Orangery Or Conservatory – Which Should You Choose?

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Orangery or conservatory, which is the better choice for your home extension? We explore some of the pros and cons of each below.

In recent years, a lot of householders who have been unaware or uncertain of which direction to go in relation to an orangery or conservatory for their home extension. Do you go with a traditional conservatory or something more unique like an orangery?

The mental gymnastics of homeowners, the column-inches in high brow home and style magazines and on social media have made the decision-making process that much more complex.

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Well, we have written this article to help demystify the entire experience. We want to make it as simple as possible. Don’t be worried – we are going to break it down and get to the facts. You are not alone as Google Search data proves.

We want to help clear up any misunderstandings and help you understand and comprehend the key differences between the two, and help you decide between an orangery or conservatory for your home.

Orangeries – What Are They?

They were initially designed during the Italian renaissance period. The fast-changing technological developments in glassmaking, stonemasonry and beyond allowed for buildings to change in terms of being merely spaces for survival to more a more ornate utility. They were conceived as spaces to grow exotic fruits – hence the name orangery.

This initial idea was then further enhanced by the Dutch. As they started their own journey towards colonialism and the importing and exporting of fruits and spices, they utilised the Italian Rococo design and fused it with the then-popular Baroque style. The Dutch orangery became a space for grand assemblies and for the display of great wealth – exotic fruits and spices on display for fellow merchants, nobility and royalty to view.

However, it was the British orangery design tradition that shifted the orangery into the design we understand today. The development of enhanced glass-making technologies – thanks to the Great Exhibition and the Crystal Palace – allowed for grand buildings to have lantern-shaped roofs with ornate glass ceilings.

Today, the orangery is a little less ornate and yet remains symbolic and has in fact become a more utilitarian middle-ground between the traditional extension and the traditional conservatory as a means of showcasing your garden space by allowing a continuous pathway from your front door right through to the orangery and therein outside to your green spaces.

The structural differences between the orangery and the conservatory surround the traditional rectangular shape of the orangery. Furthermore, it is usually built from stone or brick in unison with the aesthetic design of the house itself. The central roof part of the orangery will have a lantern-style windowpane and large windows and brick walls. This is a stark contrast to the glass dominance of the conservatory experience.

Conservatories – What Are They?

The Conservatory whilst not an entirely British experience was successfully popularised thanks to two traditions – one was the British obsession with their gardens and the other was the English tradition of placing moral value on home and hearth. The conservatory allowed for these two traditions to allow the boom of conservatories. The Victorian successes in glassmaking was a boom to windowmakers who in the early part of the twentieth century sold conservatories to growing middle-class suburbs across the UK as a means of bridging the outdoor with home space. It was a success. However, it wasn’t until UPVC plastic technologies made it abundantly cheaper that conservatories became a must-have household accessory. The 80s and 90s saw this boom.

If we take a moment to evaluate the difference between an orangery, the conservatory will be made up of plastic and metal frames and around 80% of the structure will be glass. This is in stark contrast to the orangery. Furthermore, the design will be different from the house itself and it can take any shape whatsoever that suits your needs and your external space.

The “Pros and Cons” Explained

  • Insulation is one of the biggest benefits of an orangery – the lantern roof style along with the utilisation of brick, stone or other masonry provides a greater ability to insulate cavities and boost energy efficiency. By using high-quality materials, from the aforementioned cavity insulation to energy-saving glass, one can help reduce the physical cost in terms of utility spending on your orangery.
  • A ‘traditional’ orangery will share a greater number of similarities with the traditional new-build extension, and as such this will add greater value in terms of house price valuations.
  • Orangeries, thanks to the build quality, will help provide a more reliable temperature experience which means on the hottest summer afternoons and in the darkest days of winter, the orangery will be a more accessible space than a traditional conservatory.
  • The conservatory, due to the sheer number of glazed window panes, can provide a greater landscape viewing capability by allowing an increased visual experience over the traditional orangery with its large windows but an abundance of brick walls.
  • Orangeries are more expensive. It is a basic fact when considering the pros and cons. One can get a garden conservatory for less than £5,000 whereas the cheapest orangeries can set you back £15-20,000. So, the deepest pockets matter when considering the two alternative extension propositions.

Which One Is Best For Me – The Orangery or Conservatory?

This is a very subjective question as it depends on what you want out of your space? Do you want somewhere to sit during the summer months and to look upon your beautiful garden or do you want to extend your kitchen area and provide a more bespoke experience? This will define what type of extension you undertake? An orangery would be ill-suited for improving your garden views whilst an orangery would be perfect for extending your kitchen space.

The second issue is about “why” you are considering either an orangery or conservatory? Are you upgrading the house to sell it or do you want something more long-term to help change your day-to-day living experience?

An orangery will add value, but you need to think about why you are doing this in terms of the long-term dynamics of the property and its ownership.

Budget considerations – you should be able to get a UPVC conservatory constructed for around £5,000 to £8,000 but an orangery could be £15,000 to £100,000 depending on needs, build quality and luxury finishing.

It is about quality, a “cheap-looking” orangery or conservatory could be off-putting in you intend to sell in the future?

Unlike the conservatory, which is more simplistic in terms of glass, UPVC plastic fixtures and a few bricks, the orangery is a more robust proposition. It gives you the greater ability to personalise the experience by adding your own unique touch. This flair can help give your orangery that personal touch which differentiates it from a run-of-the-mill conservatory.

All-in-all, you need to think about why you are expanding your property. You need to think about what you are going to do with your new space, the size of your garden and the general view and sunlight dynamics available. Then you need to consider what would make you happy and give you the space you really need?

The Best Option – Orangery or Conservatory

These two different yet bountiful building extensions designs are both laden with positives and negatives. Let us find out more about which one brings real benefits to a property.

  • To begin with, let us focus on the property type – as this matters a great deal in terms of aesthetic benefits and house price valuation. Therefore, if you are living in a period property or one within a conservation zone, an orangery would better suit your building regulatory strictures. But if you live in a more modern property a conservatory could add value and enhance your space dynamics. However, this is not, if you can forgive the pun, set in stone. A modern property can benefit as much as a period property from an orangery or conservatory. Nonetheless, the orangery can provide properties – especially neo-Georgian or neo-Edwardian twentieth-century developments – with the right infusion of flair and sophistication.
  • Another crucial separator is the realisation that unlike the grand orangeries of the past with their cavernous spaces, the modern orangery is a much smaller experience. In terms of average orangery measurements, they tend to be on the smaller scale in comparison to conservatories. The traditional orangery will extend from a home-based focal point whereas the traditional conservatory can extend to a greater distance.
  • Following on from the size issue outlined above, one should also state that traditional orangeries are rectangular in shape – they are designed to be more in-keeping with the design variation of the property in question. However, the conservatory can be in a range of shapes, from L-shaped to curved, in order to create a space that is different from the property in question.
  • The roof is another key difference and one that should be considered. The traditional orangery will have a windowpane lantern section in the middle – a raised marquee style in a way. The more opulent the orangery the greater number of lantern sections present. Conservatories, on the other hand, have a greater number of style differentiation options. One can have a pitched, gabled or finials – there are endless combinations of styles available.
  • Finally, orangeries, due to their build, provide for greater insulation than the traditional conservatory. The reason for this is that during the building stage, more cavity insulation can be included due to the presence of brick or stone materials rather than the glass/plastic construction materials of a traditional conservatory. Furthermore, an orangery can be better suited for central heating inclusion in a way that is more energy efficient than a conservatory. The orangery will use up less energy to maintain warmth in winter than traditional conservatories.

Planning Permission Explained – Orangery vs Conservatory

In terms of building regulations, as an orangery and conservatory are single-storey extensions they fall under general planning restrictions for properties undertaking extension projects that are single-storey and below the 4 metres height threshold. The regulatory framework therefore restricts development in relation to the extended length of the development to four metres for a detached property but for semi-detached or all other development types the maximum length is 3 metres. However, these rules are about to change in relation to planning permission processes with new guidance in late 2020.

Orangery or Conservatory – Which Adds Greater Value To My Home?

For many people, building a new orangery or conservatory isn’t predominantly about ‘adding value’ in terms of the overall property valuation. However, when spending large sums upon a property it would be remiss to not take a moment and explore the return on investment dynamics of that home improvement project. Therefore, in its simplest form, adding an orangery or conservatory will add value to your property.

However, it is all about the professionalism of the build quality and the design aesthete that will really add value in the longer-term. For example, if the conservatory, or even orangery, is built using materials that do not match the style of the remainder of the property then this could reduce the value of the extension investment. There are caveats, art deco-esqe modernistic conservatories and extensions on period properties can sometimes increase value but this is a rare occurrence.

Therefore, by making sure the orangery or conservatory matches the stylistic compound of the original property you can help maintain value. It should be noted that any extension – whether orangery or conservatory – will only add real value if the offers views or catches a great amount of sunlight. If the development backs onto a wall/building or doesn’t catch much sunlight, then the return on investment added value of the development would be questionable.

Finally, the upkeep of the new space is also key requirement when calculating return on investment in relation to property prices. This is where the orangery edges the conservatory, by being a more robust construction with greater energy efficiency and the availability of heating all of which means it can be enjoyed all year round at a lower running cost.

So, whatever design style or development type you are looking for, the historical antecedents, the grandiose yet utilitarianism and the greater energy efficiency means the orangery is a more rounded proposition over the traditional conservatory. However, as noted above it is all about design and build quality, following planning rules and making sure it adds value to the property. These are just some of the areas one needs to consider when investing in a new orangery or conservatory extension project.

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