential orangeries are used to create extra space for living or dining. The glazed roofs provide unparalleled natural light and sky views.
Orangeries are designed to be used all year round, providing shade in the summer and warmth in the winter. They are beautiful and versatile rooms that are specifically designed to harmonise with the existing home. They mirror the main design elements, such as the windows in the property, to ensure a completely seamless and timeless look.
Jonathan says: “An orangery is an elegant and striking addition to any property, consisting of semi-glazed walls with a roof lantern built on top of a flat roof, and is designed to harmonise with the adjoining property. An orangery allows natural light to flood the open space without exposure to a lot of direct sunlight and heat.”
Garden room is quite a confusing term. Generally-speaking, conservatories, orangeries and pool-houses can all be classified as ‘garden room extensions’. However, what really sets a garden room extension apart is the fact that it is a semi-glazed building with a tiled roof as opposed to glass.
In this way, they look more like an extension of the existing building rather than a separate add-on. They also provide more control over the temperature. Jonathan says: “A garden room extension has similarities to an orangery, but there are some significant differences as this variety of extension is semi-glazed, with a fully tiled roof instead of a roof lantern; and often matches the overall look of the house it is adjoined to. This style allows the homeowner to have complete control over the temperature within whilst allowing natural light into space below. Garden rooms usually have large, dramatic glazed gables which can make a real statement.”
A high roofline with glazing that spans into the apex will flood the room with light, create a feeling of abundant space and emphasise the vaulted ceiling. For these reasons, garden rooms often become one of the main living areas of a home and can dramatically increase the value of a property.
For anyone considering a glazed extension, it is worth bearing in mind just how much the extra space can change the way that you use your home and how you feel about it.
“Homeowners who have invested in a glazed extension often feel they’ve gained so much more than just a new room, as they feel more at one with their garden and surrounding outdoor space,” says Jonathan. “It’s a given that most people enjoy their garden in the summer but a few tweaks here and there with thoughtful planting and lighting can mean the garden can be enjoyed all year round – there’s even outdoor heating for the colder months. Cosy additions to the inside space, such as a wood burning stove or more modern fireplace, make an extension a really delightful place to spend a cold winter’s day.”
When it comes to choosing the right glazed extension for your needs, you really need to decide how you want it to look, what you want to use it for and how you will use it throughout the year. Conservatories have always been a popular choice in the UK but Jonathan says that more people are now opting for alternatives. “We are seeing an increase in popularity for orangeries and garden rooms as the tiled or semi-glazed roofs and internal vents offer excellent control over the temperature inside. Unlike conservatories which are known for being too warm in the summer, and too cold in the winter.”
I hoped that this post has helped a little? I really had no idea what the differences were before I worked on this post. In fact, I actually thought that all those terms were simply interchangeable. I didn’t realise that there were these subtle differences in the design. Now that we all know, which design do you think you would opt for? And why? Let me know in the comments.