Conservatory French Doors

3 Differences Between an Orangery & Conservatory

While most of us are very familiar with the idea of a conservatory as an addition to a home that brings warmth and light fewer are familiar with the term ‘orangery’.

It is quite possible that as you read this very article you may think you are sitting in a warm, cosy conservatory while in point of fact you are actually making use of the orangery.

Before we get into the differences one thing to point out is the similarities from a planning perspective.

Having found out that a conservatory and an orangery are not quite the same thing you may now be concerned that it could have implications for you from a planning perspective.

Although specialist advice should be sought from our understanding of current regulations both of these structures are treated in the same way by local authorities in England in terms of planning.

Subject to certain conditions planning permission is not required for these extensions, at the time of writing one of those conditions includes not exceeding three metres from the original wall of the house.

The encyclopaedia Britannica article on Orangeries has some interesting information around the history of these extensions.

Originally these were used for the winter protection of plants that were deemed more exotic and strangers to these climes, these included both shrubs and citrus trees such as oranges hence the name.

To begin with these protective structures were not even part of the main house and certainly did not make use of the expanse of glass we are so accustomed to now.

They were separate buildings not designed for human comfort and constructed of planks with insulation made of materials such as sacking.

During cold spells stoves would be lit within them for heating purposes to keep the plants, not people, warm.

This was all way back in the 16thcentury where they were in vogue both in Britain and other European neighbours such as France.

Conservatories are actually logical developments from the orangery and were built with them as a basis.

The 1800’s were a period when these constructions were very much in vogue and those of us who have seen Crystal Palace, part of the 1851 Great Exhibition, will have had sight of architects pushing the very limits of conservatory design for the period.

So, we have touched on a similarity and had a very brief foray into the history of both the conservatory and the orangery but what about the differences?

How do you go about identifying whether your desired extension is one or the other?

We interviewed Jack Peakes from Transforming Conservatories who gave us some enlightenment on the topic.

“The easiest way to think of it is the difference in the amount of brick and glass in each one. An orangery will have more brick and less glass in its construction. There are actually some advantages to this as well.”

That, actually, is the nub of it and the difference in construction also leads to the advantage he mentioned but we will look at that a little later on in the article.

For now, let us look explicitly at three differentiating characteristics of the two home extensions.

Bricks Not Just Glass

One of the key differences between the two is that an orangery tends to have brick pillars forming the vertices.

A conservatory, on the other hand, tends to be much more of a pure glass construction as far as possible, almost a halfway step into the garden while the orangery is more like a very sunny room.

This is also a contributing factor to another difference, due to the complexity and the need for sinking supports for the brick pillars into the ground an orangery is likely to cost more to construct than a conservatory.

That being said it can also provide a bit more flexibility as the orangery is more like an additional room so has the potential to become, for example, a home office location.

Amount of Glazing

The previous point about the brick pillars leads to another difference.

Obviously, the more brick is used in construction the less of the surface area is available to use as windows.

As a broad rule of thumb, a conservatory will have at least 75% of the roof constructed of glass or similar material and at least 50% of the walls.

The orangery will have less than those percentages.

From this you can tell that a conservatory will, by its very nature, allow more light into the extension than an orangery.

The immediate reaction might be to assume that a conservatory is always going to be warmer and more comfortable in winter than an orangery.

This is actually a misconception.

Because of the better insulation possible with the brick areas well designed orangeries actually tend to hold their heat in better than conservatories although with modern materials and construction this is always something to keep an eye on as it is an ever evolving target.

Roof Construction

We flagged up that a conservatory has at least 75% of the roof constructed of glass while the orangery has less.

This ties in with another common, key difference.

Conservatories tend to have pitched roofs of almost total glass construction.

Orangeries, on the other hand, more usually have a flat roof of some material other than glass but incorporate a lantern or parapet as a feature which has a higher proportion of glass and serves to light the area below it.

The glass lantern is usually centrally located in the orangery.

So, there you have it.

Three key points that should allow you to tell whether you are looking at a conservatory or an orangery.

Although we mentioned that an orangery can give a home more flexibility in that it lends itself to use more as an additional multipurpose room than a standard conservatory does you are not painted into a corner if you have a conservatory currently.

It is certainly possible to convert a conservatory into an orangery at a later date.